Sligo RFC 27 Greystones RFC 3
For the second week in a row Sligo locked horns with illustrious Leinster opponents and for the second week in a row Sligo claimed the spoils.
Round 13 of Energia All Ireland League Division 2B action saw Sligo host Greystones RFC in an intense encounter at Strandhill on Saturday.
Having despatched title contenders Blackrock In their own backyard last Weekend, Sligo picked up where they left off and repeated the dose with an emphatic victory over the Wicklow outfit.
Despite the incessant midweek rain , Hamilton Park was a credit to the excellent work of grounds chairman Brian Roche and the teams took to the pitch with good underfoot conditions.
The visitors won the toss and elected to play with the stiff breeze towards the Knocknarea end and used the conditions to pin Sligo into their own 22 for the opening exchanges.
Possession was a valuable commodity, and the visitors owned the ball for the first quarter, testing the Sligo defence at every opportunity. Sligo were not to be broken however and huge defensive tackles from Diarmuid O’ Dowd Hill, Brian West and Ciaran Cassidy repelled the attack and Greystones were limited to a 3 points with a penalty on the half hour.
Having weathered the early Greystones onslaught Sligo finally got their hands on the ball and efficiently worked their way into the Greystones half. Kuba Wojtkowicz and Tom Gormley started to carry with intent and the endeavour was rewarded with a penalty which Euan Brown excellently converted to put the sides level at the interval.
Following the resumption Sligo immediately struck a major blow. Brown collected a ‘stones clearance on the Sligo 10 metre line and immediately looked to counter. The outhalf stepped two defenders and made his way into the visitors half before linking with his support and the ball made its way to flying winger Calum Goddard. Goddard raced into the 22 and supporting hooker Shane O’Hehir collected and raced in to dot down to the right off the posts. Brown slotted the conversion.
With Sligo ahead, as if on cue the weather bared it’s teeth. The wind rose and a shower of hail swept across the pitch making life horrendous for both teams. One loyal Sligo supporter was heard to describe the scenario as ‘Artic conditions of Atlantic proportions’ but Sligo stood strong and continued to dominate their visitors in all facets.
Brown increased the lead with another well struck penalty kick to give Sligo a cushion and keep momentum for the local effort.
Mark Keegan was a powerhouse in the front row as the Sligo scrum took over. Enda Gavin tackled himself to a standstill before being replaced by the equally effective Daire Byrne. On a day not designed for wingers, Phillip Carter produced one of his best displays in a Sligo shirt creating havoc in the visitors defence with many carries.
The hail shower abated but Sligo continued to dominate. Stephen Kerins was producing another masterclass from scrum half, directing operations with military like precision ably supported by Mark Butler who demonstrated his tactical nous with some fine positional kicking.
Jason East and his pack earned a scrum penalty for Sligo 10 minutes into the second half which Brown converted into another three points before Sligo struck the killer blow.
A Greystones move on the halfway line was snuffed out by the vigilant Sligo defence with notable work from Matt Davey. The ball came loose and the excellent Ryan Feehily was first to react, fly-kicking into the visitors 22. The chase ensued, and Feehily won the race to tap the ball closer to the ‘stones line. Byrne secured the ball at the ruck and Shane Boyle drove over the line, Brown converted and Sligo were ahead by 20 to 3.
With 5 minutes to go a rampant Sligo were rewarded with a third try. A sweeping left to right move involving a fine carry from Matt Earley, Goddard collected on the edge to force his way over in the corner. Brown again converted with the kick of the day and moments later the ref gave the three blasts signaling the end of the game.
Sligo now move to 34 league points, just 1 point from the playoff position and with current form will be confident to be in in the mix for the promotion playoffs come the seasons end.
Next up is a trip to Galway to face Corinthians, with Sligo having defeated the Galway men in the Connacht Senior Cup Final and only one AIL point between the sides a massive match up is expected. The game kicks off at 2.30 in Cloonacauneen next Saturday.
Sligo Ryan Feehily, Calum Goddard, Mark Butler, Enda Gavin, Philip Carter, Euan Brown, Stephen Kerins, Mark Keegan, Shane O’Hehir, Tom Gormely, Ciaran Cassidy, Shane Boyle, Diarmuid O’Dowd Hill, Kuba Wojtkowicz, Jason East. Reps Matthew Earley, Brian West, Daire Byrne, Matt Davey, Sean Wynne.