Sligo RFC 37
Seapoint RFC 12
Sligo’s rich vein of Ulster Bank League form continued with a well orchestrated bonus point win over a lively Seapoint outfit at Hamilton Park on Saturday. Sligo have now won six of their last seven All Ireland League matches and are well positioned, in third place in the table,perfectly poised to give themselves a realistic shot at promotion come the business end of the season.
On a beautiful Strandhill winter sunny afternoon, with the pitch in perfect condition, Sligo kicked off playing towards the airport end. Seapoint, eager to make an early impression ran hard at the Sligo defence but a crossing infringement gave Jack Keegan the early opportunity to open the scoring for Sligo with a well struck penalty from forty metres.
Seapoint responded and tried to impose their impressive high tempo game on their hosts but Sligo’s defence , with centre Daire Byrne particularly prominent, worked hard to close the danger down. The home sides defensive effort paid off after ten minutes when pressure forced a dropped ball on the Seapoint 10 meter line and the alert Sligo winger Conor Kerins fluidly scooped up the ball and raced to the posts for Sligo’s opening five pointer. Keegan chipped over the conversion to put his team into a ten point lead with ten minutes gone.
With both sides willing to put width on the ball, the match continued at an excellent pace but both defences were coping well and neither side were able to capitalise until Sligo made the breakthrough on the half hour. Byrne burst through the middle on the half way line before linking up in the Seapoint 22. The ball was quickly recycled and moved left to the perfectly positioned Conor Mitchell and the powerful prop made no mistake in touching down wide on the left to move Sligo into a fifteen point lead.
Sligo continued to press and picked up their third try just before the break. A super Shane O’Hehir steal allowed tearaway flanker Diarmuid O’Dowd-Hill make an excellent break up the left before linking with powerhouse Jamie Bowes, the second row cantered towards the line and was hauled down five yards short. Quick recycling from left to right gave Mark Rooney the opportunity the chance to expertly step inside the defence and dot down under the posts. Keegan added the extras and followed up with another well struck penalty resulting from an off the ball hit on O’Hehir, right on the stroke of half time to put Sligo twenty five nil ahead at the break.
With the lowering sun behind , Sligo started the second half at a whirlwind pace. The Seapoint kick off was collected and outhalf Michael Wells immediately moved the ball wide. Centres Rooney and Byrne combined well to make ground before linking up with livewire scrum half Ryan Feehily who raced in under the posts to secure the four try bonus point.
Sligo continued to press in all facets of play, Mitchell, O’Hehir and the excellent Mark Keegan were on top at scrum time, Ciaran Cassidy was proving an able partner to Bowes in the engine room and captain Shane Boyle at number eight was leading his troops with maturity. Flankers Coulter and O’Dowd-Hill were a menace at every breakdown with O’Dowd-Hill’s lineout work also proving a thorn in the visitors attack.
Feehily and Wells were dictating the tempo with their usual assurance and man of the match Byrne and Rooney were lording play in midfield. Wingers Calum Goddard and Kerins were solid in defence and a big threat going forward and full back Jack Keegan once again was proving his importance to the teams effort with some excellent entries into the attacking line.
To their credit, the vistors refused to yield and hit back with a well worked score from flanker Lyons before Byrne added a well deserved score following a great burst from Kerins. Seapoint tagged on a second try before the ref signalled the cessation of play but it was too little too late as Sligo had secured the maximum spoils for the day.
Sligo now take a week break before travelling south to face Middleton RFC on Feb 11th
Sligo: Jack Keegan, Callum Goddard, Mark Rooney, Daire Byrne, Mike Wells, Ryan Feehily, Mark Keegan, Shane O’Hehir, Conor Mitchell, Jamie Bowes, Ciaran Cassidy, Simon Coulter, Diarmuid O’Dowd-Hill, Shane Boyle (Capt)
Sligo RFC 37