Fifita return can’t prevent Sligo defeat


Sligo RFC 10

Seapoint RFC 13


Sligo relinquished the premier position in the Ulster Bank League 2C with a disappointing loss to visiting Seapoint at Strandhill on Saturday. With only a losing bonus point gained, Sligo dropped to second in the league, one point behind new leaders Thomond RFC.

Despite the recent heavy rain, the Hamilton Park surface was in excellent condition, as the teams took to the field, with Sligo playing towards the mountain end in the first half.

The home team started brightly and raced into a seven-point lead after only 3 minutes. Mark Butler put Sligo in position with a penalty into the left corner. James Wilson claimed the lineout and the pack drove for the line. Seapoint could not contain the well organised maul and hooker Shane O’Hehir was on hand to touch down for the opening score. Jack Keegan added the extras with a well struck effort from out wide on the left.

With 15 minutes gone Sligo looked to have doubled their tally when the returning Mata Fifita took a super line of a well-timed Butler off load on the 22. The powerful centre was hauled down close to the line and the referee ruled that the ball was knocked forward in the act of touching down.

Sligo continued to press and were solid at the lineout and were dominating the Seapoint scrum. The Sligo dominance was rewarded with a Keegan penalty after 23 mins but unfortunately that was to be the end of the scoring for the locals.

The teams turned around at half time with Sligo ahead 10-0 but Seapoint were growing into the game with their well organised defence containing the ball-carrying Sligo forwards.

Seapoint opened their account five minutes into the second half with a Bain Champion penalty and then equalised with a converted try from a lineout maul that was almost a carbon copy of Sligo’s first half effort.

Sligo continued to battle, but Seapoint, coached by former Irish International Eric Miller, were well organised and Sligo’s continuous use of narrow ‘route one’ tactics failed to stretch the visiting defensive line.

Champion picked up the winning score with a Seapoint penalty with 5 minutes remaining and despite playing the last 5 minutes close to the Seapoint line Sligo failed to break down the visitors’ defence and had to be content with a losing bonus point.

Next week Sligo travel south to face Midleton RFC. Sligo will need an improvement to get back to the form that brought them to the top of the table and coach Ross Mannion and his team will be keen to get back on the right track.

Sligo:  Jack Keegan, Callum Goddard, Mark Rooney, Mike Wells, Philip Carter, Mark Butler, Ryan Feehily, Mark Keegan, Shane O’Hehir, Conor Mitchell, James Wilson, Ciaran Cassidy, Shane Boyle (Capt.) Manu Parkin, Matthew Cosgrove Reps: Ross O’Boyle, Shane McGuinness, Matt Davey, Mata Fifita, Niall Gray.