Sligo Win Crucial Points In Mud Bath

Sligo 19 :: OLBC 6

There is an old cliche that when the going gets tough, the tough get going, and the veracity of this was certainly borne out at Hamilton Park on Sunday last, when in atrocius conditions, Sligo won four priceless Connacht Junior 1 League points after a gruelling encounter. After the week-end’s deluge, the pitch was saturated on Sunday morning, but thanks to the early morning spiking and remedial work of club stalwarts, John Kane, Brian Mullan and Aidan Buckley, it was playable by kick-off time.

Following some indifferent performances prior to Christmas, Sligo found themselves in potential relegation territory, but their response to this possible crisis has been excellent, as their two impressive consecutive victories to date in 2008 is testimony to. For both Sligo and OLBC, this was in effect an eight point game, and Sligo’s only regret will be that they failed to secure a bonus point from the abundant possession they enjoyed throughout the game.

The game ended on a rather controversial note, with the referee allowing no stoppage time, despite the fact that play was held up for both injuries and replacements for an appreciable length of time in that second half. Sligo were also adamant that their inside centre, Kakaber Machiditze had secured the touch down for a perfectly good try at the death, but the referee’s long whistle to signify the end of the game denied them of a precious bonus point for a fourth try. Indeed prior to this, in the frenetic closing stages, both Jamie Bowes and Simon Galvan appeared to have dotted down, but in fairness to the referee, the lines had become obliterated by the mud at this stage, so the defending team got a reprieve on both occasions.

Despite these disappointments, Sligo’s management will be greatly heartened by the result. Overall, the team gave a very spirited performance, with the pack’s picking and driving, and their superior mauling and rucking game, ensuring that the team was always going forward. The line-out was rock solid, while OLBC also found it difficult to contain the Sligo scrummage.

With such a solid platform, Sligo were almost continually on the offensive, and may rue the fact that they eschewed the option to spread the ball on occasions, rather than persist with their one dimensional tactic of taking the ball through the phases in the pack, where the lighter OLBC eight defended very well. The game opened in a welter of excitement, with Sligo’s hooker, Ross O’Boyle scoring a try after 90 seconds. From Sligo’s kick-off, a clearance kick from OLBC’s out-half, Luke O’Donnell was superbly blocked down by ex-Georgian International, Kakaber Machiditze, and when Sligo gained possession from the ensuing ruck, the pack picked and drove, with O’Boyle crashing over. Centre, Mark Boland landed the difficult conversion from the wing.

Sligo continued to press forward after this, but despite monopolising possession, they could not add to their tally. On several occasions they were penalised in the rucks by the referee, Kieran McGowan, Dublin University, thus affording the losers the opportunity to clear their lines. Unfortunately, this continued throughout the second half also, with the penalty count for that half alone being 8-1 against Sligo. This shortcoming in their play will certainly be addressed by coach, Joe Walsh on the training ground this week.

In the 37th minute Sligo increased their lead, when following a series of five metre scrums, Cathal Culhane, picked and dived over, with Boland adding another fine conversion. On the stroke of half-time, OLBC left winger, Greg Faherty kicked a penalty from the ’22’ and in front of the posts to reduce arrears to 14-3.

Sligo were back on the attack after the resumption of play. Some outstanding play by outside centre, Mark Boland, where he brilliantly fielded his own kick ahead, almost yielded a try, but the supporting Julian Ripon, with a clear run to the line, over-ran his centre, and the pass was rightly adjudged to be forward. Early in the second half, to freshen up their pack, Sligo introduced Jamie Bowes, Ronan Gillespie and Simon Galvan, who was making his first appearance in the club’s colours for almost two years.

However, it was OLBC who struck first, with Faherty nailing his second penalty in the 22nd minute, in their first visit to Sligo territory. This score roused Sligo, and after a period of intense pressure, team captain, Jamie Livingstone dived through a mass of muddied bodies to touch down, and increase the lead to 19-6 after 31 minutes. Sligo now went in search of a fourth try and a bonus point, and laid siege to the line, but the controversial early ending denied them.

It was a very spirited display from Sligo, with all 18 players used making an impact. In the Clubhouse after the game, centre, Kakaber Machiditze was the worthy recipient from club President, Tom Gilligan, of the Martin Reilly Motors sponsored ‘man of the match’ award. The Georgian gave a flawless display in the No 12 position. His centre partner, Mark Boland also had a big game. Behind them, at full-back, Brian Hynes handled everything which came his way with aplomb. Elsewhere in the backline, on a day when they were afforded few attacking opportunities, Billy Leahy, Gavin Foley, Ted Mulvaney and Julian Ripon defended well.

Sligo, as already stated, dominated the forward exchanges, and all 11 forwards used made an impact. Ross O’Boyle at hooker, had his best game in the club colours, scoring a fine try and was very accurate with his line-out throwing. Loose-head, Martin Feeney also had his best outing of he season, while Adrian McHale gave another powerhouse performance at tight head. While the front row was dominant, the back five of the pack also excelled. The returned Peter Mullan and his second row partner, Simon Coulter, were tremendous workers, while in the back row, Jamie Livingstone led by example from the No 8 position, and had a great game. Cathal Culhane, revelling in his wing forward role strongly challenged Machiditze for the man of the match accolade, while at openside, Stephen Woods gave another all action display.

It is a measure of the calibre of forwards now available for Sligo, that despite the unavailability of wing forward, Joe Sweeney due to injury, that the bench on Sunday contained such talented forwards as Ronan Gillespie, Jamie Bowes and Simon Galvan. With Frenchman, Thomas Darcel and Tim Jessop, who scored two smashing tries against Coleraine, in contention for positions in the back-line, competition for places on the starting 15 will be very keen for the upcoming games.

Sligo: Brian Hynes, Julian Ripon, Mark Boland, Kakaber Machiditze, Ted Mulvanney, Gavin Foley, Billy Leahy, Martin Feeney, Ross O’Boyle, Adrian McHale, Peter Mullan, Simon Coulter, Cathal Culhane, Jamie Livingstone [c.], Stephen Woods. Subs:[All Used] Jamie Bowes, Ronan Gillespie, Simon Galvan.

OLBC: Peter McDonagh, Gareth O’Loughlin, Jonathan Curran, Stuart Cooke, Greg Faherty, Luke O’Donnell, John McDonagh, Liam Curran, Karl Collins, John Barry, Rob Lennon, Yan Woletz, Brendan O’Boyle, Mike Cummins, John Moran. Subs:Simon Lawless, James McGarvey, Dave Prior.

Referee: Mr. Kieran McGowan [Dublin University]