Sligo were defeated by Buccaneers in Dubarry Park, Athlone on Sunday last in the Connacht Junior 1 League. However, the result and the eight points winning margin does scant justice to Sligo, who were in control for long periods of the game.
The visitors were in control in the opening exchanges, but against the run of play conceded a very soft try after 16 minutes. In virtually the winners’ first attack, they scored a try, after a missed tackle in mid-field by a Sligo forward. Winger, Paul Hanniffy converted to give his side a flattering 7-0 lead. A penalty from out-half, Gavin Foley reduced arrears after 21 minutes. A poor call from referee, Robert Coughlin [Midleton RFC and Munster Branch], denied Sligo a legitimite try after 34 minutes. Following a penalty to the corner, Sligo’s pack mauled over the line, with Jamie Livingstone clearly touching down, but the referee, who was on the opposite side from the ball carrier, to the consternation of Sligo’s supporters, just awarded a 5 metre scrum, which proved to be fruitless.
To add to Sligo’s woes, they went further behind 5 minutes after the restart, when they were adjudged to have been off-side at a ruck in front of their posts, on the ’22’, and Hanniffy landed the ‘sitter’. Stung by this reverse, Sligo launched a series of attacks, and in the 11th minute scored a brilliant try. They opened up the defence with some fine continuity play, and in a move where at least six players handled, with youngsters, David Gerrity and Ronan Gillespie prominent, Gavin Foley stepped inside and wrong-footed the cover, to score near the posts. Unfortunately, his conversion attempt sailed wide.
When Buccaneers came upfield, Sligo conceded a needless penalty near the posts, which Hanniffy converted, to give them a 13-8 lead. A dubious penalty in the 28th minute saw the deadly accurate Hanniffy bring the score to 16-8. For the remainder of the game, Sligo camped in the Buccaneers ’22’, as they went in search of an elusive try. When they were awarded penalties, kicks at goal were eschewed in favour of kicks to the corners. In the 32nd minute, they did maul over the winners’ line, but on this occasion, referee Coughlin correctly decreed that the ball was not grounded, and the subsequent scrum did not produce a score. Towards the end, in separate attacks, both Julian Rippon and Andrew Feeney were held out, virtually on the line.
Buccaneers fielded three pack members, Benny Gilligan, Kieran O’Gorman and Adrian Hughes who have played AIL Division 1 rugby this season, but they could never subdue the visitors’ eight, where Ronan Gillespie had another big game, and Peter Mullan, Jamie Livingstone and Ross Mannion also excelled. Behind the scrum, Paul Hanniffy, another experienced AIL player, created havoc with his 4 from 4 kicking record. Half backs, Billy Leahy and Gavin Foley, more than matched their direct opponents, while 19 year old David Gerrity, making his debut at full-back, showed that he is certainly a player for the future.
Player of the Match:Paul Hanniffy [Buccaneers]
Sligo: D. Gerrity, J. Rippon, A. Feeney, C. Culhane, A. Williams, G. Foley, B. Leahy, R. Gillespie, R. Mannion, M. Feeney, J. Livingstone, A. McHale, T. Sweeney, P. Mullan, W. Wilder.
Subs: G. Conneally for Wilder [inj.], J. Kelly for M. Feeney, D. Green and S.Connolly [not used].
Buccaneers: E. Griffin, P. Hanniffy, P. Murphy, J. O’Connell, D. O’Saughnessy. P. Byrne, K. Turley, B. Gilligan, K. O’Gorman, R. Johnston, J. Tormey, Anthony Hughes, S. O’Rourke, Adrian Hughes, K. Coughlan.
Referee: Robert Coughlin [MidletonRFC/Munster Branch]