SLIGO SECONDS 6 UCG 3 THE SLIGO Seconds team earned a tight but enthralling 6 - 3 win over UCG in the 2nd round of the Junior Cup. The game started with both teams looking like they meant business, the loose forwards in particular were throwing themselves into the fray with wild abandon.
Tough uncompromising defence was the order of the day and it was served piping hot for eighty minutes. Both teams were able to string long phases of play together, but progressing up the field proved difficult as the big hits came raining in. Despite the intensity, the game was played in good spirits and despite the low score the spectators were engrossed from first to last.
Sligo narrowly shaded the first half on the back of a strong scrum and a line out that was forcing UCG into turnovers. The Sligo loose forward trio of Dave Bergen, Eoin Mathews and Sean Donnelly were on the front foot and able to catch the UCG playmakers behind the advantage line. Centres, Clive Morris and Adam Cullen continued the theme of hard defense making several big tackles in midfield. Both teams managed to create half gaps in the opposition defence, but these gaps snapped shut almost as soon as they had opened and neither side was able to take advantage. The Sligo team were well satisfied with their work at the break, though the score was still 0 - 0.
By now it was obvious to both teams that an arm wrestle was underway, this game was going to be decided by the narrowest of margins. With this in mind the Sligo team became more direct, using the forwards to make metres around the ruck and bringing the backline runners back into the supporting forwards. The tactic paid dividends early in the half when, after a series of rucks Sligo were awarded a kickable penalty. Scrum half Sean Bagnel slotted the shot to give Sligo a 3 point lead.
UCG replied shortly afterward after some fine lead up work and the scores were tied at 3 apiece. Man of the Match Dave Bergen claimed the subsequent kick off and went charging upfield like a sex crazed rhino on bad acid. Several quick rucks later Sligo were awarded a penalty in front of the UCG posts and Sean Bagnel stepped up to make it 6 - 3. This was the final score of the match. But there was a lot of rugby left to play. After some hard running from their stand out No. 8, UCG were awarded a penalty in the shadow of the Sligo posts. The students elected to run rather than take the kick and several minutes of grim defence were required to hold the line. UCG had the better of the final minutes, keeping Sligo pinned in their own half. But they were unable to penetrate the defence, with every member of the Sligo team being forced to make crucial tackles. The final whistle was greeted with relief and joy and the knowledge that we have to do it all again next week as the 2nds face UCG in the league.
With a team of 14 versus a full 15 of NUI Galway, away in Galway, Sligo Ladies were entering into an uphill battle
Sligo managed to convert some scrum, with great hands from the back line from scrumhalf Louise Orr and with centres Grainne Blount and Hannah running some great lines, and forwards winning the rucks. This made room for fullback Mulligan to skirt up the left wing to put in a try under the posts, leaving NUI, Galway in her dust. An easy conversion for Number 8, Amy Gerrity put the score at 7-0 to Sligo. The Galway team hit back to go 15-7 in front but Sligo responded in determined fashion. With great hands and drives from Louise Orr and Hannah Scollan, the ball got to Mulligan again and she burst up the right wing and put another try. Gerrity converts and Sligo are now trailing by a point with the score at 15-14 which was the scoreline going into half time.
Galway got the upper hand again ane edged 20-15 ahead. It seemed like a bad sequence for Sligo when Blount makes her patented drive into Galway defence and gets a head injury. She had to be removed from the pitch. Sligo, with no subs, were now playing with 13 versus 15. Some serious work was going to be demanded from the Sligo women. Back rows Keane and Moore had to drop back into the back line, with Keane taking to the centre and Moore covering the blindside wing. It was a Sligo scrum with it down to 6. Sligo win it and with some great foresight from outhalf Davey, moves the ball right, with a strong run and pass to Moore in support, dashing up the wing, taking the ball into contact. With quick ball off the ruck, Mulligan was able to side step around Galway defense to run in another try. Sligo were clipping at Galway's heels with the score at 20-19.
Sligo were now getting their usual rhythm and taking control of the game. Moving ball through the phases and winning the rucks, the ball got to winger Gordon to got the pass off to Mulligan who made her final explosion of speed up the left and got downward pressure to the left of the posts. Sligo were back in the lead at 24-20. Despite losing another player to the sin bin, Sligo held on for an heroic victory.