Sligo get the win as play-off nears
Sligo RFC 36 Sunday's Well RFC 34
Sligo rounded off their All-Ireland League division 2B campaign with a bonus point win in a see-saw affair at Strandhill on Saturday. Sligo scored 6 tries to Sundays Wells' 5 in a match that went from end to end for the full 80 minutes.
With Sligo's promotion play-off position already secured, coaches Paddy Pearson and Jason East were able to give some of their squad a well-earned rest and try out some new combinations prior to the all-important play-off against Blackrock College RFC in Dublin next Saturday.
With a strong gale blowing down the pitch from the eastern corner of Knocknarea, Sligo kicked off into the teeth of the breeze. The visitors made the early pace and opened the scoring with a try in the corner after 5 minutes.
Sligo fought back and opened their own account when hooker James O'Hehir crashed over near the posts following a sustained period of pressure. Jack Keegan added the extras to put Sligo two points ahead.
Sligo's lead was short lived, as the 'Well picked up tries on the 30th and 35th minutes to open up a 12 point lead, before speedster Calum Goddard made an excellent break from his own half to within 10 metres of the visitors' line. Goddard was hauled down, but scrum half Brendan Cunningham was in support and collected and raced over on the right to close the gap to 7 going into the interval.
Following the resumption Goddard added a try of his own with a well-worked play from a scrum, before Sligo regained the lead with a super score manufactured from inside their own 22. O'Hehir found Diarmuid O'Dowd Hill at the lineout and the ball was moved infield to the left. Euan Brown, Enda Gavin and Matele Fifita handled, before Keegan slipped through a gap and drove into the visitors' half. Keegan traded passes with Goddard before touching down on the left for an excellent score. Brown converted to put Sligo ahead 24-19.
The action continued apace and the 'Well picked up a fourth try with 15 minutes remaining.
Philip Carter successfully charged down the conversion attempt and the teams were level at 24 points each.
The 'Well again took the lead with a converted score following some loose play by the home team before Goddard picked up his second of the day out wide on the right. Brown's sweetly struck conversion brought the teams level again.
With 5 minutes left on the clock a well-struck penalty regained the lead for the visitors, but the locals were not to be outdone and worked their way back down the pitch and camped themselves within touching distance of the visitors line before Fifita powered over to seal the match for Sligo.
Pearson and East will be happy with the win but more importantly was the opportunity to blood new squad members Brian West and Matthew Earley, who both played their part when brought into the fray.
Another bonus for Sligo was the return from long-term injury layoffs for Shane Boyle and Ross Hickey who both picked up valuable game time prior to next week's all important promotion play off.
Saturday will also be remembered as the final home game for Sligo's Conor Mitchell and Mataele Fifita with both players intending to retire at the end of this season.
Sligo will be doing their utmost to ensure that both players will finishing their careers having secured promotion to Division 2A. The playoff semi-final kicks off at 2.30 next Saturday at Blackrock's home in Stradbrook.
Sligo: Jack Keegan, Calum Goddard, Mataele Fifita, Enda Gavin, Philip Carter, Euan Brown, Brendan Cunningham, Tom Gormely, James O'Hehir, Kuba Wojtkowicz, Ciaran Cassidy, Jake Sexton, Diarmuid O'Dowd Hill, Sean Wynne, Matt Davey, Reps: Matthew Earley, Ross Hickey, Conor Mitchell, Shane Boyle, Brian West.