Sligo 42 – Ballinrobe 14
Sligo proved to be much too strong for Ballinrobe in the Connacht Junior 1 League at Hamilton Park on Sunday last. The game was played in poor conditions, as the pitch showed the effects of some recent games.
Despite this Sligo opted to play an expansive game and this strategy was rewarded with six excellent tries. This victory, with a bonus point, ensures that Sligo remain in contention for league honours, while the defeat virtually consigns Ballinrobe to Division 2 rugby for next season.
This was a very impressive performance by Sligo. The home side more than matched the Ballinrobe pack in the scrums and line-outs, with hooker Ross Mannion gaining two strikes against the head in the first half. Sligo also dominated in the rucks and mauls, especially in the first half while Peter Mullan and Jamie Livingstone reigned supreme in the line-outs.
With a plentiful supply of ball, the Sligo backs shone as they tore the losers defence to shreds with some scintillating back play. All of Sligo’s six tries resulted from back movements with winger Gary Boland crossing for three tries, while Cathal Culhane scored twice. The losers only try resulted from a maul midway through the second half, at a stage when the issue was beyond doubt.
Sligo attacked from the kick-off and Gavin Foley converted a penalty in the second minute when Ballinrobe went off-side at a ruck. The Co. Mayo side were level two minutes later when Sligo were penalised for not rolling away after a tackle, and out-half Adrian Flannery landed the resultant penalty. Sligo scored a fine try in the 18th minute, when following a scrum 10 metres from the Ballinrobe line, Peter Mullan picked and passed to Billy Leahy, who broke on the blind-side and sent winger Gary Boland scampering over. Soon afterwards, Flannery reduced arrears to 11-6 when he converted another penalty.
In the 30th minute, Sligo scored a superb try when following a great move involving Boland, Ronan Gillespie, Gary Conneally and Joe Sweeney, centre Cathal Culhane entered the line and knived through the defence to score in the left corner. Although Foley missed the difficult conversion, Sligo now led by 16-6. Out-half Adrian Flannery added Ballinrobe’s third penalty, but Sligo increased their lead in the 40th minute when Boland showed pace and a fine side step to wrongfoot the defence and score under the posts, with Foley converting.
Sligo led by 23-9 at the break and within 5 minutes of the restart, they had secured a bonus point. On this occasion, Culhane showed his elusiveness when he broke to the left and with the defence expecting an off-load, he made it all the way to the corner. Following this score, Sligo seemed to rest on their laurels and allowed Ballinrobe back into the game. The visitors reduced arrears after 22 minutes when their pack mauled over the line, with No.8 Mike McGrath touching down, but the previously unerring Flannery was off target with the conversion. This score seemed to sting Sligo into action and they finished with two spectacular tries. In the 36th minute, Billy Leahy stole through a gap 30 metres from the line and sprinted in under the posts, with Gavin Foley converting. Two minutes later, Gary Boland collected a loose clearance on half-way and swatted aside would be tacklers to dot down between the posts, with Foley again converting.
Overall, an excellent team performance from Sligo with all 18 players used making an impact. Ballinrobe will take few positives from this game as they struggled in most departments to match Sligo. Out-half Adrian Flannery proved to be a fine goal kicker while veteran Dave King and Trevor Watson fought gallantly to the end.
Sligo: R. Burrows, G. Boland, A. Feeney, C. Culhane, J. Sweeney, G. Foley, B. Leahy, R. Gillespie, R. Mannion, J. Kelly, A. McHale, J. Livingstone, T. Sweeney, P. Mullan (C), G. Conneally, Subs: M. Feeney (For Kelly), D. Greene (For Conneally, Inj), J. Rippon (For T. Sweeney).
Ballinrobe: A. Golden, S. Kelly, D. Costello, S. Rochford (C), M. Ansbold, A. Flannery, J. Fourie, D. McHugh, B. O’Toole, J. Flannery, J. O’Toole, P. King, T. Watson, M. McGrath, M. Staunton, Subs (Used): D. Brennan, M. Fitzgerald, D. Burke.
Referee: James Gavin (Creggs RFC)