Sligo RFC 15 – Landsdowne FC 34
Sligo’s first foray into the provincial Cup winners championship p, the Bateman Cup, ended with a defeat to Landsdowne FC in a pulsating match in front of a large attendance at Hamilton Park on Saturday.
With Lansdowne sitting on top of division 1A of the Ulster Bank League and unbeaten so far this season, the odds were hugely stacked against a Sligo team that compete in division 2c, a full 4 leagues below their renowned guests. It was certainly a David v Goliath scenario for the home team.
Sligo however made light of the apparent gulf in class and proudly took the game to their hosts and produced a performance that proved they had every right to be competing in this prestigious competition.
Landsdowne kicked off playing towards the Knocknarea end and into the slight breeze. Sligo made the most of the early possession and some good kicking from Outhalf Mark Butler positioned Sligo inside the visitors half. The early industry was rewarded with a well struck Jack Keegan penalty to open Sligo’s account with four minutes on the clock.
Landsdowne responded and began to move the ball at pace in the hope of stretching the Sligo defence. Sligo stood firm and held their defensive line with backrowers Matthew Davey, and team Captain Shane Boyle putting in a a big shift to keep the line intact.
Despite Sligo’s best efforts Landsdowne opened their account with 15 minutes gone. Having been awarded a 5 metre scrum out wide on the left the Landsdowne eight got the better of the Sligo unit and when the scrum broke apart the referee went to the posts to award a penalty try.
Sligo put this setback behind them and continued to bring the game to their hosts. From a Landsdowne line out inside the Sligo 22, the home side secured the hall and quickly moved it away. Butler looked up, saw space and opted to move the ball wide. Hooker Shane O’Hehir popped up in the centre and a well timed pass released Mike Wells on a searing run to the half way. Wells’ centre partner Mark Rooney collected and a superb run outpaced the Landsdowne defence to down wide on the left.
The visitors again responded and a well worked lineout maul yielded a Jack Dinneen try 4 minutes before the interval. Former Munster outhalf Scott Deasy added the extras to put the half time score at 8-14 in their favour.
Following the resumption the visitors picked up another 7 pointer when a misdirected clearance kick was gathered by centre Harry Brennan whose pace allowed him to round the Sligo fence and dot down under the posts. Deasy again converted.
Sligo refused to buckle and despite losing the influential Ciaran Cassidy through a dubious sin binning decision fought their way back into the game with another excellent try. Mike Wells stepped inside the cover in his own 22 and made his way to the 10 metre line before chipping ahead to the right. Winger Calum Goddard was first to the bouncing ball and he carried into the 22 before linking with O’Hehir. O’Hehir selflessly passed to winger Philip Carter who made no mistake in finishing under the posts. Keegan converted and Sligo were back within six.
Lansdowne now knew they were in a game and when awarded a penalty on the hour Deasy elected to go for posts rather than play for the corner as had been the policy throughout the game up to that point. The outhalf bisected the posts to put Lansdowne out to a two score lead going into the final quarter.
The win was sealed for the Dubliners with a Charlie Butterworth try from a driven lineout before Dan McEvoy picked up a fortuitous try right at the death when a promising Sligo move broke down and the ball fell to the winger for a clear run in.
Sligo’s focus will now return to their Ulster Bank Division 2c campaign. Next Saturday brings an away trip to Spollanstown to face Tullamore RFC. With Tullamore desperate to garner league points Sligo will need to reproduce the type of performance level achieved against Lansdowne to come out on top. The match kicks off at 2.30.
Sligo Jack Keegan, Calum Goddard, Mark Rooney, Mike Wells, Philip Carter, Mark Butler, Shane O’Hehir, Kuba Wojtkowicz, Shane O’Hehir, Conor Mitchell, James Wilson, Ciaran Cassidy, Shane Boyle (Capt), Matthew Davey, Matthew Cosgrove. Reps: Ross O’Boyle, Craig Adams, Shane McGuinness, David Cawley, David Heath, Christian Nielsen, Niall Gray, Enda Gavin, Sean Mullin