Sligo RFC 19
Ballina RFC 17
The the age old rivalry between Sligo and Ballina resumed last Saturday with a keenly contested meeting at Hamilton park. Both sides came to the Connacht Senior League encounter, unbeaten in their respective first and second round matches, meaning the victorious side would top the league standings after round 3.
With Hamilton Park in impeccable condition, Sligo kicked off playing towards the airport end. The early exchanges were typical of derby fare, physical battles all over the park with both teams looking to gain the upper hand.
The first scoring opportunity fell to the visitors with a penalty on the Sligo 10 meter line but Daragh Whytes failed to convert the chance.
Minutes later It was Sligo’s turn to try to open their account with a penalty from just inside the Ballina Half but Euan Browns effort drifted wide.
Sligo continued to press and succeeded in breaching the line with 12 minutes on the clock. Matthew Earley linked with Rob Holian at a 5 meter lineout. Ross Hickey, Pedro Bengalo ,James O’Hehir all tested the defence with carries before scrum half Brendan Cunningham fed Stefano Giantorno who finished in the right corner. Euan Brown added the extras with an excellent conversion kick.
The visitors responded, using their physical backline to drive into the heart of the Sligo defence. Sligo looked to have repelled the onslaught but the referee deemed that the defensive effort was illegal and Sligo lost the influential Earley to the sin bin. The Sligo cause was further hampered two minutes later when Brown joined Earley in the ‘bin’ when the outhalf was adjudged to have intentionally knocked on the ball.
Despite valiant efforts to hold the line, Ballina eventually made the most of the two man advantage and strong running centre Calum Quinn touched down for the visitors. Whyte converted and the sides were level.
Ballina increased their lead just before the interval when number 8 Daniel Molloy profited from loose Sligo defending at a ruck on the 22 and raced in to touch down in the corner. Whytes conversion effort drifted wide.
Following the resumption , Sligo upped the tempo and looked to impose their game on the visitors. The Sligo lineout was functioning well with Matthew O’Hara supporting the influential Holian. The back row of Sean Wynne, Daire Byrne and Hickey were containing the physical Ballina unit. Centres Enda Gavin and Jack Keegan were dealing with the midfield threat.
Sligo’s control paid off and penalties from Brown in the 50th and 60th minutes moved Sligo into a 4 point lead before Quinn went over for his second try with 15 minutes remaining. With the score at 16-17 in favour of the visitors the day was set up for a grandstand finish.
Sligo again rallied and earned a penalty on the 10 meter line with 5 minutes on the clock. The kick fell short but the Sligo pressure eventually forced another penalty and Brown knocked the last kick of the game over the bar to seal the victory to the joy of the home support.
Sligo now take a break from league action until September 18th when the travel to Galway to face Corinthians in the final round of league action. A win in Galway would secure the league title for the Yeats county men.
Sligo: Guilherme Coghetto, Phillip Carter, Jack Keegan, Enda Gavin, Stefano Giantorno, Euan Brown, Brendan Cunningham, Matthew Earley, James O’Hehir, Pedro Bengalo, Rob Holian , Matthew O’Hara, Daire Byrne, Sean Wynne, Ross Hickey.
Reps: Tadgh Power, Craig Trimble, Michael Broaders, Jacob Fleming, Stuart O’Brien