Blackrock RFC 5
Sligo RFC 10
In the twelfth round of Energia All Ireland league Div 2B matches Sligo were given the task of travelling to the capital to lock horns with Blackrock College in a repeat of last years division 2B promotion playoff. Blackrock took the spoils with a late score that day and repeated the dose with a last gasp victory over Sligo in Strandhill in November. Sligo were determined to turn the tables and stood up and bested their much vaunted Dublin rivals with display of courage, skill and a tremendous amount of heart.
With storm Dennis baring its teeth, it was batten down the hatches time as the teams took to the field. The home team won the toss and elected to play against the buffeting gales so Sligo knew a good start was vital. The visitors immediately turned up the pressure and an early quick lineout move between Shane O’Hehir and Jason East allowed Sligo to maul their way to within inches of the home line. Sligo continued to batter the line but unfortunately a handling error at a crucial moment allowed ‘Rock to clear their lines.
The half began to take a pattern with Sligo pinning their hosts into their own 22 but the scorekeeper remained untroubled as the Sligo pressure failed to yield points. Despite the lack of scores Sligo continued to battle with the outstanding Stephen Kerins marshalling everything from behind the pack and Ciaran Cassidy and Tom Gormely carrying like dump trucks to create havoc in the Blackrock defence.
The heavens opened with rainfall of biblical proportions on the half hour. The floodlights came on but it was Sligo that shone brightest when fine work from Shane Boyle and Brian West earned a penalty in front of the posts which Euan Brown despatched to give Sligo the lead.
With conditions becoming more difficult by the minute Sligo continued to pressure the ‘Rock attack and the excellent defence was rewarded when the error was forced, Kerins collected and sprinted in from the 10 metre line. Brown converted and Sligo were 10 nil leaders at the interval.
Following the break Sligo resumed knowing they had to play against the wind, rain and everything that Blackrock was going to throw at them. Like a lighthouse in a storm Sligo stood fast and repelled every salvo the visitors fired at them. Heroes is a word often bandied about but its no exaggeration to say the every Sligo player earned hero status in a horrendously difficult half of rugby.
At scrum time Mark Keegan, O’Hehir ,Gormely and Matthew Earley dominated a hefty ‘Rock front row earning a couple of vital penalties to relieve the besieged Sligo line. Boyle and Cassidy ably supported by the powerful Craig Trimble fought for every inch of precious ground while backrows Brian West , East , Matt Davey, Kuba Wojtkowicz and the returning Sean Wynne were a pack of jackals at every breakdown.
Kerins directed the game from start to finish but his half back partner Brown played a huge part in managing such a difficult encounter. Sligo’s midfield was a wall that was never going to be breached with Enda Gavin, Mark Butler and Daire Byrne knocking down every attack that came their way. On a day the likes of which back three players dread, Philip Carter, Calum Goddard and Ryan Feehily kept the backfield intact while posing a threat every time they got the ball in hand.
Blackrock finally picked up a score in the corner with 10 minutes remaining and threw the proverbial kitchen sink at Sligo in search of a second try but Sligo were not to be beaten and come the final whistle the yeats country men were celebrating.
Next for Sligo is a home encounter against Greystones RFC. The match kicks off at Strandhill at 2.30 next Saturday.
Sligo: Ryan Feehily, Calum Goddard, Mark Butler, Enda Gavin, Philip Carter, Euan Brown, Stephen Kerins, Tom Gormely, Shane O’Hehir, Mark Keegan, Shane Boyle, Ciaran Cassidy, Brain West, Kuba Wojtkowicz, Jason East. Reps: Matthew Earley, Matthew Davey, Craig Trimble, Daire Byrne, Sean Wynne.