In six days time on Saturday coming Sligo RFC Under 13 squad will commence their Cup campaign with a home fixture against Monivea. This is sure to be a strongly contested match, with the last two meetings of these sides being close fought and decided by narrow margins. In order to prepare the squad for what is hoped to be a successful campaign, where potential opposition contains such other teams as Buccaneers, Connemara, Galwegians, Ougherard, Creggs, Ballina, etc. the coaches organised â€œfriendlyâ€? training matches against two sides who Sligo could possibly meet at either the Quarter or Semi-Final stage.
The first match was played at Westport, where a firm pitch and strong opposition really tested Sligoâ€™s defensive capabilities. Sligoâ€™s pack was to the fore in the majority of attacking moves, with good Pick and Drive from the fringes of the breakdown. Westport were strong and physical in the scrum and ruck, and very fast at releasing the ball to a skilful back line. All too frequently, Sligoâ€™s defensive line failed them with players becoming sucked into the fringes and allowing Westport to quickly pass the ball out to their wings.
This match was played at a frenetic pace, and handling errors on both sides, when combined with positional mistakes and some poor tackling, often allowed the wings through for an attack on Sligoâ€™s tryline. Sligoâ€™s defence near their line though was resolute, and their counter-attacking runs often had Westport on the back foot. Not surprisingly the match was a close one, with Westport coming out the better by just two points.
The match against Carrick-on-Shannon was played in a gluepot with occasional splashes of rain and one horrific, if short, shower of hail. Work done at training on Sligoâ€™s defensive line had paid off, and there were fewer handling errors in the backline. The tackling was much stronger and the ball faster out from the scrum and breakdown, with the ball swiftly moving out towards the wings.
Carrick, for their part were very determined and solid in their defence, frequently gaining turnover ball just short of their own tryline and they were not slow at the counter-attack. The Sligo Forwards focussed too often on picking and driving too close to the breakdown, and this contributed to Carrickâ€™s ability to gain turnover ball. Sligoâ€™s backline and covering defence, however, was much more reliable this time, and it was rare for Carrick to get close to the Sligo tryline in the first half.
Sligoâ€™s backline was moving at a very fast pace, with the occasional bursting through of one player or another. Unlike the game at Westport, support was more readily at hand and Sligo scored tries as a result. At the breakdown, however, there were too many instances where Sligo were driven back off the ball and possession was regained by Carrick. Later in the second half Sligo began to tire, and the addition of less experienced players onto the pitch resulted in Carrick scoring some tries of their own. The end result though was a convincing win for Sligo.
The Under 13 age group is a development group, as the players have just left Juvenile Rugby and are beginning their journey onto the full fifteen a side game. It is heartening to see how both the players who have moved up from the Juvenile Section and the newcomers to the squad have begun to develop and assert themselves in specific positions. It is to be hoped that the two totally different games that were played recently, and the further work needed in the coming weekâ€™s training will put the squad into the right form to successfully win and go forward to the next round in this Knockout competition.
More photos from both games can be found here: Westport Game – Carrick-on-Shannon Game. Courtesy of Justin Knecht.