SLIGO PICKED up a much needed third win in their Ulster Bank League campaign with a four try bonus point win at the Monastery Field in Clifden on Saturday.
Tries from Mark Butler, David Heath, Paddy Pearson and a penalty try ensured that the North Westerns gained 5 match points pushing them up 2 places to 11th in the UBL table.
On a crisp dry January afternoon, Sligo kicked off, and from the start made their intentions clear as they used their strong pack to drive into the heart of the Galway outfit. The early pressure produced a penalty and Butler stepped up and picked up the opening 3 points.
The home side immediately hit back and were a penalty kick from the 10 Sligo 10 metre line resumed parity on the Scoreboard.
Sligo upped the tempo and positioned themselves inside the 'blacks' 22. Ross Mannion found James Wilson at the lineout and the giant second row flicked the ball off the top to scrum half Mickey Murphy. Murphy moved the infield where Pearson and Butler combined to conjure up a gap allowing the full back the chance to skip around the cover and dot down to the left of the uprights. The full back added the extras to give his side a seven point lead.
A further Connemara penalty moved the half time score to 6-10 in favour of the visitors.
Ten minutes into the second half Sligo were awarded a penalty on the Connemara 10 metre line. Butler kicked to the corner and the Sligo pack took over. The initial charge from the line out was held up illegally and Sligo opted for a scrum. The scrum trundled forward but was dropped by the under pressure 'Blacks' front row. From the penalty Sligo again opted for a scrum and when Connemara again infringed the referee had no choice but to go under the posts and award the penalty try. Butler again converted to push his teams total up to 17.
Sligo were now on top in all areas. The back line were moving well with winger Chris Nairn benefitting from clean possession to showcase his exciting running talent. Nairn almost picked up a well deserved score midway through the half. A lightning break up the right wing opened up the defence before feeding Pearson and the out half finished from the 10 metre line. Butler again converted to put the game beyond the reach of their hosts.
Sligo were now on the hunt for the all important bonus point. with 6 minutes remaining Nairn recieved out wide on the right. The winger pinned his ears back and attacked into the Connemara half. A chip and chase ensued and Nairn hacked ahead and collected before being hauled down just short. As all good backrows should, Heath arrived in support and collected the loose ball and dived over for the vital 4th try.
Next up for Sligo is a home game against Suttonians RFC. Sligo will be looking to continue in the same manner and position themselves further up the table. The match kicks off at 2.30 next Saturday at Hamilton Park. SLIGO: Mark Butler, Chris Nairn, Jerome Harriman, Gavin Foley, Aaron Spring, Paddy Pearson, Mickey Murphy, Wesley Maxwell, Ross Mannion, Conor Mitchell, Jamie Bowes, James Wilson, David Heath, Rory Kerins, Aidan Mc Nulty. Reps Eoin Matthews, Gary Conneely, Billy Leahy, Sean Donnelly, Adrian Mc Hale.
Hamilton Park in Strandhill witnessed another epic match between the Sligo 2nd's and UCG on Sunday. The two teams faced each other for the second time in a week after Sligo's narrow cup win last weekend. Due to congestion in the schedule, the game was worth double points to the winner. A win for UCG and they would have an unassailable lead in the league, a win for Sligo would mean they stay in contention.
Sligo had the wind in the first half and used it to good effect. Intelligent kicking from scrumhalf Sean Bagnel kept the students pinned in their own half, and here it was the Sligo forwards who began to turn the screws. Several hard runs from second row Micheal McMorrow set the tone for the rest of the pack. They harassed UCG in the lineout and in the tackle, forcing turnovers. While in the scrum, the front row of Darragh Cox, Aaron Tansey and Darren Wilson were clearly shading their opponents. But it was on attacking lineouts that the Sligo dominance was most obvious. Aaron Tansey was timing his throws to perfection and the Sligo pack was using the maul to carve off valuable metres of ground.
Sligo took a 14 point lead into the break but The UCG men came out after the break and played with a grim intensity.
Sligo 2nd's won by a single point and stay alive in the league, though UCG gained two valuable bonus points from the narrow loss. Sligo captain, Leigh Fenton, was full of praise for his troops and for the beaten UCG team, while attention now turns to the away game against Connemara next week.