Sligo overcome Corinthians to make semi-final

Sligo RFC 12 – Corinthians RFC 6

Last Sunday Sligo continued their unbeaten run in all competitions in Connacht by beating Corinthians by four penalties to two.

Conditions were always going to have a big influence on proceedings with a strong northerly bitter cold wind and a very wet and sticky pitch. This was a game of two halves for the competing teams and Sligo elected to play into the strong wind in the first half.

Corinthians are not the force that they were last season when they defeated Sligo in the league and also in the Junior Cup final. In the meantime Sligo have won the Junior league and are in the Cawley Cup final and are a side transformed in twelve months.

With this backdrop Sligo went into this match as strong favourites but Cup football is always different in that its knockout and every game is a separate battle.

In the first half Sligo got down to work and their pack were marginally on top in most areas. At times Sligo had to dig deep and they did well on several occasions breaking free and threatened the opposition try line. One such break by the excellent No. 8 Paddy Conlon who broke from the back of the scrum deep in their own half and fed the flying Aaron Spring almost led to a try with Spring being hauled down five meters out.

Corinthians drew first blood with a fine penalty kick only for Mark Butler to level the scores 3 all after nine minutes. For most of the first half Sligo were defending in their own territory and they did a splendid job both in hard work by the pack and good play by the half backs Billy Leahy and Mark Butler. Their discipline was exemplary giving away few kickable penalties and they got to the break 3 all. This was a decent return considering the conditions.

In the second half it was all about Sligo piling on the pressure in terms of possession and territory. Mark Butler had three more fine penalty kicks to put a bit of daylight between the sides. To their credit Corinthians never gave up and got within 3 points with ten minutes remaining. However Sligo were in no mood to capitulate and with the scrum advantage growing as the game wore on Corinthians simply could not get any momentum. The game ended with another fine Sligo win and they are into the semi finals which will be drawn on Monday night.

This was a real tough Cup match and both sides have to be commended for serving up such competitive football in very difficult conditions.

On the day in the pack Sligo were the dominant force. Ross Mannion who started at hooker and finished the game at loose head prop had an outstanding game with his scrummaging a revelation. Paddy Conlon once again had a superb outing and his ball carrying and speed from the base was of the highest order. Simon Coulter was very busy and put in a fine days work.

In the back line scrum half Billy Leahy had a good outing with his passing of the greasy ball excellent. His defence work around the fringes and carrying was also very good before he moved to the wing where he finished strongly. Mark Butler at 10 also did well and yet again his place kicking was vital as he has been doing all season. Mata Fifita was also to the fore with his high work rate and he was unlucky to be sent to the bin for 10 minutes for an illegal tackle. Aaron Spring who started on the wing and finished on the flank always looked to be Sligo’s most dangerous attacker and he was only denied a try in the first half by some excellent defence having beaten several players up the middle.

Sligo will be delighted to have got the win here against a useful Corinthian side considering they started without captain Paddy Pearson, Jamie Bowes and prop Wesley Maxwell. If you want to win trophies you sometimes have to be prepared to win ugly and this is exactly what Sligo did on the day.

Sligo team: David Gerrity, Brian Hynes, Gavin Foley, Aaron Spring, Mark Butler, Billy Leahy, Martin Feeney, Ross Mannion, Adrian McHale, James Wilson, Peter Mullan, Cathal Culhane, Simon Coulter, Paddy Conlon.
Subs: Gary Conneely, Daragh Cox, Frankie Feeney, Clive Morris, Roger Burrows.

Photographs by Rory Raftery – see more on Sligo RFC facebook page here