With the Connacht junior league title secured, Sligo’s quest for total dominance of Connacht junior rugby switched to the Heineken Junior Cup commencing with a home encounter against Buccaneers on Sunday.
Buccaneers travelled to Strandhill with high hopes of an upset having secured the Connacht League division 1b title the previous weekend, but came across a Sligo side focussed on their task and were blown away by their hosts.
On a perfect day for rugby Sligo kicked off playing towards Knocknarea and immediately put their guests under pressure. Pressure at the visitors lineout saw the award of a Sligo scrum 10 metres out. A well struck Ross Mannion heel was moved to outhalf Mark Butler, who darted through a gap in the Buccaneers defence before being hauled down short of the line. Supporting number eight Peter Mullan showed all his experience by picking up and crashing over for the opening score. Butler converted for the perfect start for the home team.
Sligo’s perfect start continued and 8 minutes in the try total was doubled. Suberb pressure by the pack with prop forward Adrian Mc Hale prominent gave the locals position close to the Buccaneers line. The ball was moved wide and full back Niall O Hara perfectly timed his pass to allow winger Brian Hynes the space to dot down in the corner.
With a quarter of an hour gone Sligo added their third try. A well won James Wilson lineout was moved midfield and prolific centre Matele Fifita burst through the cover on the 10 metre line and scored under the posts. Butler converted to moved the score to 19-0 in favour of the westerners.
Sligo continued to press and were soon back in Buccaneers territory. A sweeping backline involving veteran centre Gavin Foley move saw the ball transferred to Hynes and the winger made no mistake in doubling his personal tally for the day to put the half time score at 24-0 in favour 0f the home outfit.
The second half began much as the first half ended with the home team on top in all phases . The front row of Mc Hale, Mannion and Martin Feeney were well on top in the scrums, Wilson was running the lineout show and his second row partner Jamie Bowes trademark driving runs were causing mayhem in the Shannionsiders defence, before his retirement with a nasty head wound.
The versatile Aaron Spring was brought into the play and the youngster made an immediate impact when collecting the ball on the the halfway line before powering his way through the midlanders defence and sprinting to the line to touch down under the posts. Butler converted to move the scoreline to 31-0 in favour of Sligo.
50 minutes in and Sligo were in total control. Mannion and Mc Hale had big carries before the ball was moved to Fifita and the centre characteristically powered to the corner before touching down under the posts. Butler easily added the conversion to move the score to 38-0.
Sligo continued to press and Spring again demonstrated his ball carrying ability. Following a series of rucks on the 10 metre line Spring again burst through the defence and touched down beside the posts. Butler again converted to move the score to 45-0.
Buccaneers never gave up and rewarded with a try after 60 mins. Sligo, however were not finished and another superb Fifita run and score immediately cancelled out the visitors score. Butler again converted to push the score to 52-5.
Incredibly, following the restart, Connacht branch referee Joe Doyne blew the final whistle with 15 minutes remaining on the clock signalling the end of another great day for Sligo Rugby.
Sligo; Niall O Hara, Brian Hynes, Gavin Foley, Matele Fifita, Billy Leahy, Mark Butler, Paddy Pearson, Martin Feeney, Ross Mannion, Adrian Mc Hale, James Wilson, Jamie Bowes, Cathal Culhane, Simon Coulter, Peter Mullan. Reps Frankie Feeney, Aaron Spring, Gary Conneely, Roger Burrows,Darragh Cox.
Ocean FM match commentary by Daragh Cox and Ken O’Neill
Photos by Rory Raftery