Sligo RFC 31 – Bruff RFC 10
Sligo put themselves firmly back into contention for a shot at the Ulster Bank League Division 2C title with a comprehensive 4 try bonus point win over a sturdy Bruff outfit at Strandhill on Saturday.
With two rounds of games remaining Sligo are sitting in second position one point behind leaders Thomond RFC and joint with third placed Malahide RFC. The sting in the tail being that Sligo’s two final league games commence with an away visit to Malahide followed by a potential mouth watering season deciding finale at home to Thomond. The ball is in Sligo’s court and two wins over their nearest rivals will see the long coveted Division 2c title residing in Hamilton park for the next 12 months.
Despite the warnings of a return of the ‘Beast from the East’ Hamilton Park was bathed in glorious sunshine when the teams kicked off at 2.30 pm.
Sligo started well and worked their way towards the Bruff line. An early move involving Outhalf Mike Wells and centre Mata Fifita looked set to open the scoring but the Bruff defence scrambled well and turned over possession close to the line. Sligo looked to continue the pressure but fell foul to the referees whistle, and three penalties later, found themselves pushed back over their own line following a well worked Bruff maul.
Sligo fell further behind with a Bruff penalty after 15 minutes before the sleeping giant awoke.
With 20 minutes gone the Sligo scrum, with Conor Mitchell, Shane O’Heir and Kuba Wojtkowicz in destruct mode, overpowered the Bruff put in and won the ball for Sligo. Scrum half Ryan Feehily immediately moved the ball to the left. Outhalf Mike Wells made the initial half break before linking up with powerhouse centre Mata Fifita who released his centre partner Mark Butler to race for the line for Sligo’s opening score. Full back Jack Keegan converted and followed up 10 minutes later with a penalty to put the teams level at the break.
Coach Ross Mannion’s half time team talk had immediate effect as Sligo burst into life following the resumption. Veteran Second Row James Wilson expertly secured the kick off. Feehily immediately moved the ball to the left and Wojtkowicz powered through to the halfway line. Fifita took the next charge and blasted through to the 22 before off-loading to Butler who raced through to dot down for his second to put Sligo into the lead for the first time in the match.
Sligo were now in control and were beginning to turn the screw. Tearaway flanker Manu Parkin and number 8 Matthew Cosgrove were carrying with intent and powerful second row Ciaran Cassidy was punching holes with some excellent carries.
Sligo were now rampant and were on top in all facets of play. Wingers Mark Rooney and Calum Goddard were hungry for work and when O’Hehir made a searing break down the right hand side of a Sligo ruck, Goddard collected and raced to the line for Sligo’s third of the day.
The bonus point try was secured with 10 minutes remaining. An O’Heir throw on the Visitors 22 was secured by the Sligo lineout. The maul was set and the rumble headed for the the Bruff line. The Sligo backs joined in a score looked inevitable but the Bruff pack halted the drive illegally and Sligo were awarded a penalty try which finished the scoring for the day.
With two games remaining Sligo are in a prime position to lift the division 2 c title. Leaders Thomond have to travel to Sligo on the last day of the regular season and the week before Sligo have to travel to joint second place Malahide
For Sligo, It’s a case of two cup finals in two weeks as they travel to Malahide on April 7th and follow with the visit of Thomond to Strandhill on Saturday 14th for what will hopefully be the season finale.
Sligo Mark Keegan, Calum Goddard, Mark Butler, Mata Fifita, Mark Rooney, Mike Wells, Ryan Feehily, Kuba Wojtkowicz, Shane O’Hehir, Conor Mitchell, Ciaran Cassidy, James Wilson, Shane O’Boyle, Manu Parkin, Matthew Cosgrove. Reps Ross O’Boyle, Mark Keegan, David Heath, Ross Hickey, Niall Gray.