Bangor RFC 20 – Sligo RFC 20
Sligo picked up two more vital Ulster Bank League points with a hard earned draw against a physical Bangor outfit at a snow covered Upritchard Park in Bangor on Saturday. Sligo now top the Division 2c table by a margin of 3 points over second placed Thomond RFC as the teams go into the Christmas break.
With heavy snow falling on Thursday and Friday there were many concerns on whether the match would go ahead but credit must be given to the Bangor ground staff who put in trojan work from early on Saturday morning to remove a huge volume of snow from the playing surface, and come lunchtime the referee decreed that the pitch was acceptable and the match would go ahead.
Sligo kicked off and took the game to their hosts from the beginning. An early scrum penalty allowed Mark Butler the opportunity to take play to the Bangor 22. Mark Keegan secured the ball from the resulting lineout and Shane Boyle carried into the heart of the Bangor defence. Ryan Feehily moved the ball to the left from the ruck and quick hands gave Philip Carter the chance to test his marker. Carter was halted 2 meters out but an excellent off load allowed Jack Keegan the opportunity to power over for the opening score. Keegan added the extras with an excellent kick despite the difficult underfoot conditions to complete the perfect start for Sligo.
Keegan extended Sligo’s lead 3 minutes later with a well struck penalty.
Sligo were now on top and were causing Bangor all sorts of difficulties, the returning Ciaran Cassidy was relishing the physical exchanges and Manu Parkin was continuing in his recent vein of good form.
Midway through the half Sligo picked up their second try. A series of drives brought play close to the line before Mark Keegan matched the earlier exploits of brother Jack when he powered over to the right of the posts. Jack converted to push Sligo out to a 17 point lead.
Bangor were stung into life and responded with a Widdowson penalty but Keegan added another for Sligo to put the half time score at 3-20 in favour of Sligo.
In the proverbial game of two halves with Sligo owning the first, it was the locals that were the dominant force in the second half and the used their excellent pack to starve Sligo of meaningful possession. A penalty immediately after the resumption and try’s on 60 and 70 minutes brought the teams level with 10 minutes remaining. With 5 minutes remaining Sligo looked for the winning score and a Mark Butler cross kick was well taken by Callum Goddard but last ditch Bangor defence closed down the winger and come the final whistle both sides had to settle for the draw.
Sligo now take a break from UBL action until January 6th when the league resumes with a trip to Tullamore. The Sligo focus now turns to next Saturday when Sligo host Corinthians in Hamilton for the Connacht Senior Cup Final. Sligo will be looking to bridge a gap of 104 years as the last time a Sligo player lifted the cup was in 1913. The teams met earlier in the season in the Connacht Senior League and it was Sligo that took the honours that day but that will mean nothing when both sides take to the field to battle for the prestigious trophy. The match kicks off at 1.30 in Strandhill and will be broadcast live on Ocean FM.
Sligo: Jack Keegan, Callum Goddard, Daire Byrne, Mike Wells, Philip Carter, Mark Butler, Ryan Feehily, Mark Keegan, Shane O’Hehir, Conor Mitchell, Ciaran Cassidy, James Wilson, Christian Nielsen, Manu Parkin, Shane Boyle (Capt) reps Shane McGuiness, Ross O’Boyle, Niall Gray, Jamie Bowes