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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.