Sligo made a disappointing exit from the Heineken Connacht Junior cup when they were defeated by Corinthians at Corinthian park on Sunday last. While the final score-line of 28-7 flatters the winners, they were undoubtedly the superior side on the day, and they played some impressive rugby. Although Sligo faced the stiff breeze in the first half, the scores were level, 0-0, after 20 minutes. Indeed Sligo almost scored a try after 6 minutes, when following a fine Billy Leahy break, the ball was moved wide and good handling by the backs put centre, Andrew Feeney away, but he was bundled into touch at the corner flag. However in the 20th minute, the decision of the referee to sin-bin Sligo’s captain, Peter Mullan following a ruck 20 metres from Sligo’s posts completely changed the game.
It was an extremely harsh and unwarranted decision, and as it emerged it had a vital bearing on the outcome. By the time their captain returned, Sligo trailed by 13-0, and Corinthians were in the ascendancy. Poor defensive work presented the winners with a try in the 5th minute of injury time in the first half.
Sligo failed to raise their game in the third quarter, as Corinthians added a further penalty. However, in the final 20 minutes they were camped in Corinthians’ territory, and only some last ditch defending denied them. Corinthians had two players sin binned for persistently killing the ball near the try line, but the referee did not see fit to award Sligo a penalty try. Sligo eventually got some consolation when scrum-half, Billy Leahy crossed for a try, which out-half Gavin Foley converted.
However, the game ended on a bizarre note, as the referee had called ‘last play’, and Sligo were on the attack inside their opponents half. A wayward pass was intercepted by Corinthian centre, Pat McGuckian, the man of the match, and he outpaced the cover to score.
Very few Sligo players played to their potential on this occasion, although Billy Leahy, and Roger Burrows in the backs, and Ronan Gillespie, Gary Conneally, Peter Mullan and Jamie Livingstone in the pack all tried hard on a day when Sligo got none of the breaks.
Sligo: Roger Burrows, Gary Boland, Andrew Feeney, Cathal Culhane, Joe Sweeney, Gavin Foley, Billy Leahy, Ronan Gillespie, Ross Mannion, Joe Kelly, Adrian McHale, Jamie Livingstone, Trevor Sweeney, Peter Mullan [c.], Gary Conneally. Subs: Julian Rippon for J. Sweeney, Warner Wilder for T.Sweeney, Martin Feeney for J. Kelly, Philip Henry for C.Culhane [inj.], Andrew Williams, Steven Connolly.