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Agony for Sligo in Stradbrook

Blackrock College RFC 28 – Sligo RFC 27

Sligo’s dream of promotion to All Ireland League division 2A ended in the most dramatic circumstances with a one point loss to Blackrock College despite an incredible team performance at Stradbrook on Saturday. 

Sligo qualified for the division AIL 2B playoffs following an incredible run of form which saw the team move from last place in the league table in December to securing 4th place with a game in hand which opened up the opportunity to lock horns with Blackrock for a place in the playoff final. 

Unfortunately for the Yeats men, Lady Luck deserted them when she was needed most and the home team benefited from some incredibly controversial refereeing decisions to finish ahead by the smallest of margins when the final whistle was sounded. 

Calum Goddard dots down for Sligo’s 3rd try, after collecting a superb crossfield kick from Mark Butler

With the sun beating down on an unseasonably warm Easter Saturday  Blackrock kicked off into the Sligo pack. The pre match instructions from coaches Paddy Pearson and Jason East were to start well and to a man Sligo stood up. With the forwards having secured the kickoff, scrum half Ryan Feehily moved the ball left to Mark Butler. Butler threw a huge pass wide and right winger Calum Goddard, who had moved to the left for the play, collected and used his blistering pace to make his way to the halfway. A sweetly timed pass from Goddard released his left wing Philip Carter who outpaced the cover and touched down with only 45 seconds on the clock and the perfect start for Sligo. 

The home team responded with penalty’s on the 10th and 15th minutes before Sligo regained the lead with an excellently struck Jack Keegan penalty midway through the half. 

Ciaran Cassidy and Diarmuid O’Dowd Hill try to block the box kick

Sligo were in full flow, Shane O’ Hehir, Rob Holian, and Diarmuid O’Dowd Hill we’re controlling the lineout. Sean Wynne was halting every ‘Rock attack with his unending tackle count, Tom Gormely and Kuba Wojtkowicz were rock solid at the scrum and were a menace in the loose. The work rate from Ciaran Cassidy and Matt Davey mirrored the intent of the Sligo effort. Enda Gavin was sound at full back. 

Ryan Feehily scores Sligo’s second try

Sligo’s work rate was rewarded with a classic Ryan Feehily try on 25 minutes, the live wire scrum half leaving three would be tacklers in his wake on the way to touching down in the corner. Keegans excellently struck conversion moved Sligo’s lead to 9 points.

Rock again hit back with a penalty 3 pointer before a pinpoint Butler crossfield kick was superbly collected by Goddard and the speedy winger raced in for Sligo’s third try. Keegan again added the extras to move the score to 9-22.

Sligo’s Sean Wynne makes the tackle

Blackrock came again and worked their way in for a pick and drive try to put the half time score to 14-22.

Following the resumption Sligo struck again, Carter again using his strength and pace to finish another excellent Sligo score. 27-14 to Sligo.

Sligo’s Ciaran Cassidy attempts to block a box kick

Despite playing all the constructive rugby Sligo fell foul of some incredibly controversial refereeing decisions.

Yellow cards reduced the Sligo defensive effort and Blackrock were allowed  back into contention with a try on 76 minutes before scoring the match winning try and conversion 6 minutes into injury time against a 13 man Sligo.

Come the final whistle on an emotional day for Sligo, tributes were paid to stalwarts Conor Mitchell and Mata Fifita who are both retiring following the end of Sligo’s season. Former club Captain Mitchell has been Instrumental in the progress of Sligo RFC since his arrival to the club and Fifita has been vital to Sligo’s success. 

Sligo’s supporters celebrate another try

The work of Pearson, East, and Manager John Keegan has placed Sligo in rude health and the management team will undoubtedly be targeting promotion when the 2019/20 season rolls around.

Sligo RFC are on the up!

Sligo: Enda Gavin, Calum Goddard, Jack Keegan, Mata Fifita, Philip Carter, Mark Butler, Ryan Feehily, Kuba Wojtkowicz, Shane O’Hehir (Co-Capt),Tom Gormely, Rob Holian, Ciaran Cassidy, Diarmuid O’Dowd Hill, Sean Wynne, Matt Davey. reps Conor Mitchell, James O’Hehir, Shane Boyle, Brendan Cunningham, Niall Gray, Euan Brown, Jason East. 

Sligo down the ‘Well

Sligo RFC 34

Sunday’s Well RFC 32

Sligo rounded off their All Ireland League division 2B campaign with a bonus point win in a see-saw affair at Strandhill on Saturday. Sligo scored 6 trys to Sundays Wells’ 5 in a match that went from end to end for the full 80 minutes. 

With Sligo’s promotion playoff position already secured, Coaches Paddy Pearson and Jason East were able to give some of their squad a well earned rest and try out some new combinations prior to the all important playoff against Blackrock College RFC in Dublin next Saturday.

With a strong gale blowing down the pitch from the eastern corner of Knocknarea, Sligo kicked off into the teeth of the breeze. The visitors made the early pace and opened the scoring with a try in the corner after 5 minutes. 

Sligo fought back and opened their own account when hooker James O’Hehir crashed over near the posts following a sustained period of pressure. Jack Keegan added the extras to put Sligo two points ahead. 

Sligo’s lead was short lived, as the ‘Well picked up trys on 30th and 35th minutes to open up a 12 point lead before speedster Calum Goddard made an excellent break from his own half to within 10 meters of the visitors line. Goddard was hauled down but scrum half Brendan Cunningham was in support and collected and raced over on the right to close the gap to 7 going into the interval.

Following the resumption Goddard added a try of his own with a well worked play from a scrum before Sligo regained the lead with a super score manufactured from inside their own 22. O’Hehir found Diarmuid O’Dowd Hill at the lineout and the ball was move infield to the left. Euan Brown ,Enda Gavin and Matele Fifita handled before Keegan slipped through a gap and drove into the visitors half. Keegan traded passes with Goddard before touching down on the left for an excellent score. Brown converted to put Sligo ahead 24-19. 

The action continued apace and the ‘Well picked up a fourth try with 15 minutes remaining. Philip Carter successfully charged down the conversion attempt and the teams were level at 24 points each. 

The ‘Well again took the lead with a converted score following some loose play by the home team before Goddard picked up his second of the day out wide on the right. Browns’ sweetly struck conversion brought the teams level again. 

With 5 minutes left on the clock a well struck penalty regained the lead for the visitors but the locals were not to be outdone and worked their way back down the pitch and camped themselves within touching distance of the visitors line before Fifita powered over to seal the match for Sligo. 

Pearson and East will be happy with the win but more importantly was the opportunity to blood new squad members Brian West and Matthew Early who both played their part when brought into the fray. Another bonus for Sligo was the return from long term injury layoffs for Shane Boyle and Ross Hickey who both picked up valuable game time prior to next weeks all important promotion play off. 

Saturday will also be remembered as the final home game for Sligo’s Conor Mitchell and Matele Fifita with both players intending to retire at the end of this season. Sligo will be doing their utmost to ensure that both players will finishing their careers having secured promotion to Division 2B. The playoff semi final kicks off at 2.30 next Saturday at Blackrocks’ home in Stradbrook. 

Sligo: Jack Keegan, Calum Goddard, Matele Fifita, Enda Gavin, Philip Carter, Euan Brown, Brendan Cunningham, Tom Gormely, James O’Hehir, Kuba Wojtkowicz, Ciaran Cassidy, Jake Sexton, Diarmuid O’Dowd Hill, Sean Wynne, Matt Davey, Reps: Matthew Earley, Ross Hickey, Conor Mitchell, Shane Boyle, Brian West.

Sligo secure promotion play off spot

Dungannon RFC 22

Sligo RFC             25

Sligo confirmed their place in All Ireland League Division 2B promotion play-off with a hard fought victory in a pulsating encounter over Dungannon RFC at Stevenson park on Saturday. Sligo’s win guarantees fourth place in division 2B, nine points ahead of fifth with one game to play and sets up a mouthwatering trip to Dublin to play Blackrock College RFC in the first round of the playoffs.

Sligo kicked off playing into the slight breeze on a surface suitable for running rugby. The opening exchanges were dominated by the hosts and Sligo found themselves behind from a penalty after 10 minutes and a converted try on the 25th minute. 

Sligo dug in and began to impose their own play on the hosts. The scrum was solid with Tom Gormely, Kuba Wojtkowicz and Conor Mitchell putting in a strong shift. Ciaran Cassidy and Matt Davey were carrying strongly and Shane O’ Hehir was combining well with Rob Holian and Diarmuid O’Dowd-Hill at the lineout. The back three of Niall Gray,Phillip Carter and Calum Goddard we’re dealing well with any threat from the local backline. Sean Wynne was his usual industrious presence at the tackle line.

Sligo’s persistence paid off with 35 minutes on the clock. Good work from the forwards brought play close to the Dungannon line before the home team were forced into the concession of a penalty and a yellow card for their number 8. Sligo sensed blood and opted for a scrum. The home team survived the first wave of attack but Sligo dug in. Euan Brown and Mitchell both tested the defence before scrum half Ryan Feehily brilliantly sniped down the right of the ruck and touched down under the posts. Jack Keegan added the extras to shorten the gap to three. 

Right on the interval Sligo struck again. Shane O’Hehir made a searing break from deep in Sligo territory before being hauled down in the Dungannon 22. A quick recycle gave speedster Calum Goddard the chance to race around the cover and dot down in the corner to move Sligo into a two point lead at the break. 

Unfortunately O’Hehir had to retire shortly afterwards through injury but was ably replaced by his brother James, making his welcome return to AIL action following a long period of injury. 

The lead changed hands again early in the second half as the home side benefited with an unconverted try following a lapse in concentration in the Sligo defence, but Sligo wrestled back the initiative with Feehily’s second of the day following up on a Wojtkowicz drive that was stopped short. Keegan converted to move the score to 15-19. 

With 15 minutes remaining the home team again took back the lead with a try from a driving lineout maul, the successful conversion put three between the sides.

Sligo again responded with some fine tactical kicking from Mark Butler putting pressure on the home defence. The pressure paid off and Keegan slotted over an equalising penalty with ten minutes remaining remaining before taking the lead with three minutes to go with another excellently struck effort. 

The drama didn’t end there though and with seconds left on the clock Dungannon were awarded a penalty outside the Sligo 22. The home outfit opted to go for the win and turned down the three point attempt to go to the corner instead. Sligo however were not to be beaten and O’Dowd-Hill got the first hand to the lineout feeding replacement scrum half Brendan Cunningham whose pass to Butler was the final one of day. Butler kicked the ball to touch and Sligo were celebrating. 

Sligo now face Sundays Well in Strandhill in the final game of regular league action next Saturday at 2.30 before travelling east to Stradbrook to face Blackrock. While not yet confirmed, the playoff match is likely to be fixed for Easter Saturday April 20th. 

Sligo: Niall Gray, Calum Goddard, Jack Keegan, Mark Butler, Philip Carter, Euan Brown, Ryan Feehily, Kuba Wojtkowicz, Shane O’Hehir, Tom Gormely, Rob Holian, Ciaran Cassidy, Diarmuid O’Dowd-Hill, Sean Wynne, Matt Davey. Reps Conor Mitchell, James O’Hehir, Jason East, Enda Gavin, Brendan Cunningham.

Development Squad lift Connacht Plate

Sligo RFC 50 – Our Lady’s Boys Club 7

Sligo Development Squad finished their season in fine style with an emphatic victory in the Connacht Junior Plate final at Connacht Rugby headquarters, The Sportsgrounds, in Galway on Sunday. Sligo crossed the whitewash 8 times in an all action display in a match they dominated from start to finish.  

The Sligo Development Team, crowned Connacht Junior Plate Champions

Playing towards the College Road end , with the aid of the stiff breeze, Sligo’s Euan Brown kicked off. Sligo forced the early pace and camped inside the boys club 22. Jake Sexton, Christian Nielsen and David Heath all carried powerfully before team captain Garry O’Hehir broke through wide on the right to open his and Sligo’s account.

 Two minutes later Sligo struck again, an inch perfect Brown cross kick was fielded by left winger Charlie Cooper who raced in and around and touched down behind the posts. Brown added the extras.

 Another two minutes and the Sligo blitz continued when a sweeping left to right move was finished by pacey right winger Robbie Ryan. Sligo were now in full flow, the front row of Craig Adams, James O’Hehir and Ross O’Boyle had the edge at the scrum. David Heath and Michael Mc Morrow brought energy from the second row and flanker Jack Gormely was carrying strongly. Centres Sean Mullin and Mark Gerrity consistently broke the gain line and Donal Brady was a live wire at full back. 

With 20 minutes gone Mullin collected the ball on the half way line and burst through the first line of defence. The cover defence looked like halting the powerful centre but Mullin wasn’t for stopping and swatted away three tackle attempts before crashing over the line for Sligo’s fourth of the day. Browns conversion pushed Sligo’s lead to 26 points. 

Boys Club responded and picked up a try of their own following some strong carries from their powerful pack but respite was short lived as Brown raced over the line and added the extras to move the halftime score to 33-7. 

It was more of the same in the second half for Sligo, replacements Matt Kavanagh, Gary Golden Conor McElligot, Liam McElhinney and Jason East all slotted in seamlessly keeping the pressure on their Galway rivals.

Nielsen picked up Sligo’s 6th before Garry O’Hehir crossed the line twice more to complete his hat-trick and cap a memorable day for Sligo RFC.

Sligo Development team win Connacht Junior Plate

Connacht rugby President Mossy Moran paid tribute to both teams before presenting the trophy to O’Hehir who raised it high to the cheers of the Sligo travelling support.

Sligo Donal Brady, Robbie Ryan, Sean Mullin, Mark Gerrity, Charlie Cooper, Euan Brown, Garry O’Hehir (Capt), Ross O’Boyle, James O’Hehir, Craig Adams, Michael McMorrow, David Heath, Jack Gormely, Christian Nielsen, Jake Sexton. Reps Conor McElligot, Liam McElhinney, Jason East, Matt Kavanagh, Gary Golden. 

Barnhall take spoils in Strandhill

Sligo RFC 11 – Barnhall RFC 22

Sligo hosted All Ireland League Division 2B champions elect, Maynooth University Barnhall RFC, in an excellently fought encounter at Strandhill on Saturday. Sligo went into the game hoping to do what no other team in Division 2B had done all season and turn over their visitors, but a seven minute three try blitz, one before and two just after the interval put paid to Sligo’s hopes of causing an upset.

The home team kicked off and started brightly, taking the game to their guests. Early carries from Mata Fifita and Kuba Wotzicit put pressure on the visiting defence and Sean Wynne was a nuisance at the breakdown.

Sligo’s Ryan Feehily, nominated for Connacht Senior Club Player of the Year, in action against Barnhall

 Sligo opened their account after 12 minutes with an excellently struck Jack Keegan penalty but the visitors hit back 10 minutes later with a penalty of their own. The home team retook the lead with another Keegan penalty on the half hour but unfortunately for the large local support Sligo were unable to keep ahead. 

Right on the stroke of half time Barnhall took the initiative when a prolonged period of pressure resulted in a try in the corner to put the half time score at 6-8. 

Immediately after the resumption Barnhall rocked Sligo again with a well worked try and followed up with a fortunate effort from an intercept pass on the half way line. 

Sligo’s Philip Carter leaves his opposite number for dust

Despite the hammer blow of conceding the 3 trys Sligo gamely tried to work their way back into the game. The Sligo scrum was strong with fine work from Tom Gormely and Conor Mitchell. Shane O’Hehir was combining well with Rob Holian and Diarmuid O’Dowd Hill at the lineout and Half backs Ryan Feehily and Mark Butler were managing the play. The back three of Philip Carter, Calum Goddard and Niall Gray were a constant threat out wide.

Sligo’s endeavour was rewarded with a try from Wotzicit following some good work from Keegan,  Ciaran Cassidy and Matt Davey. Replacement Full Back Euan Browns’ conversion looked to have travelled inside the left post but the touch judges flags stayed down and the extras were not added. 

Diarmuid O’Dowd Hill secures the ball for Sligo

Sligo continued to press to add to the tally but the well organised visiting defence kept tight and the scoreboard remained at 11-22 until the long blast.

With 2 games to go Sligo lie in 4th place , 6 points ahead of 5th. A win in one of their final 2 fixtures will secure a playoff place, the target that Sligo had set themselves at the start of the season. Sligo now have a week break before travelling North to face Dungannon RFC in their penultimate league match on April 6th in Stevenson Park. 

Sligo: Niall Gray, Calum Goddard, Jack Keegan, Mata Fifita, Philip Carter, Mark Butler, Ryan Feehily, Kuba Wotzicit, Shane O’Hehir, Rob Holian, Ciaran Cassidy, Diarmuid O’Dowd Hill, Sean Wynne, Matt Davey. Reps Conor Mitchell, Jason East, Jake Sexton, Enda Gavin, Brendan Cunningham

Sligo take Spoils in the City

Wanderers FC 29 – Sligo RFC 36

Sligo took another giant step in their quest to secure an All-Ireland League 2B promotion playoff spot with a bonus point win over Wanderers FC at Merrion road on Saturday. Sligo scored 5 trys on their way to victory but were made to fight all the way to the finish by a dangerous home side.

In blustery conditions it was the home side that kicked off and took the early initiative with a well worked try in the left corner with only 2 minutes gone. The difficult conversion attempt drifted wide. Sligo were stung into action and worked their way back into the game. Some strong running from Philip Carter brought his team into the Wanderers half and the home team were forced to concede a Penalty which Jack Keegan coolly slotted to open his and his team’s account. Sligo were now up and running and were carrying the game to their hosts. Mark Butler received on the half way and an excellent step inside opened up the home defence. The outhalf raced into the 22 and a huge skip pass gave winger Calum Goddard the opportunity to pin his ears back and race to the line for Sligo’s first try of the day. Keegan convert and Sligo were ahead by 5.

Sligo continued to press and it was the Butler/Goddard combination that once a gain opened the Wanderers defence. Butler received on the home 10 metre line and launched a pinpoint cross kick which was plucked from the air by Goddard. The winger raced into the 22 and combined with hooker Shane O’Hehir and scrum half Ryan Feehily before collecting and crossing over wide on the right , Keegan’s well struck conversion move the score to 5-17.

It was Wanderers turn to react and sweeping play was rewarded with a converted try to reel the deficit back to 5 with 16 minutes gone. The frantic pace of the game continued and it was the westerners who were next to trouble the scorekeeper. A fine clearance from full back Niall Gray positioned Sligo in the attacking half. Pressure on the wanderers throw forced the turnover after the lineout. Sligo went right and left through the phases before powerhouse second row Rob Holian collected on the 22 and burst through to the line for Sligo’s third of the day.

The bonus point was secured on the half hour. Sligo were awarded a scrum in the home 22. Matele Fifia carried strongly before Ciaran Cassidy and Diarmuid O’Dowd Hill took up the fight with good pick and go’s. Kuba Wojtkowicz collected 3 yards out and cleverly drove forward to touch down at the bottom of the post. Keegan again converted to move Sligos total to 29.

The home team were fighting to save their season and following the resumption worked their way back into the game with converted try’s on the 45th and 55th minutes. Sligo remained strong however and hit back again and Hat Trick Hero Goddard finished off a superbly worked team try following a right to left move. Keegan’s conversion put the score out to 26-36.

A wanders penalty brought the lead back to one score and Sligo’s cause was further hampered with a contentious yellow card reducing their numbers to 14 with only 12 minutes remaining. Wanderers threw everything at their guests in the final period but the visitors defence stood strong and an audacious steal from the excellent Ryan Feehily snuffed out the danger and Sligo were able to play down the clock on the half way line.

The bonus point win puts keeps Sligo in 4th position in Division 2B, 9 points ahead of Corinthians RFC in fifth and 1 point behind Rainey RFC in third with three games to play. The start of season goal of a playoff position is firmly with the grasp and Coaches Paddy Pearson and Jason East will be doing everything in their power to makes sure the goal is realised. Sligo now take a weeks break from action before welcoming the league pace setters MUI Barnhall to Strandhill on Saturday March 23rd.

Sligo: Niall Gray, Calum Goddard, Jack Keegan, Mata Fifita, Philip Carter, Mark Butler, Ryan Feehily, Kuba Wojtkowicz, Shane O’Hehir, Tom Gormely, Ciaran Cassidy, Rob Holian, Diarmuid O’Dowd Hill, Sean Wynne, Matt Davey. Reps Jason East, Conor Mitchell, Brendan Cunningham, Jake sexton, Enda Gavin.

AIL 2B: Sligo turn over the stones

Sligo RFC 17 – Greystones RFC 3 

Sligo’s push for a playoff spot in AIL division 2B continued with an excellently crafted victory over second placed Greystones at Hamilton Park on Saturday. Having shipped a heavy defeat in the reverse match earlier in the season, Sligo were determined to make amends and an all action performance proved too much for the visitors to handle as the home team ran in three try’s while keeping their own line intact.

Sligo's Sean Wynne charges forward with the ball
Sligo’s Sean Wynne charges forward with the ball

Despite the early in the day torrential rain, Hamilton Park was in good condition when the teams took to the field. The strong gusting winds made handling difficult but both sides adapted and tried to put width on the ball from the off. The visitors owned the early possession but Sligo’s defence stood strong and strong tackling from Sean Wynne and Man of the Match Kuba Wojtkowicz eventually led to Sligo winning possession. With almost their first opportunity Sligo ran a sweeping right to left move. Right winger Calum Goddard popped up in centre field and added pace to the move before releasing his comrade on the left Phillip Carter. Carter pinned his ears back and beat the covering defence to touch down on the left to open the Sligo account. 

Greystones were stung into action and worked their way back into Sligo territory, the Sligo tackling was strong and despite the best efforts of the visitors, the line remained intact and Greystones had to be content with a three pointer from a penalty in front of the Sligo posts. 

The match ebbed and flowed until half time with Sligo taking the break holding on to a two point lead. 

AIL- Mataele Fifita powers through with support from Enda Gavin
AIL- Mataele Fifita powers through with support from Enda Gavin

Following the resumption Sligo turned into the stiff breeze knowing that holding possession was vital to the outcome of the match. Shane O’Hehir was linking superbly with Rob Holian and Diarmuid O’Dowd Hill at the lineout and Tom Gormely and Conor Mitchell were causing havoc at the set scrum. Ciaran Cassidy was carrying with intent and Matt Davey was a dynamo In the loose. Player coach Jason East was using all his experience to lead by example with some excellent carries and vital tackles.

Ten minutes in Sligo pulled further ahead. O’Hehir found O’Dowd Hill at a lineout on the ‘Stones 22. The flanker drove through the lineout before East carried further into the red zone. Scrum Half Ryan Feehily picked out centre Jack Keegan whose excellent line carved open the defence and raced to the line to pick up Sligo’s second try. The centre popped over the conversion and Sligo were nine points clear.

Sligo sensed a victory and pushed hard to ram the advantage home. The cultured boots of outhalf Mark Butler and fullback Niall Gray put play in the ‘stones half. Powerhouse centre Matele Fifita collected on the visitors 22 and drove down the left hand side swatting defenders out of his way before being hauled down close to the line. Sligo regrouped and patiently carried to the line before O’Dowd Hill forced the ball over for Sligo’s third try of the day.

The visitors again tried to respond but the locals well organised defence proved impenetrable and when referee Rob Watson blew the long whistle Sligo were celebrating having kept their line intact for two weeks in a row. 

Sligo now sit in fourth place in Division 2B of the All Ireland League. Come the end of the season, the second,third and fourth placed teams in the 2B along with the second last placed team in division 2A will play off for a spot in division 2A so with 4 games to go Sligo’s destiny is in their own hands and a promotion is within reach. 

Next week Sligo travel east to IRFU headquarters to battle Wanderers at the back pitch in the Aviva Stadium. Sligo will be looking to continue their recent form which has seen victory in 6 of the last 8 outings. The match kicks off at 2.30. 

Sligo:  Niall Gray, Calum Goddard, Jack Keegan, Matele Fifita, Philip Carter, Mark Butler, Ryan Feehily (Co-Capt) , Kuba Wojtkowicz, Shane O’ Hehir ( Co-Capt) Jason East, Rob Holian, Ciaran Cassidy, Diarmuid O’Dowd Hill, Sean Wynne, Matt Davey. Reps Conor Mitchell, Tom Gormely, Jake Sexton, Enda Gavin, Brendan Cunningham.

AIL 2B: Sligo win in Magherafelt

Rainey Old Boys – Sligo RFC 16

Sligo picked up their sixth win of their division 2B All Ireland League campaign with an excellently crafted performance against a strong, well drilled, Rainey unit at Hatrick Park on Saturday. Sligo’s win keeps them in the coveted top four position with five games to play in the regular season.

With Rainey having turned over Sligo in the reverse fixture at Hamilton Park, the Yeats men travelled knowing that a big effort would be required to overcome their hosts and, to the delight of coaches Paddy Pearson and Jason East, their charges stepped up and produced the intensity and desire required to seal the victory.

Sligo’s Calum Goddard about to catch a pinpoint crossfield kick, before speeding down the wing to cross the try line

With conditions ideal for open rugby, Sligo kicked off and an excellent Philip Carter chase put pressure on the Rainey fielders culminating in early possession for Sligo.

The visitors attacked the Rainey line but were ultimately held up and the concession of a penalty allowed Rainey to clear their lines.

Sligo defended well and won back possession with a choke tackle on the halfway. From the subsequent scrum Ryan Feehily and Calum Goddard worked their way down the right hand side before being halted in the 22. The ball was moved left across the pitch before play was illegally halted by a Rainey slap down resulting in a Sligo penalty and a home team sin-binning. Euan Brown stepped up and bisected the posts with a super effort to open his and Sligo’s account.

With eight minutes gone Sligo were awarded a penalty deep in their own half following a great catch from a high ball by Carter. Brown despatched the kick to touch outside the home 22. Shane O’Hehir found Rob Holian at the lineout and the ball was moved quickly to Brown. The outhalf launched a massive crossfield kick which Goddard excellently fielded before dancing around the covering full back and racing in for the only try of the game. Brown converted and Sligo were up by ten.

Rainey were soon back to the full complement and showed what they are capable of when they pressurised Sligo into conceding a penalty on twenty minutes to open their own account with a fine effort from full back Scott McClean.

Sligo’s Mata Fifita powers through the Rainey tackles

Both sides looked to add to their tally but were unable to break each other’s well organised defence. A five minute period of huge sustained pressure by the locals just before the interval looked to surely yield a try, but to a man the Sligo defence threw their bodies on the line and the attack was repelled to the delight of the substantial travelling support.

It was much the same following the resumption with both sides throwing the proverbial kitchen sink at each other but wholly committed defending ensured that the try-lines remained intact.

The intensity grew as the match progressed and another McLean penalty for the home side was cancelled out by another Brown effort with both kickers demonstrating super proficiency with the placed ball.

McClean added two more penalties with excellent kicks on fifty and fifty five minutes to bring his team within one point but Brown again stepped up on sixty five minutes to again push the Sligo lead out to four where it would stay until the final whistle.

Mark Butler and Ryan Feehily look on as it takes 3 Rainey players to take down Mata Fifita

This was a superbly entertaining outing with both teams showing why they are at the upper end of the table. The Sligo scrum was strong with Tom Gormely and Conor Mitchell anchoring. Kuba Wojtkowicz, Ciaran Cassidy and Matt Davey all carried notably. Sean Wynne tackled himself to a standstill and the returning Diarmuid O’Dowd Hill gave Sligo an extra edge. Centres Mark butler and Mata Fifita brought the fight to a strong Rainey pairing. Full-back Niall Gray was assured as a last line of defence and Jack Keegan slotted in seamlessly when called upon.

Next Saturday Sligo host Greystones RFC. Sligo uncharacteristically suffered their heaviest defeat of the season in the reverse fixture and will be keen to make amends when the Wicklow based outfit come to Strandhill. The match kicks off at 2.30 at Hamilton Park.

Sligo: Niall Gray, Calum Goddard, Mark Butler, Mata Fifita, Philip Carter, Euan Brown, Ryan Feehily, Kuba Wojtkowicz, Shane O’Hehir, Tom Gormely, Ciaran Cassidy, Rob Holian, Diarmuid O’Dowd Hill, Sean Wynne, Matt Davey. Reps: Conor Mitchell, Jason East, Brendan Cunningham, Enda Gavin, Jack Keegan

AIL 2B – Honours Even At Strandhill

Sligo RFC 27

Skerries RFC 27

Sligo had to dig deep to come from behind to earn a well-deserved 3 points in a roller coaster All Ireland League 2B encounter at a windy Strandhill on Saturday.

Despite the drawn result, come the final whistle it was the home side that gained a slight advantage, as they picked up the all-important 4 try bonus to go with the two match points with the visitors having to be content with 2 points having only scored 3 trys.

Playing towards the airport end with the advantage of the swirling breeze, Sligo kicked off and immediately tried to pressurise their opponents. With their lively backline, the visitors looked to put width on the ball early, but Sligo’s defence stood strong early on and an error was forced on the halfway. Skerries impinged at the scrum and Sligo went right from the resulting free kick. The play was switched back with Euan Brown putting Tom Gormley through the middle before a handling error allowed Skerries to clear.

Relief was short lived however as a clever Ryan Feehily chip and an excellent Shane O’Hehir chase camped Sligo on the visitors line. The ball was moved wide to the right where Mata Fifita used all his strength to power over five metres from the corner. Jack Keegan added a super kick to get the maximum benefit for Sligo.

With 7 minutes gone Sligo struck again. From a midfield scrum Mark Butler kicked down the right hand side. The Skerries full back failed to deal with the situation and Keegan latched onto to the loose ball, kicking ahead and winning the chase to the line for Sligos second of the day. The winger added to his tally with another well struck conversion and Sligo were 14 ahead.

Skerries came roaring back and brought their strong running backs into play. Sligo were struggling to retain any useful possession and the visitors profited with a three try blitz in 8 minutes to overturn the deficit and take a 7 point lead of their own.

Sligo coach Paddy Pearson made some slight adjustments and Sligo regained the momentum with a scrum penalty earned by Conor Mitchell. The gap was narrowed to two just before the break when Rob Holian powered his way over from 5 yards out following some fine approach play by Kuba Wojtkowicz , Matt Davey and Enda Gavin.

Following the resumption Skerries were awarded penalties on the 45 and 50th minutes to push the lead out to 8 points before Sligo clawed their way back again. A Mitchell burst on the halfway set the ball rolling before Holian and Gormely added to the drive. Replacement Scrum Half Brendan Cunningham fizzed the ball to the right and Butler threw out a long pass which was picked up by openside flanker Sean Wynne. Wynne linked up with Keegan before receiving again from Brown and racing in wide on the right.

Keegans conversion was ruled out by the touch judges to the dismay of the spectators behind the goals who were convinced that the kick was good.

Brown levelled the scores with 10 minutes remaining with a well struck effort into the breeze from outside the 22, but despite late Sligo pressure the scorekeeper was untroubled from then to the end of the match and both sides had to be content with the draw.

With other results on the day favouring Sligo, the three points has pushed the Yeats men up to 4th on the division 2A table with 6 games to go. Next Saturday Sligo travel to Magherafelt to lock horns with Rainey Old Boys who lie one place ahead of Sligo in the league table. The match kicks off at 2.30 at Hatrick Park.

Sligo Mark Butler, Jack Keegan, Enda Gavin, Mata Fifita, Brendan Cunningham, Euan Brown, Ryan Feehily(co–capt) , Kuba Wojtkowicz, Shane O’Hehir (co-capt), Tom Gormely, Rob Holian, Ciaran Cassidy, Matt Davey, Sean Wynne, Jason East. Reps Conor Mitchell, Diarmuid o’Dowd-Hill,  Jake Sexton, Niall Gray , Sean Mullin

AIL 2B: Pipped by Corinthians

Sligo RFC 17 Galway Corinthians 18

Sligo suffered a first loss in five outings when they went down by the smallest margins against a physical Corinthians outfit at Strandhill on Saturday.

Having moved ahead with only seconds left Sligo were devastated when a late Corinthian penalty saw the visitors sneak past to take the victory.

Despite the recent heavy rain the pitch was in fine fettle when the two sides took to the field to lock horns.

The locals kicked off playing into the breeze towards the mountain end and a fine chase and contest in the air from Philip Carter immediately put pressure on the tribesmen.

Sligo were in determined form and early carries from Kuba Wojtkowicz and Rob Holian positioned Sligo into the Corinthians 22.

Corinthians repelled the early pressure but when Sligo were awarded a 5 metre penalty under the posts, the forwards sensed an opportunity and a scrum was called.

Conor Mitchell, Shane O’Hehir and Tom Gormaley put on the squeeze and the Sligo 8 inched towards the line.

Despite the Sligo dominance the referee was calling for the ball to be used so Ryan Feehily picked and darted in to touch down behind the left post.

Jack Keegan popped over the straightforward conversion and Sligo were up by 7.

The game ebbed and flowed with Sligo trying to work their way back into the Corinthians danger zone and the visitors feeding their big ball carrying forwards at every opportunity.

With a half an hour played the tribesmen opened their own account. A loose Sligo clearance kick was fielded by right winger Caomhen Brennan. The speedster used his pace to cut back to the left hand side and link up with outhalf Simon Keller. Kellers pass released left winger Micheal O’Reilly who finished off in the left corner. The conversion was missed but Sligo’s 2 point lead was short lived when just before the break, Corinthians crashed over for their second of the day following a sustained period of pressure by their giant pack. The successful conversion put the half time score to 7-12

Following the resumption the visitors lead was further extended with a penalty before the Sligo scrum earned a penalty try to move within a point with 10 minutes on the clock. Sligo gamely went on the hunt for what would surely be the match winning score. Mata Fifita was making inroads in midfield ably supported by Matt Davey from the back row and Ciaran Cassidy was using his power to move Sligo forward at every opportunity. With 8 minutes left on the clock , substitute Euan Brown made an excellent half break to bring play to the Corinthians 22. The visitors conceded a penalty and Keegan bisected the posts to put Sligo two points clear with little or no time left.

The visitors restarted and Sligo collected the kick and looked to drive their way out of the danger zone but to the dismay of the locals the ref raised his arm towards the visitors. The ball was dispatched over the Sligo crossbar and the hearts of the Sligo faithful were broken.

Sligo now take a break from league action until Feb 16 when Skerries come to visit. Sligo sit 6th in the AIL Div 2B table but are only 1 point from a coveted top 4 position.

Sligo; Jack Keegan, Calum Goddard, Enda Gavin, Mata Fifita, Philip Carter, Mark Butler, Ryan Fehily (c), Jason East, Shane O’Hehir (c), Conor Mitchell, Ciaran Cassidy, Rob Holian, Kuba Wojtkowicz, Christan Nielsen, Matt Davey. Reps Tom Gormaley, Mark Keegan, Jake Sexton, Niall Gray, Euan Brown