Sligo RFC 14 – Ballinrobe 10
The Sligo Development team had a narrow win in the Connacht Junior Cup quarter final last Sunday in Hamilton Park. A small crowd cheered on the home team on a cold, bright day and they were rewarded for their loyalty, as Sligo made the most of their dominance throughout the game, to secure a vital win in the Junior Cup.
There was an early scare in the match, as the Visitors snatched the lead with an intercept try after 10 minutes. Sligo retained possession and continually went through the phases, recycling the ball but were unable to make it count. In the 20th minute, Jake Sexton stole the ball in the lineout and Sligo ran it from their own 22m line, spreading the Ballinrobe defence thin. Mattie Kavanagh broke through for a try, but the referee deemed the ball to be held up. It was another 5 minutes before Sligo were eventually rewarded for their dominance and were able to put some points on the board, with a penalty kick, coolly slotted home by Niall Gray.
From the restart, Ballinrobe again found themselves under constant pressure, with Sligo dominating at the breakdown and scrum. The home side were eventually awarded a penalty from an infringement in the scrum, and Gray added to his tally, bringing the score to 6-7. Only the smallest of margins separated the two sides until the last kick of the half, when the Ballinrobe out-half, perhaps inspired by Jonathan Sexton, kicked an impressive drop goal from 35m out, to leave the score at 6-10.
The home side came out all guns blazing and piled on the pressure from the restart, but they made hard work of it. Ballinrobe struggled to get the ball out of their own 22, and despite their free-flowing rugby, working the ball across the pitch, the home side continued to come away empty-handed. Again, it was the Sligo scrum that yielded the best results and their dominance was eventually rewarded with another penalty. Gray made sure of it and the margin was once again reduced to a single point in the 60th minute. The home crowd hadn’t long to wait before their team were finally rewarded for their relentless pressure, breaching the Ballinrobe defence in the 66th minute. David Cawley secured the ball in the line out and the Sligo back line showed quick hands, with the ball coming back to Jamie Bowes, who powered his way over the line. Gray’s conversion was well-struck from a narrow angle, but the ball came back off the posts, to leave the score at 14-10.
A further period of pressure within the Visitors’ 22, went without reward for Sligo and then, reminiscent of the scare in the first half, the home side’s flat back-line resulted in another Ballinrobe interception. A high-speed chase ensued, and with Mattie Kavanagh’s try-saving tackle, there was an audible sigh of relief from the home supporters. Sligo retained possession in their own 22 and turned on the pressure-cooker, going through the phases and working the ball ever closer to the Ballinrobe line. However, the sustained pressure failed to put more points on the board and another handling error from the home side, resulted in a knock on and turnover. The score remained unchanged until the final whistle and Sligo deservedly had secured the win. The Sligo Development team now progress into the semi-final of the Connacht Junior Cup, where they will meet either Creggs or Corinthians on 11th March.
Sligo: Jamie Bowes, Ross O’Boyle, Craig Adams, David Cawley, Jake Sexton, Mattie Davey (c) Christian Neilsen, Ross Hickey, Enda Gavin, Sean Wynne, Sean Mullin, Gavin Foley, Charlie Cooper, Mattie Kavanagh, Reps: Aaron Tansey, Michael Mc Morrow, David Heath, Liam McElhinney, Stewart O’Brien