Buccaneers RFC 14 Sligo RFC 33
Sligo opened their 20/21 competitive season in the Energia Community series, with a well-crafted win over Buccaneers at Dubarry Park, Athlone on Saturday. The newly-established series sees Sligo in a regionalised conference with the other Connnacht senior clubs in a home and way scenario, with the winners earning a semi-final spot in the prestigious Bateman Cup.
With Buccaneers residing in All Ireland League division 2A, and Sligo in 2B, the midlanders would have been considered favourites to prevail, but Sligo produced a top quality performance and were well-deserved winners on the day.
In glowing sunshine, Dubarry Park was in excellent condition when Buccaneers kicked off and tried to impose their game on the visitors. Sligo’s defence was strong with Brian West prominent, and after 3 minutes the error was forced. Jack Keegan collected a loose pass and raced in from the 10meter line to dot down right off the posts. Euan Brown added the extras and Sligo were up and running.
Buccaneers responded and levelled the scores after 10 minutes with a converted try from a lineout maul.
Sligo bit back and reclaimed the lead with fifteen minutes gone. Diarmuid O’Dowd Hill secured the lineout, the maul was driven forward and Matthew Earley finished off with a well-deserved try. Brown again converted.
Buccaneers again tried to respond and made their way into the Sligo danger zone. An attacking scrum looked likely to yield a score but a huge effort from the Sligo forwards, led by Kuba Wojtkowicz and Pedro Bengaló, demolished the home scrum, turned over possession for Sligo and the 7point lead was brought into the interval.
Following the resumption, Sligo continued to press knowing that the next score was significant. A long cross field kick from Brown was collected by Ryan Feehily on the 22. From the resulting ruck, Brown collected, chipped over the onrushing defence, raced through and collected the ball before racing to the corner to dot down.
Sligo were now on top in all facets of play and were hunting for the bonus point. From a scrum in midfield, Brendan Cunningham fed Enda Gavin, who combined with Keegan, to open up the home defence. Keegan linked up with Brown, who raced to the line for his second and Sligo’s fourth of the day. Another successful conversion from Brown pushed Sligo’s total to 26.
To cap the scoring Sligo added a fifth try with 15 minutes remaining. Another well-secured lineout, this time taken by the excellent Adrian Cummins, was mauled to the line and James O’Hehir was on hand to touch down. Brown again converted to put the game beyond Buccaneers’ reach.
Sligo rang the changes, giving well-deserved rests to Craig Trimble, Mata Fifita and Bengaló, who all brought a huge level of physicality to the contest, but were ably supported by Michael McMorrow, Christian Nielsen and Ross O’Boyle when brought into the fray.
Buccaneers scored a consolation try with a couple of minutes remaining but the day belonged to Sligo and when the long whistle sounded the Yeats county men were celebrating.
Coaches Paddy Pearson and Jason East will be happy with the first competitive outing of the season for their charges. In particular, the performances of debutants Bengaló, Hubert Gilvary, Guilherme Coghetto, and Franco Di Meglio who all acquitted themselves with distinction.
Next week Hamilton Park will play host to Galwegians in round 2 of the Energia series. Sligo will be looking to continue in the same vein and back up their excellent start. The match kicks off at 2.30 on Saturday.
Sligo: Guilherme Coghetto, Ryan Feehily, Jack Keegan, Enda Gavin, Hubert Gilvary, Euan Brown, Brendan Cunningham, Kuba Wojtkowicz, James O’Hehir, Pedro Bengaló, Craig Trimble, Adrian Cummins, Mata Fifita, Brian West, Diarmuid O’Dowd Hill. Reps Matthew Earley, Ross O’Boyle, Michael McMorrow, Christian Nielsen, Franco Di Meglio