Sligo RFC 27
Boyne RFC 22
Sligo’s charge through Division 2C of the Ulster Bank league stayed firmly on track with a hard earned victory over an aggressive Boyne side in what best can be described as a spikey encounter at Strandhill on Saturday.
With Sligo pushing for a place in the promotion race and Boyne fighting for survival at the foot of the table, a lively encounter was always on the cards and the watching faithful were delivered an intense battle from start to finish.
As Queen Maeve’s resting place overlooked the perfect Hamilton Park surface Sligo kicked off with the breeze in their faces playing towards Knocknarea but it was the visitors that grasped the early initiative. A combination of Sligo lethargy through unforced errors and Boyne desire earned an early a score for the visitors and Boyne dotted down with a converted try after 6 minutes for the perfect start.
The worrisome trend continued for the local support with further Sligo errors resulting in a second converted Boyne try on 13 min.
Boyne pushed their lead out to 17 with a penalty on 24 minutes before Sligo were finally stung into life.
A hanging Conor Kerins restart was recovered by flanker Diarmuid O’Dowd-Hill out wide on the left. The ball was moved right where centre Daire Byrne carried with purpose bringing play into the vistors 22. Hooker Shane O’Hehir joined in and brought play close to the line before the ball was moved to Outhalf Michael Wells who expertly evaded the cover to dot down left of the posts.
Full back Jack Keegan popped over the conversion with his usual confidence to move Sligo to within 10 of the opposition with 27 minutes gone.
The revival continued with Sligo working their way back into the Boyne 22. The sustained pressure forced a penalty and scrum half Ryan Feehily opted to move it quickly. Second Row Jamie Bowes brought the drive to within 10 but Sligo were illegally prevented from recycling and another penalty was awarded. Feehily again opted to go quickly to Bowes and play was brought right to the tryline. A quick presentation allowed Wells another opportunity to step inside and although the outhalf was held out, the supporting O’Hehir forced his way over to dot down. Keegan again converted to narrow the gap to three with five minutes remaining in the half.
Sligo were now in full flow and looked to have taken the lead when a flowing move involving interchange passing between Wells and O’Hehir appeared to have yielded Sligo’s third Try. However to the dismay of the home support an intervention from the touch judge resulted in the try being disallowed and a penalty for alleged foul play was awarded to be visitors back on the Sligo 10 metre line. Boyne grasped this reprieve with both hands and from the resulting lineout drove over the Sligo line to move into a 22-14 two score lead going into the interval.
Despite the setback Sligo started the second half with determination and were gradually gaining domination in most areas. Props Conor Mitchell and Mark Keegan were solid at the scrum. Ciaran Cassidy was proving an able deputy to the hard carrying Bowes and Captain Shane Boyle carried directly into the heart of the opposition time and time again. Mark Rooney also caught the eye with some trademark runs when afforded space.
With 50 minutes on the clock Sligo move within one point of the visitors. A clearing Boyne kick was collected by Conor Kerins. The winger countered up the left before linking up with Wells. The outhalf stepped through the defence and linked up with pacey winger Callum Goddard. Goddard shot into the 22 and looked to exchange passes with Wells. A stray Boyne hand illegally slapped the pass to the ground but O’Dowd-Hill was running the perfect support line and was able to rescue the move and feed Goddard who raced to the line for Sligo’s third try. Another excellent Keegan conversion put the smallest margin between the teams.
Sligo were now in control and went hunting for the lead. Matt Davey and Thomas Gormaley were introduced to the fray and Davey made an immediate impact with a super burst up the middle but Sligo were unable to capitalise as a relieving penalty was awarded.
Midway through the half Sligo took the lead through a Keegan penalty from the 10 meter line and the dose was repeated on seventy minutes with another well struck effort from outside the 22 on the left hand side.
Sligo gamely tried to pick up the bonus point try but a fractious final 10 minutes in which the referee issued three yellow cards meant that the final score remained at 27-22 in favour of the home side.
Sligo now sit in second place four points behind leaders Navan RFC and on the the same points as Rainey Old Boys who are Sligo’s next opponents on Saturday March 4th. The match takes place in Hatrick Park Magherafelt with a 2.30 Kick off.
Sligo Jack Keegan, Callum Goddard, Mark Rooney, Daire Byrne, Conor Kerins, Michael Wells, Ryan Feehily, Mark Keegan, Shane OHehir, Conor Mitchell, Jamie Bowes, Ciaran Cassidy, Simon Coulter, Diarmuid O’Dowd-Hill, Shane Boyle (Capt) Reps Ross O’Boyle, Thomas Gormaley, Michael McMorrow, Matt Davey, Enda Gavin
Sligo RFC 27