Ballina RFC 14
Sligo RFC 36
Sligo made it three from three with an emphatic win over Ballina in round three of the Energia AIL Connnacht Conference at Heffernan Park in Ballina on Saturday.
Sligo put their hosts to the sword and ran in five trys, to two from the home side, earning the all important bonus point and cementing their position at the top of the conference.
With good underfoot conditions and the breeze favouring the hosts, Sligo kicked off playing away from the clubhouse end.
The early possession belonged to the locals but Sligo defended patiently. Eventually the error was forced and Sligo were awarded a scrum on the right of the 22.
A strong effort from Sligo’s front row of Kuba Wojtkowicz, Matthew Earley and Pedro Bengalo allowed number 8 Diarmuid O’Dowd Hill release Hubert Gilvary at the base. Gilvary burst away and made his way to the Ballina 22 before linking with right winger Calum Goddard.
Goddard was hauled down 10 metres out but supporting flanker Brian West brilliantly recovered the loose ball. Sligo quickly moved the ball wide to the left and the final pass from full back Guilherme Coghetto saw O’Dowd Hill touch down wide on the left.
Ballina responded and a Bradley Nealon break gave the home side a foothold in Sligo territory before Luke Sweeney drove over under the posts. Craig McCormick added the extras to put Ballina 2 points ahead.
Sligo regained the lead on the half hour, with a Euan Brown penalty, before striking again. O’Dowd Hill stole a Ballina throw on the 10 metre line and the ball was moved quickly right to left. Play moved into the Ballina 22 with David Heath, Craig Trimble and Adrian Cummins all carrying powerfully before the ball was moved back to the right through Jack Keegan and Enda Gavin. Ace finisher Calum Goddard collected and crashed over in the right corner. Brown converted to give the visitors an 8 point half time lead.
Following the interval Sligo upped the tempo and killed off the local challenge with a 14 points blitz in 3 minutes.
Gilvary broke down the blindside from a scrum 10 metres out before linking up with Goddard who finished in the corner for his second of the day. Browns touchline conversion moved Sligo to 22.
The follow up was ruthless. Ross Hickey, making a welcome return after a long term shoulder injury, claimed the restart and drove into the Ballina chasers. The ball was quickly recycled and Brown received. An outrageous dummy opened up the defence and the Sligo outhalf made his way into the Ballina half before linking up with Gilvary. The scrum half timed his pass to put Goddard away for his hat trick and Sligo’s bonus point.
A rampant Sligo were now in full control. James O’Hehir found O’Dowd Hill at the lineout and the ball was moved off the top and quickly right to left. Goddard came in from the blindside and injected pace and Coghetto handled before Phillip Carter squeezed in at the left corner. Brown again converted from the touchline with another excellent strike.
The home side earned a consolation score through replacement scrum half Niall Keane but the day and the bragging rights belong to Sligo.
With a seven point lead at the top of the conference, Coaches Paddy Pearson and Jason East will be satisfied with the first block of games as the team moves into a two week break.
Sligo’s next fixture is a Halloween home encounter against Galway Corinthians. The match kicks off at 2.30 at Hamilton Park on Oct 31st.
Sligo: Guilherme Coghetto, Calum Goddard, Jack Keegan (Co-Capt), Enda Gavin, Phillip Carter, Euan Brown, Hubert Gilvary, Kuba Wojtkowicz, Matthew Earley, Pedro Bengalo, Adrian Cummins, Craig Trimble, David Heath, Brian West, Diarmuid O’Dowd Hill (Co-Capt). Reps James O’Hehir, Ross O’Boyle, Michael McMorrow, Ross Hickey, Brendan Cunningham.