Oughterard 17 – 27 Sligo
A novel pairing, as Oughterard and Sligo met for the first time in this age grouping. Both teams were seeking their first win of their Connacht u15 Division 1 league campaigns, following narrow losses in the previous rounds. To their credit, the two teams tried to pass the ball around early in the first half, despite the heavy mist and strong wind that closed in as the match commenced.
Boasting a very powerful pack, Oughterard tested the Sligo defence with some battering runs but they met their match, with Morahan, Kilgallon and Hill to the fore in the tackle count. Sligo edged the break down with some good turnover ball early, while the Galway men fancied their chances at scrum time but couldn’t make their size advantage count.
First blood to Oughterard with a series of short drives yielding a try in the corner on five minutes.
Keane was busy at the base of the scrum and he linked well with Keyes who mixed his game up nicely; this time a pass to his outside backs, next a probing kick through. Indeed it was the Sligo backs who provided the breakthrough, with Filan bursting through the tightest of gaps and running hard to the line. Keyes converted to bring things back to 7 to 5 in Sligo’s favour .Not long after David Keyes followed his own grubber kick, to collect and dot down. Very soon Dennison almost added to the try count, but he was well held up and escorted off the pitch by the home team before he could get an offload away to the supporting Casey.
The momentum was with Sligo, but Oughterard fought back. A series of probing kicks and strong chasing had fullback Graham under pressure, but he was equal to the challenge each time. Play was now down near the Sligo 22 however and when the local team stole a turnover on the right wing, there was little Casey could do to prevent the try out wide. Buoyed by this score Oughterard pressed again, but an excellent carry from Dennison with Ryan driving him on through several challenges, lifted the siege and a number of phases later Keyes was once again in the right place to claim what was truly a team try.
That was as good as it got for the Sligo outhalf however. On the cusp of half time Sligo knocked on deep in their own territory, the powerful Oughterard number 8 picked from the base of the scrum and was afforded a free run at the line by the Sligo back row. Keyes was brave in the tackle, but couldn’t prevent the try and unfortunately injured himself in the process.
Sligo led 17-12 at the break. Short a few regulars, a re-organisation of the troops was required for the second period. Shovelin was moved from hooker to out-half and he acquitted himself well in an unfamiliar position.
For ten minutes the game ebbed and flowed – both teams varied their attack, but defences held firm. A sniping run from Keane, who popped a lovely pass to the hard running Donohue almost yielded a try but an excellent tackle eventually hauled down the powerful winger. Oughterard ran a penalty close to the Sligo line, but a thumping tackle from Lang brought groans from the locals as their big second row knocked the ball on. Finally the second half deadlock was broken when Hill spotted a gap at the side of a ruck on the half way line, brushed off one challenge and accelerated into open space to score.
Ten points up; the Sligo lads sought to build on their advantage now. Clarke and McDermott carried well, Shovelin linked nicely with his backs and the try line beckoned once more. With a penalty advantage, White burst through and charged towards the line. Unfortunately he spilled the greasy ball forward as he reached out to score, so back we went for the penalty. Hill received the tapped penalty and made another charge for the line. He thought he had scored, but the referee disagreed and awarded the home team a 22 drop out. Confusion reigned in the Sligo ranks and this lapse in concentration allowed the Oughterard full back to take a quick drop out to himself and he made it to the Sligo 10 metre line before he was stopped. The visitors’ defence was stretched however, so a quick offload and strong running brought Oughterard an opportunist try. This try, like so many before, was unconverted, as the gusting wind made matters very difficult for the place kickers. Still at 17-22, with ten minutes remaining, we had a game on our hands once again.
Showing great resolve Sligo secured possession and worked through the phases again. Eventually they worked an overlap on the left and Dennison was able to outsprint the covering tackle to score the decisive try. All the Sligo lads had to do now was make their tackles and retain the ball when they got their hands on it to close out the game. Perhaps it was the fresh legs that made the difference, as Sligo introduced Gormley, Lawley, Mulkeen and Costigan in the second period. Fitzgerald too bravely re-entered the fray to help shore things up as the clock wound down.
This was far from a perfect performance , yet there was still much to admire from a Sligo team showing great resilience in the face of very difficult conditions and physically imposing opponents. Overall, the Sligo camp will be happy to have some points on the board as they face in to a number of tricky fixtures over the coming weeks.
The match was also noticeable for the good sportsmanship displayed by both teams and the excellent standard of refereeing.
Sligo team : E Lang, C Shovelin, T Kilgallon, F Fitzgerald, C Morahan, M Ryan, S White, A Hill, S Keane, D Keyes, S Donohue, H Filan, J Dennison, D Casey, B Graham subs used: R Clarke, J McDermott, O Lawley, J Gormley, E Mulkeen, M Costigan