Under 14s progress in Cup

Sligo 21 :: Galwegians 12

Sligo’s U14 rugby team took on Galwegians U14’s in the quarter final of the rescheduled Connacht Cup on Sunday last at Ballyhaunis rugby grounds.

This eagerly awaited game was played in very good conditions. Both teams were anxious to advance to the next stage with the winners due to play Westport in the semi-final. A close, tense encounter was on the cards right from the outset. Games between these two teams are always close affairs.

The opening exchanges of the game contained handling errors as both teams tried to come to terms with the game. Sligo players were guilty of a few untypical knock-ons and taking the wrong playing option, but settled well as the game unfolded.

The opening score, after 13 minutes of play, came after determined rucking by the Sligo pack. They rucked and mauled in the opposition 22 and once team captain, Eoin Flanagan playing at second centre, secured the ball he wasn’t going to be stopped. He took off on a determined run through the stretched Galwegians rearguard and managed to touch down close the posts.

Play continued throughout the first half with the Sligo pack rucking and mauling to good effect. The front row of 14th birthday player, Eoghan Kilroy, playing at loose head-prop and Martin and Matthew Davey were very industrious and chased and harried everything that moved. Second row players Jonathan Draper and the elusive James Mullen made some great drives while the back row of Caomhan Lyons, Martin Clarke and the destructive straight running of no 8, Sean Donnelly, was very impressive. Ben Spelman when introduced also made a telling contribution to this line.

With the first half coming to a close Wegians piled on the pressure and played their way into the Sligo danger area. They rucked and mauled very well and finally breached the Sligo line to touch down near the posts. The dropped kicked conversion left the sides level at 7 – 7 apiece as time ran out on the first half.

The second half began with Sligo now enjoying the breeze at their backs. Wegians used this breeze to clear their lines in the first half and Sligo did likewise in the second half. It was in this half that Sligo began to exert their superiority throughout the field and managed to play much of the game in their opponents half.

The pack delivered good ball to scrum half Enda Gavin who in combination with his half-back partner Michael Martin, passed out wide or relieved pressure with good tactical kicking.

Centres, Eoin Flanagan and Will Weaver, were alert and always willing to pass the ball and go forward. The back three of David Heffernan and Enda Roche, with Kieran Blake at full-back, were always eager to join the backline and formed a combination that frustrated the Wegians defence time and again.

The first score of the second half didn’t come until 22 minutes had elapsed. It came to Sligo and it was well worth waiting for. After strong forward pressure and swift hands by the backline, the ball was passed to replacement winger David Verdon. After side stepping 3 Wegians defenders he crossed the tryline for a brilliant try much to the delight of his teammates. After the conversion the score stood at 14 – 7 to Sligo.

Galwegians were not to throw in the towel just yet. They immediately fought back and were soon to register their second try after a speedy and determined onslaught on the Sligo tryline. They touched down near the corner flag but the difficult conversion attempt fell short. The score line now read 14 – 12 to Sligo.

The game still wasn’t safe so Sligo again piled on the pressure and were rewarded late in the game with their try. This one was scored close to the posts after a jinking run by second row player James Mullen. Kieran Blake landed his third conversion to leave the final score 21 – 12 to Sligo.

Galwegians did mount another raid to try and save this game but Sligo held firm and ran out worthy winners.

Also making valuable contributions to this game were Ross Gordon, Patrick Saba, Brian Simon, Jack Kennedy and Barry Brennan.