Sligo 3 :: Corrib 3
Sligo and Corrib shared the points in a dour Connacht Junior 1 League game at Headford on Sunday last. Despite the excellent conditions, neither side ever looked likely to score a try from a flowing back movement, so it was evident, certainly by half time, that the outcome would be decided by the respective kickers.
Corrib’s sole tactic was ‘pick and drive’, but to their credit, Sligo defended very well. In the second period Sligo found it difficult to get their hands on the ball, and fully 18 minutes of this half had elapsed before they made a second half incursion into the Corrib half. Sligo had not threatened to breach the defence, but within the space of four minutes in the final ten minutes, they were presented with two gilt edged opportunities of winning the game.
With 9 minutes remaining, in a rare attack inside the Corrib ’22’, the home side were penalised by referee, Roy Gibson, but to the absolute amazement and relief of the entire, sizeable Corrib support, Sligo opted for a kick to the corner. It was a baffling decision as based on everything which had occurred previously, there was zilch chance of Sligo outmauling Corrib and going over. Unsurprisingly, Corrib snaffled back the ball in the maul, and then won a relieving penalty to clear their lines.
But all was not lost for Sligo. Four minutes later they were back inside the home sid’s ’22’, and Corrib were again penalised. This surely was Sligo’s opportunity to steal a victory they scarcely deserved. The penalty was 20 metres out, and conditions were ideal, as the slight breeze favoured Sligo. In what can only be described as mind a boggling decision, Sligo eschewed the relatively simple kick at goal and again went for the corner. To add insult to injury, history repeated itself, as Corrib turned over the ball in the ensuing maul, and again won a relieving penalty.
The gods certainly did not smile on Sligo for this game. With Julian Rippon and Gary Conneally unavailable through injury, the team was further short-handed when Mark Boland called off with ‘flu on Sunday morning while last week’s out-half, Roger Burrows was unavailable. Within three minutes of the start their problems were further compounded, when their forward talisman, Peter Mullan had to retire with knee ligament problems. With five frontliners absent, it was understandable that Sligo would struggle. However, the side never lacked commitment and their defensive work was excellent as their tackle count was particularly high.
Foremost in this regard was blind side wing forward, Joe Sweeney who gave a man of the match display, as he continually knocked opponents back. Indeed the entire pack deserve commendation as they successfully defended a barrage of pick and drives from Corrib, and did so without conceding penalties.
If Joe Sweeney starred in the pack, the best back on view was Sligo’s full-back, Kakaber Machiditze. The former Georgian International handled everything which came his way with assurance, while his ability to line kick with equal facility with either foot, was impressive. His penalties from the hand also won large tracts of territory when he was given the opportunity to do so.
As stated, Sligo suffered a major blow with Peter Mullan’s premature departure. Andrew Williams moved from the wing to the second row, with Ted Mulvanney coming on to the left wing. Although Mullan’s leadership and experience was sorely missed, Sligo did well in the line-outs, through Williams, Simon Coulter and Jamie Livingstone. Ronan Gillespie at hooker was having a big game, carrying well and making some crunching tackles. Around the fringes scrum-half, Billy Leahy, was almost an auxillary wing forward as he never shirked the tackle. Although Sligo were on occasion forced to take the odd step backwards in the scrums, props, Adrian McHale and Joe Kelly did well, while David Greene at open side, despite his lack of match practice had a busy afternoon.
As most of the action took place between the packs, it was not a day for the backs. Certainly Sligo got few chances to show their paces in attack but the defensive line held firm. Substitute, Ted Mulvanney added to his growing reputation as a winger, but unfortunately had to leave the action near the end with a shoulder injury.
Sligo took the lead in the 15th minute, when centre, Stuart Dorran converted a 30 metre penalty, which ironically was the only kick at goal attempted by Sligo in the entire game. Corrib’s out-half, Charlie Sullivan landed the equaliser with a 40 metre penalty in the 37th minute of the first half. The same player missed a great chance to be his side’s hero, after 11 minutes of the second half, but he drove the 22 metre kick, just to the right, across the face of the goal.
Sligo: K. Machiditze, A. Williams, S. Dorran, C. Culhane, T. Darcel, G. Foley, B. Leahy, A. McHale, R. Gillespie, J. Kelly, P. Mullan, S. Coulter, J. Sweeney, J. Livingstone [c.], D. Greene. Subs: T. Mulvanney for P. Mullan [inj.], S. Woods for T.Mulvanney [inj.], D. Kilcoyne.
Corrib: T. Lee, J. Gavin, R. Molloy, S. Conlish, R. Casey, C. Sullivan, J. McCarthy, E. Small, M. Lee [c] , C. Moyles, B. Audley, S. Walsh, R. Colleran, C. Reddington, B. McDonagh. Subs: E. Kenny for J. McCarthy, M. Newell, A. Bane.
Referee:Mr.Roy Gibson [Connacht Branch].