Spirited fightback earns draw
Sligo RFC 21, Buccaneers 21
Round 2 of the Connacht Senior League kicked off at the earlier time of 1.30 last Sunday, to accommodate the 3.30 throw in for the All-Ireland final.
Sligo were determined to build on their comprehensive 43-7point win against Ballina RFC the previous week, but knew that Connacht's highest ranking club team would not be easy opposition.
It was Buccaneers who came away with the spoils at home last year with a 35-34point win and then went on to win the league and cup double.
Sligo started the game well with their pack bolstered even more by the return of Ciaran Cassidy in the second row.
Possession changed hands often in the first 15minutes, with the bulk of the action in the middle of the park. Buccaneers threatened the Sligo line with a well-worked maul, but the home side's defence held strong it was Sligo who soon gained the upper hand with their dominance in the scrum.
Working their way up the pitch, Sligo earned a scrum on the 5m line and proved too strong for the visitors.
Shane Boyle showed great control at the back of the scrum and Sligo won a penalty.
They quickly opted for the scrum off the penalty and a second penalty was awarded against Buccaneers.
Smelling blood, Sligo chose the scrum again and this time, the quick-thinking Brendan Cunningham picked off the back and nipped in for the opening score of the game after 22minutes.
Jack Keegan added the extras to give the home side a 7point lead. Buccaneers regained the ball from the restart and worked the ball through the phases, eventually spinning it wide for their winger to squeeze through a gap in the Sligo defence.
The conversion was good and the sides were level with 25minutes on the clock. The weather took a turn for the worse at this stage and the rain resulted in greasy conditions on the pitch and some handling errors from both sides.
Sligo rallied again but it was Buccaneers who next drew blood when a well-timed kick went behind the defensive line and was pounced upon by the visitors. The ensuing conversion split the posts and the score remained 7-14 for the next 13minutes until the half-time whistle.
The second half continued where the first half left off, with big carries, big tackles and strong running from both, but it was the visitors who stretched their lead to 14points in the 50th minute.
Sligo made several changes in the team, with Sean Wynne and Shane O'Hehir making way for young bloods Brian West and Matthew Earley.
Buccaneers pressed hard but the Sligo line held strong and possession changed hands several times over the next 20minutes, with no change in the score line.
With only 13minutes left on the clock and a deficit of 14points against them, the home side persevered and were rewarded with a sublime Mata Fifita try, much to the delight of the vocal home crowd.
Euan Brown's well-struck conversion reduced the difference to a single converted try and Sligo's tails were up. Buccaneers squandered their possession and it was Sligo who found themselves on the counter-attack up the left wing in the dying seconds of the game.
Cal Goddard showed his speed and he linked up with the powerful Tongan centre Mata Fifita who muscled past the Buccs' defence to score his second try of the game and dot down behind the post to put Sligo within 2points of the draw. Euan Brown made no mistake with the conversion, with the attempted charge down being unsuccessful.
Buccaneers had to share the points in the end, thanks to the spirited comeback by the young Sligo side.
The draw puts Sligo into second place in the Connacht Senior league after two games, 2points behind Corinthians. Sligo will have a well-earned break next weekend and league action will resume on Saturday 14th September, when they travel to league leaders Corinthians for the second-last game of the league.
SLIGO RFC: Ben Sala, Shane O' Hehir, Tom Gormley, Craig Trimble, Ciaran Cassidy, Rob Holian, Seán Wynne, Shane Boyle, Brendan Cunnningham, Ryan Feehily, Phillip Carter, Mata Fifita, Jack Keegan, Calum Goddard, Enda Gavin, Matthew Earley, Ross O'Boyle, Sean Mullin, Brian West, Matt Davey, Euan Brown, Charlie Cooper