Sligo 12 Monivea 9
Sligo progressed to the quarter finals of the Heineken Connacht Junior cup when they defeated pre-tournament favourites and current title holders Monivea in a superbly contested encounter at Hamilton park, Strandhill on Sunday. The home team produced a performance full of character and determination to impose themselves and ultimately dominate the visiting Galway men.
A large crowd of supporters from both camps witnessed a hugely physical, but always sporting , battle between the  teams currently occupying the top two positions in the Connacht Junior league.
Playing into the stiff breeze, Sligo kicked off and immediately tried to gain a foothold in Monivea territory, but some good kicking by Monivea put the home team under pressure and a penalty was conceded inside the Sligo half after 6 minutes. A quick tap from Monivea scrum half Darren Blade earned his side an extra ten metres before out-half Ger O Connor elected to go for the posts and put his team into an early lead.
Sligo’s Paddy Pearson restarted and a clever kick forced a knock-on from the Monivea catcher. From the resulting scrum number 8 Peter Mullan picked and quickly moved infield before setting up the ruck. Scrum half Billy Leahy quickly moved the ball to Pearson who made a half break before being hauled down on the 22. Monivea infringed at the breakdown, the referee awarded Sligo the penalty, and Pearson made no mistake in securing the three points.
Sligo again responded and some fine driving play by Jason East and Adrian Mc Hale put them in a good position inside the visitors 22, however, over-exuberance at the breakdown caused the concession of a Penalty and Monivea were able to clear.
Sligo again fell foul of the referees whistle after 24 minutes when another penalty was conceded at the ruck 4 metres inside the Sligo half . O Connor elected to go for posts and was rewarded when his huge effort crossed the bar to put his side back into the lead.
Monivea were now up to full speed and were starting to get the upper hand in the forward exchanges. Things looked very ominous for the home team on the half hour when during a sustained Monivea attack Pearson was penalised for joining a ruck from the side on the Sligo 22. To the horror of the home crowd the referee produced a yellow card and the outhalf was banished to the sin bin for a 10 minute break. O Connor converted the penalty to put his side 6 points ahead.
The next 10 minutes proved to be defining ones for the outcome of the game.
With Sligo reduced to 14 players the pendulum was surely swinging in the visitors favour. The locals however had not read the script and as one they raised their game superbly and made light of the absence of their colleague.
Gavin Foley kicked the restart which was superbly fielded by Joe Sweeney.
The Sligo forwards piled in and drove towards the Mona 22. James Wilson carried before being halted 30 metres out. Leahy moved the ball quickly away before centre Jordan Farrington made a half break. The visitors illegally prevented the attack and Farrington having taken over the kicking duty coolly chipped the penalty kick through the uprights.
Sligo’s confidence continued to grow and with Wilson and Mullen combining well with hooker Ross Mannion at the line out and flanker Cathal Culhane starting to control the breakdown the tide was starting to turn in their favour. Pearson returned from the sin bin just before half time and was quickly called back into action when his team earned another penalty to the right of the posts inside the Galway sides 10 metre line. A well executed kick set the half time score at 9 points all.
The second half begun much as the first half ended with the home team gaining the upper hand in most areas and cleverly using the wind to keep the visitors pinned back in their own half. Monivea gamely tried to run the ball out of defence but time after time huge Sligo tackles put paid to their efforts. One noticeable effort from Foley on the hard running Monivea number 8 Eoin Rooney drew a huge cheer from the home support.
Sligo continued to press and finally edged in front after 50 minutes when the Monivea backline rushed offside to try to stifle a promising Sligo backline move. Pearson again opted to go for the posts and expertly kicked his team into the lead.
The home side now had their tails up and continued to hunt for a try which would put the game beyond doubt. A sweeping right to left move saw Farrington put into space. The centre sped towards the line before cutting back inside, winger Gary Collins had positioned himself perfectly to receive the try scoring pass but Farrington was caught and the opportunity was lost.
With seven minutes left on the clock more fine work saw Sligo awarded a penalty on the Monivea 22. Pearson lined up the kick but to the dismay of the home support the kick drifted narrowly wide.
The holders were not going to let their title go without a fight and threw everything at Sligo in the closing stages. Their pressure was rewarded with a penalty inside the Sligo half with time up on the clock. O Connor lined up the kick to try to bring the game into extra time but his effort fell short and wide allowing reliable full back David Gerrity to collect and touch down. The long blast followed much to the delight of the jubilant home supporters.
Sligo’s reward for this victory is a home quarter final against Buccaneers next sunday and they will be hoping to retain their fine form for that encounter.
Sligo Team: David Gerrity, Andrew Feeney, Jordan Farrington, Gavin Foley, Gary Collins, Paddy Pearson, Billy Leahy, Adrian Mc Hale, Ross Mannion, Jason East, Trevor Sweeney, James Wilson, Joe Sweeney, Cathal Culhane, Peter Mullen. Subs : Gary Conneely , Martin Feeney, Jamie Bowes, Dara Cox, Frankie Feeney,

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