J1B: Sligo crowned League Champions!

Sligo RFC 51 – Loughrea RFC 0

Last Sunday the Sligo RFC Development Squad faced Loughrea in their final league game  at home in Hamilton Park on a beautiful warm afternoon. Sligo having lost only lost one game knew that beating Loughrea would see them crowned J1B Connacht Champions for the 2016-2017 season. A large crowd was in attendance, a nervous air of hopeful expectation hung over the pitch, this was understandable as Loughrea had beaten Tuam this season in a cup game, Tuam being the only side to beat Sligo out of 14 games.

Sligo RFC kicked off towards the Knocknarea end of the ground and as with every game this season the Sligo pack immediately put down an early marker by winning the first scrum in a powerful drive which lead to a rolling maul, involving Craig Adams, Ross O’Boyle, David Cawley and the bruising Thomas Gormley. When the maul crossed the Loughrea 5 meter line Sean Mullin joined and went straight through the middle, breaking the line to score a well earned try putting Sligo on the score board, 5-0.

The next 10 minutes saw Sligo in complete control of the game with massive territorial and ball advantage, this time the well drilled backs moved the ball from left to right which involved Gary O’Hehir, and Gavin Foley who offloaded the ball to set up Graham Kerr to sprint over the try line for the second score of the afternoon which was duly converted by Enda Gavin who has been instrumental in many of the victories this season  with his sure footed kicking.

Loughrea had no response to this aggressive style of running rugby and again on 15 minutes the Loughrea line was breached by a sniping run from Stuart Obrien, bringing the score to 17-0 to Sligo.

So far Loughrea’s only entry into the Sligo half was after a Sligo score but on this occasion they won a penalty in the Sligo 25 only to loose the the line out due to Jake Sexton’s athleticism bringing the ball back to a now rampant squad, Matt Kavanagh broke out of the Sligo 25 making a great run into the Loughrea half where the ball was recycled at speed to finally give bulldozer Sean Mullin his second try of the afternoon, the score now Sligo 22-0. The first half ended with Sligo in attack mode with James O’Hehir making a dazzling run, stepping inside to set up a ruck leading to a try from Matt Kavanagh bringing the score to 27-0 on the score board.

This first half display by the Sligo squad demonstrated the absolute power of every players on the pitch and their belief in each other which has been evident all season.

The second half restarted with  all the Sligo players now  making power runs and after only 5 minutes Sean Mullin crossed the line for his 3rd try bringing the score to Sligo 32-0. Coach Pearson used all his bench throughout the game bringing on Gary Conneely, Aaron Tansey, Clive Morris and Carl VanRensburg to maintain the tempo of the game. Throughout the season coach Pearson has constantly emphasised the importance of all 20 players.

Now with no response from a demoralised Loughrea  side, further try’s followed from David Bergin, Matt Davey and a final try by Graham Kerr giving the final score 51-0.

The crowd erupted  as the Sligo RFC Development Squad were crowned League Champions of Connacht J1B!

Coach Paddy pearson and Roger Burrows were full of praise for their players and thanked them all for their commitment  this season. He said “it was a historic day for themselves as many players during their sporting lives do not win anything, it’s not easy to win a league, it is also great day for the club”. “Man of the Match went to Sean Mullin and Graham Kerr”.

The Cup was presented  on behalf of the Connacht Branch  and IRFU by Adrian Leddy to Captain Michael McMorrow who called up each player to receive their Connacht Medal. In his acceptance speech McMorrow dedicated the win to former team mate Eddie O’Connell then raised the the cup aloft and the party began.

Squad: Graham Kerr, Matt Kavanagh, Gavin Foley, Sean Mullin, Stuart O’Brien, Enda Gavin, Garry O’Hehir, Thomas Gormley, Ross O’Boyle, Craig Adams, David Cawley, Michael McMorrow (Captain), Jake Sexton, Matt Davey, David Bergin, Gary Conneely, James O’Hehir, Aaron Tansey, Carl VanRensburg.

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