Sligo 14 :: Westport 5
Despite having prop forward, Martin Feeney red carded in the 33rd minute of the first half, relegation threatened Sligo gave their best performance of this season’s campaign, when they defeated Westport at Hamilton Park on Sunday last. The game was played in ideal conditions, with cup tie intensity, before a large, vocal and enthusiastic attendance.
From the outset, Sligo tore into their opponents, with their pack giving the highly rated Westport eight a torrid time. The exchanges were fiercely contested, but Sligo had the edge in all facets of forward play. Sligo totally dismantled the Westport line-out, and their pick and drive game kept them going forward.
Referee, Jeff Allen [Buccaneers] was emerging as a central figure, and in the 13th minute he yellow carded Sligo’s full-back, Mark Boland, and Westport’s No.8 and captain, J.P. Walsh. Worse was to follow for Sligo. In the 33rd minute, Martin Feeney received a straight red card for an alleged stamp, when he seemed to be rucking the ball. However, there can be no denying that Sligo scored an excellent try in the 39th minute, which to the bafflement of home supporters, was ruled out. On this occasion, flying winger, Thomas Darcel showed tremendous pace as he outsped the cover to touch down out-half, Gavin Foley’s kick through, but the referee, who was well away from the play, incredibly ruled out the score and pointed to the ’22’ for a Westport drop out.
Sligo, following some continuous pressure, deservedly took the lead in the 22nd minute. This score had its genesis when Wesport attempted to run the ball out of their own half. A great tackle by Ted Mulvanney on his opposite number, Danny O’Toole, resulted in the ball going free, and centre, Kakaber Machiditze, hacked the ball through. The bounce deceived veteran Westport out-half, Eddie Walsh, and prop Adrian McHale was quick to react, as he grabbd the ball and dived over at the posts to give Sligo a 7-0 lead. The over-ruled Darcel try in the 39th minute denied Sligo a more comfortable half-time lead.
Favoured by the wind in the second half,and following some fine work by the pack, Sligo were back on the attack, but they spurned a golden opportunity to put some daylight between themselves and Westport. On this occasion, left winger, Ted Mulvanney crossed the losers’ goal-line, but as he attempted to run around under the posts, he was tackled by centre, Mark Walsh, who prevented him from touching down.
In the 30th minute, Sligo put the issue beyond all doubt. Machiditze kicked a penalty to the corner, and after initially inching forward with the maul, the ball was turned over. Westport then attempted to move the ball quickly and knocked-on over the goal-line. With the referee playing advantage to Sligo, out-half, Gavin Foley, gratefully accepted the gifted opportunity to touch down, and also landed the conversion. Westport’s sole reply was a try by centre, Lyndon Jones, in the 3rd minute of stoppage time, but it was of the classical ‘too little too late’ variety.
This was Sligo’s best display of the season, and the side was unrecognisable from that which performed so poorly in their last outing against Tuam in the cup. The entire team played with pride and passion, and would not have been flattered with a bonus point, as they actually crossed the Westport line on four occasions.
In a great all-round battling performance, team captain, Jamie Livingstone led by example, and he was the worthy recipient ot the Martin Reilly Motors sponsored ‘man of the match’ award, which was presented by the President, Tom Gilligan, after the match in the Clubhouse. Livingstone’s ball carrying and line-out work were exemplary. Peter Mullan had a huge game also,and this duo controlled the line-outs. The entire pack starred, with the front row of Adrian McHale, Ronan Gillespie, initially Martin Feeney, and later substitute, Ross O’Boyle, providing the springboard for many attacks, while wing forwards, David Greene and Cathal Culhane knocked back opponents all afternoon. Second row, Jamie Bowe also made a big contribution.
Half backs, Billy Leahy and Gavin Foley had their best games for some time, while winger,Thomas Darcel worked very hard, and his pace and elusive running constantly troubled the Westport defence. He certainly is entitled to feel unhappy over the decision not to allow his first half try. Centres, Kakaber Machiditze and Julian Ripon allowed nothing through the midfield channels, with the former Georgian International’s defensive kicking being of a very high standard. Full-back, Mark Boland, had an eventful afternoon. Yellow carded in the first half, and forced to leave the fray with a back injury in the second half, his safe handling and determined counter attacking runs were impressive. On the left wing, Ted Mulvanney will not forget his costly lesson that touching down when over the whitewash is paramount, and that going around behind the posts is a bonus. However, he had a very fine game overall, highlighted by his excellent first half tackle which led to Sligo’s opening try, and a brilliant catch under pressure in the first half.
The veracity of the old adage that when the going gets tough, the tough get going, was certainly borne out on this occasion, particularly when cognisance is taken of the fact that Sligo played for almost three quarters of the game with only 14 players, and yet dominated territorially and on the score-board.
Sligo: Mark Boland, Thomas Darcel, Julian Ripon, Kakaber Machiditze, Ted Mulvanney, Gavin Foley, Billy Leahy, Adrian McHale, Ronan Gillespie, Martin Feeney, Peter Mullan, Jamie Bowe, Cathal Culhane, Jamie Livingstone [c.], David Greene Subs: Ross O’Boyle for Bowe. Bowe for M. Boland [inj.], [Not Used]: Simon Coulter, Stephen Woods.
Westport: George Visser, Danny O’Toole, Lyndon Jones, Mark Walsh, Kevin Corcoran, Eddie Walsh, Paul Jennings, Matt Walsh, Michael O’Brien, Pat Conway, Sean O’Boyle, Roger Martin, Peter Corcoran, J.P.Walsh [c.], Michael Ryder. Subs: Paddy Kennedy, Conor Hastings, Michael Heneghan.
Referee: Mr. Jeff Allen [Buccaneers].