Sligo U18.5s kicked off against the light breeze from the mountain end in Hamilton Park Sunday afternoon when they played ‘the neighbours’ from Ballina.
The match was the last league match of the season to determine a League Semi Final place and to gain home advantage. With the win Sligo RFC finished 2nd (on level points with Creggs RFC) and will now play Corinthians at home at the end of the month.
In the first exchanges of the game Ballina saw most of the possession and through some good kicking by their number 10 they pushed Sligo into their own half. This resulted in a well taken line out on the Sligo 5 meter line and the following maul secured Ballina the early lead. The visitors missed the conversion, but they were now 5 nil ahead. Falling behind seemed to wake Sligo up a bit and although they never got to the same levels of play as they displayed against Galwegians before Christmas they did break the defensive line of Ballina on several occasions leading to a penalty to Sligo on the Ballina 22. Niall Gray Jnr, playing out half, duly kick the 3 points and the tone was set for a fairly tight match where ultimately the young men from Sligo would be the winners and as such the result never really felt in doubt.
Just before half time with the score 6-8 to Ballina Sligo got yet another penalty right in front of the Ballina posts, 10 meters from the try line. While Ballina was still trying to get organised the quick witted Sligo Scrum Half, Philip Carter, took a quick penalty and with some great footwork darted past 3 defenders to score a birthday try under the posts. A great individual try by the birthday boy (happy 18’s from the team Philip !!).
With the score now 13 – 8 to the home side and following another 3 points from Captain Niall Gray Jnr at the beginning of the second half the pressure was now on Ballina to make the match if they wanted home advantage in the semi’s. This pressure only materialised towards the final 10 minutes of the match after they had fallen further behind.
In the end Sligo deservedly won 19 – 12 on a good team performance that saw the return of Ross Hickey after a lengthy absence.
Man of the match goes to Nial Gray Jnr that directed the play well and added 14 of Sligo 19 points through very solid kicking. Other notable performances came from Philip Carter, Kuba, Conor McGovern and Calum McGrath.
Full time score Sligo RFC 19 – Ballina RFC 12
Sligo team: Noel Muldoon, Calum McGrath, Conor McGovern, Max Cryan, Yusuf Shalabi, Sean Wynne, Kuba, Kealan Brennan, Philip Carter, Niall Gray (c), Michael Kilcoyne, Sean McVeigh, James McDonagh, Oisin Conlon, Graham Kerr, Fergus Lang, Akim Kuzmichev, Ross Hickey, Brendan Cunningham, Klaudjo Cala and Conor McElligott.