Promotion play-off spot for Sligo!
Dungannon RFC 22 Sligo RFC 25
Sligo confirmed their place in the All-Ireland League Division 2B promotion play-off with a hard-fought victory in a pulsating encounter over Dungannon RFC at Stevenson Park on Saturday.
Sligo's win guarantees fourth place in Division 2B, nine points ahead of fifth, with one game to play, and sets up a mouth-watering trip to Dublin to play Blackrock College RFC in the first round of the play-offs.
Sligo kicked off playing into the slight breeze on a surface suitable for running rugby.
The opening exchanges were dominated by the hosts and Sligo found themselves behind from a penalty after 10 minutes and a converted try on the 25th minute.
Sligo dug in and began to impose their own play on the hosts.
The scrum was solid with Tom Gormely, Kuba Wojtkowicz and Conor Mitchell putting in a strong shift.
Ciaran Cassidy and Matt Davey were carrying strongly and Shane O'Hehir was combining well with Rob Holian and Diarmuid O'Dowd-Hill at the lineout.
The back three of Niall Gray, Phillip Carter and Calum Goddard were dealing well with any threat from the local backline.
Sean Wynne was his usual industrious presence at the tackle line.
Sligo's persistence paid off with 35 minutes on the clock.
Good work from the forwards brought play close to the Dungannon line, before the home team were forced into the concession of a penalty and a yellow card for their number 8. Sligo sensed blood and opted for a scrum.
The home team survived the first wave of attack, but Sligo dug in. Euan Brown and Mitchell both tested the defence before scrum half Ryan Feehily brilliantly snipped down the right of the ruck and touched down under the posts. Jack Keegan added the extras to shorten the gap to three.
Right on the interval Sligo struck again. Shane O'Hehir made a searing break from deep in Sligo territory before being hauled down in the Dungannon 22.
A quick recycle gave speedster Calum Goddard the chance to race around the cover and dot down in the corner to move Sligo into a 2point lead at the break.
Unfortunately, O'Hehir had to retire shortly afterwards through injury but was ably replaced by his brother James, making his welcome return to AIL action following a long period of injury.
The lead changed hands again early in the second half as the home side benefited with an unconverted try following a lapse in concentration in the Sligo defence, but Sligo wrestled back the initiative with Feehily's second of the day following up on a Wojtkowicz drive that was stopped short.
Keegan converted to move the score to 15-19.
With 15 minutes remaining the home team again took back the lead with a try from a driving lineout maul, the successful conversion put three between the sides.
Sligo again responded with some fine tactical kicking from Mark Butler putting pressure on the home defence. The pressure paid off and Keegan slotted over an equalising penalty with ten minutes remaining, before taking the lead with three minutes to go with another excellently struck effort.
The drama didn't end there though and with seconds left on the clock Dungannon were awarded a penalty outside the Sligo 22. The home outfit opted to go for the win and turned down the 3 point attempt to go to the corner instead. Sligo however were not to be beaten and O'Dowd-Hill got the first hand to the lineout feeding replacement scrum half Brendan Cunningham, whose pass to Butler was the final one of day.
Butler kicked the ball to touch and Sligo were celebrating.
Sligo now face Sunday's Well in Strandhill in the final game of regular league action next Saturday at 2.30pm, before travelling east to Stradbrook to face Blackrock.
While not yet confirmed, the play-off match is likely to be fixed for Easter Saturday, April 20th.
Sligo: Niall Gray, Calum Goddard, Jack Keegan, Mark Butler, Philip Carter, Euan Brown, Ryan Feehily, Kuba Wojtkowicz, Shane O'Hehir, Tom Gormely, Rob Holian, Ciaran Cassidy, Diarmuid O'Dowd-Hill, Sean Wynne, Matt Davey. Reps: Conor Mitchell, James O'Hehir, Jason East, Enda Gavin, Brendan Cunningham.