Sligo RFC 41 – 16 Corinthians RFC
Sligo finished off their Connacht Senior League campaign in fine style with an emphatic win over a lively Corinthians outfit at Hamilton park last Saturday. With both teams on the same points going into the final match, only a win would give them an opportunity to claim the title.
However, despite Sligo securing the vital bonus point victory, Athlone based Buccaneers clinched the title with a win over Galwegians and Sligo had to settle for a very respectable second place.
Playing with the aid of the stiff breeze it was the visitors who kicked off playing towards the airport end. The early exchanges were fast and furious with both sides looking to put width in the ball at every opportunity. Defences held firm until the twelfth minute when Sligo were first to set the scoreboard moving. Strong tackling in midfield forced an error in the visitors play and Mark Rooney was quickest to react. The fleet footed centre collected the ball on the Sligo 10 metre line and outpaced the cover defence to race to the line.
Corinthians responded and made their way into Sligo territory. A Jack Feeney penalty struck from the Sligo 22 opened the scoring for the Galway outfit.
Mike Wells immediately cancelled out the visitors penalty with an excellently struck effort into the breeze to regain Sligo’s five point advantage.
From the restart Sligo pressed again and positioned themselves inside the visitors 22. A prolonged period of pressure ensued but Corinthians held firm and regained possession. The relief was short lived however as the attempted clearance kick was blocked by the onrushing Sligo defence. Sligo secured the ball and the excellent Ryan Feehily flashed it left where winger Enda Gavin was waiting to finish in the corner.
The game ebbed and flowed and Corinthians picked up two more Feeney penalties to put the half time score at 13-9 in favour of the hosts.
Conditions deteriorated as the match resumed with rain adding to the already tricky wind conditions but both sides still moved the ball with pace at every opportunity.
Five minutes into the second half Sligo picked up their third try of the day. Intelligent kicking positioned Sligo in the Corinthians 22 and pressure at the lineout earned Sligo a scrum 10 metres from the line. Sligo’s front row of Conor Mitchell, James O’ Hehir and Kuba Wojtkowicz provided clean ball for Matthew Cosgrove to lift at the base and burst through the cover to dot down. A fitting return for a player that was absent for a year through a career threatening injury. Wells converted to push Sligo up to twenty.
Sligo were now in the ascendancy and were looking dangerous in all areas. Diarmuid O’Dowd-Hill was marshalling the line out ably assisted by James Wilson. Manu Parkin was proving a menace in the loose and Captain Shane Boyle was carrying into the heart of the Corinthians defence at every opportunity. Mark Butler was showing his usual calmness at outhalf and the youngsters Callum Goddard and Niall Gray were eagerly attacking at every opportunity.
The bonus point try was secured with 55 minutes on the clock. Midfield pressure by the Sligo defence forced the error and Wells capitalised in typical fashion by gathering on the visitors 22 to race to the sticks for the try.
With former Sligo player Stephen Kerins to the fore Corinthians responded with a try from second row Aaron Broderick but Sligo were not going to allow a comeback and showed their strength in depth by bringing on replacements Matt Davey, Craig Adams, Shane Mc Guinness, Ross O’ Boyle, Ciaran Cassidy, Sean Mullan and Daire Byrne who all slotted in seamlessly.
Sligo continued to play with their high intensity and Rooney picked up his second of the day in typical fashion before Sean Mullan closed out the scoring with Sligo’s sixth try.
With two wins and a narrow defeat to clubs from higher Ulster Bank League divisions the Connacht league looks to have been excellent preparation for Sligo’s upcoming UBL campaign. The excellent work put in by the squad in pre season looks set to bear fruit and the Sligo faithful will be looking keenly forward to the league challenge.
Sligo’s opening fixture is an away journey to Limerick to tackle Thomond RFC. The league kicks off on Saturday September 16th.
Sligo Niall Gray, Callum Goddard, Mark Rooney, Mike Wells, Enda Gavin, Mark Butler, Ryan Feehily, Kuba Wojtkowicz, James O’Hehir, Conor Mitchell, Shane Boyle (Capt), James Wilson, Manu Parkin, Diarmuid O’Dowd-Hill, Matthew Cosgrove. Reps Matt Davey, Craig Adams, Shane Mc Guinness, Ross O’ Boyle, Ciaran Cassidy, Sean Mullan, Daire Byrne
Hamilton Park hosted 2 other matches last Saturday with Sligo’s J1 team locking horns with Railway Union RFC in a warm up match for their upcoming Connacht Junior league division 1 campaign. In an entertaining game both sides looked to move the ball at every opportunity but it was Sligo who held the upper hand and ran out convincing winners with a final score of 38-7.
Sligo’s J1A league campaign is scheduled to begin on 17 September with a home fixture against Buccaneers.
This season Sligo have assembled a thirds team to allow players who may not be able to commit to senior competition to enjoy ‘social’ rugby. The team had their first outing last Saturday when they welcomed a youthful Ballyshannon outfit to Strandhill. With wise heads such as Dermot Kiely, Darran Wilson, Frankie Feeney, Niall O’ Hara and Manager Julian Rippon, Sligo proved too strong for their guests and ran out winners with a score line of 40-7. The thirds team train on Thursday evenings at 7pm at Strandhill and are always keen to welcome new and returning players.