Sligo RFC          26
Clonakilty RFC   25

Sligo earned their first points of their 2012/13 Ulster Bank League campaign when they overcame Clonakilty by the narrowest of margins in an absorbing battle at Strandhill on Saturday. 

In an all action game, Sligo’s powerful pack coupled with keen tactical nous from outhalf Mark Butler, paved the way for an important victory for the home outfit.

Having been relegated from Division 2a last season, Clonakilty were determined to impose their high tempo game on their hosts and skilfully moved the ball wide at every opportunity during the opening exchanges. The southerners ambition was rewarded early in the match when a lineout close to the Sligo line was mauled forward before the ball was quickly moved right to left. Full back James Deasy joined the line and beat the cover to touch down left of the posts. Deasy’s conversion attempt drifted wide.

Aaron Spring350Sligo responded immediately. A penalty awarded on the half way line was kicked to touch inside the visitors 22. Tadgh Power found James Wilson in the lineout and Sligo drove forward. The ball was fed to scrum half Billy Leahy who released Aaron Spring on the blind side and the youngster powered home from 20 metres for a well taken score. Butler expertly added a superb conversion to move his side ahead.

Clonakilty retook the lead after 15 minutes. Sligo opted to take a quick lineout on the half way line but the southerners were quick to react and intercepted the throw in. The ball was moved quickly infield and hooker Stephen Cotter was on hand to crash through the cover and put Clonakilty back into the lead. Deasy added the extras to move the score to 12-7 in favour of the visitors.

Butler and Deasy exchanged penalties before Clonakilty struck again. another sweeping right to left move put Sligo on the back foot and when the ball was moved back into midfield number 8 Ger Mc Carthy made no mistake in finishing right of the posts. Deasy added the conversion to move his team into a twelve point lead.

Sligo refused to lie down and began to use their maul to good effect. Conor Mitchell and Ross Mannion were getting the upper hand in the scrums and Second Row David Heath and number 8 Peter Mullan were carrying well. Rory Kerins was covering the ground well and centres Gavin Foley and Chris Nairn were coping with the midfield threat. David Gerrity was countering well.

Butler added two more penalties to bring Sligo within touching distance at the interval.

Sligo resumed with purpose and moved into the lead 5 minutes into the second half. A scrum ball inside the Clonaklity 22was moved from right to left. From the resulting ruck the play was switched back and Butler expertly cut through the defence to dot down left of the posts. The outhalf converted to move Sligo into the lead.

Mark Butler - penalty350Clonakilty again responded, and retook the lead with another Deasy penalty.Sligo, however,were not going to be outdone and more good work by the pack earned another penalty opportunity for Butler who made no mistake with another well judged kick.

The locals were now in the ascendancy and were on top in all facets of play. The southerners gamely tried to chase the game but Sligo had the edge and positioned themselves inside the opposition half nullifying any threat before the referee blew the long whistle.

Sligo now have a week break before their next Ulster Bank League outing against Armagh RFC at Strandhill on October 27th. Coach Simon Galvan will be looking to build on the momentum gained from this win to move his side further up the table. The match kicks off at 2.30pm.

Sligo: David Gerrity, Robbie Keegan, Chris Nairn, Gavin Foley, Aaron Spring, Mark Butler, Billy Leahy, Ross Mannion, Tadhg Power, Conor Mitchell, David Heath, James Wilson, Paddy Conlon, Rory Kerins, Peter Mulllan. Reps Wesley Maxwell, Eoin Matthews, Daragh Cox, Colin Keane, Sean Donnelly.

Photographs by Rory Raftery and Niall O’Driscoll – see full gallery on Facebook – here

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