J1B: Clash of table toppers goes to the wire

Sligo Development Squad travelled to Tuam for a clash with league leaders Tuam RFC. There was an agreed late 3.15pm KO to enable all the Tuam players to be available. Sligo were hoping for a different result to the last time the two sides met when Sligo were well beaten. Sligo won the toss and Captain Ross O’Boyle chose to kick up the hill in the first half which on reflection was to be a critical decision.

Sligo started well holding Tuam in their half but were unable to score due to some rushed handling errors and impatience in front of the Tuam line but after 7 minutes, Sligo were awarded a penalty which Enda Gavin stepped up and scored, 3-0 to Sligo. Tuam a big physical side moved the ball well and their out half kicked for touch. Sligo’s defence which has become a very strong part of their game weathered the first storm of many and Pearson broke out of the Sligo 25 meter area ran the length of the pitch breaking a number of tackles then off loading to a rampant Shane Mitchell who carried the ball into the Tuam 25, forcing Tuam into an offside position to give Sligo another opportunity to score and Enda Gavin kicked the penalty 6-0 to Sligo.

The physical encounter meant the Sligo coach had to start ringing the changes and made some early substitutions bringing on Gerard Kearney for Aaron Tansey, Christian Carroll for an injured Shane Mitchell but the scrum remained dominant. The Sligo pack is developing a name of being one of the strongest in the league and with a back row from Jake Sexton, Dave Cawley, Shane Mitchell and Liam McIlhinney it is a well earned accolade.

After 27 minutes a penalty was awarded to Tuam which gave them their first score on the board, the Tuam crowd roared, game on, 6-3 Sligo.

Just before half time after some Sligo pressure on the Tuam 5 meter line, Dave Bergin powered over off the back of the Sligo scrum to score a fine try converted by Enda Gavin, leaving the score now 13-3. After this score the referee sin binned a Tuam player for repeated offside offences.

Sligo now playing downhill started the second half as the Tuam flood lights came on, again Sligo played in the Tuam half and after a great break by Sean Mullin stepping a number of players, he off loaded to an eager Gary Borland who finished in the corner with a try giving Sligo an 18-3 lead. Tuam, who with a never give up attitude returned up the field and after pressuring the Sligo line scored a well earned try making the score 18-8.

The game was end to end stuff which the Tuam crowd were enjoying and becoming more animated sensing a possible resurgence in the Tuam players, Sligo replied with more pressure on the Tuam line who gave away a penalty which again was kicked by an in form Enda Gavin, score now 21-8 to Sligo.

Sligo again forced to make a number changes due to injuries had to reposition players bringing memories of the recent Ireland v Australian battle. Tuam immediately returned with increased pressure giving them a converted try, now the score 21-15 to Sligo.

Sligo in defensive mode battling to hold on to the lead with minutes to go trying to clear the lines gave away the ball and Tuam now sensing a win scored 15 meters in from the touch line. The cute Tuam Outhalf attempted to move the position of the ball to an easier kicking place but the alert referee insisted on replacing the ball to the correct position, A hushed crowd awaited the kick in anticipation of a one point victory but it went wide of the post. The Sligo Team and travelling supporters breathed a sigh of relief as they realised the game was won.

Immediately afterwards coach Pearson was congratulatory to his team on the victory but spoke of how the game was nearly lost partly he felt due to a poor prematch preparation. He expects improvements in the coming games as he has set his sight on winning this league. The next J1B game is Sunday 11th December 2016 2pm KO Strandhill v Loughrea.

Sligo RFC: Stuart O’Brien, Clive Morris, Matt Kavanagh, Sean Mullin, Brian Mullen, Patrick Pearson, David Berlin, Christian Carroll, Jake Sexton, David Cawley, Shane Mitchell, Aaron Tansey, Ross O’Boyle (Capt.), Thomas Gormley, Gerard Keaney, Sam Hogan, Liam McElhinney, Michael McMorrow, Gary Borland.

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