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Ulster Bank League: Division 2C Review

Ulster Bank League: Division 2C Review

Heavy rain disrupted the Division 2C schedule last weekend with only two matches going ahead. Navan took the opportunity to stretch their lead at the top of the table by winning away to Bruff, while Sligo extended their winning streak with an impressive victory at Rainey.

ULSTER BANK LEAGUE DIVISION 2C: Saturday, March 4

ROUND 14 RESULTS –

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Bruff 8 Navan 15, Kilballyowen Park
Rainey Old Boys 13 Sligo 17, Hatrick Park
Boyne v Seapoint, Shamrock Lodge (match postponed due to a waterlogged pitch)
Kanturk v Tullamore, Knocknacolan (match postponed due to a waterlogged pitch)
Midleton v Bangor, Towns Park (match postponed due to a waterlogged pitch)

Sligo made it seven league victories in a row by overcoming fellow promotion hopefuls Rainey Old Boys 17-13 at Hatrick Park. The win has given Ross Mannion’s second-placed side a three-point lead over Rainey in the table.

A clinical first half display was crucial to the visitors’ latest success, and they gave Rainey an early warning as strong carries from Shane O’Hehir, Diarmuid O’Dowd Hill and Kuba Wojtkowicz had Sligo on the cusp of an opening try before the move broke down.

O’Hehir and Wojtkowicz established a stranglehold of the scrum, continually pressurising an injury-hit and inexperienced Rainey front row, and a set piece infringement allowed full-back Jack Keegan to boot Sligo in front after 15 minutes.

They used the scrum as a launching pad for a try five minutes later, moving the ball at pace as Keegan broke into the 22. Powerful lock Jamie Bowes and flanker O’Dowd Hill made the hard yards before half-backs Ryan Feehily and Mike Wells combined to release winger Conor Kerins for the corner.

A 26th minute scrum was marched from the Rainey 10-metre line to their 22, allowing Keegan to send over his second successful penalty. The Magherafelt men kicked loosely and struggled to retain possession, but a rare foray into Sligo territory brought about a penalty which winger Scott McLean converted.

Tellingly, Sligo cancelled out those three points just before half-time. A careless knock-on by Rainey’s usually reliable full-back Ricky Andrew handing the visitors a scrum and then a penalty which Keegan fired over for a 14-3 scoreline.

Obviously fired up by John Andrews’ team talk, Rainey showed much more urgency on the restart, putting Sligo on the back foot when number 8 Darren Corrigan launched a great move with the backs joining in to take play well into the Sligo 22.

The home side kept pressing and were rewarded with an opportunist try in the 48th minute. A poor exit strategy from Keegan allowed Andrew to counter in impressive fashion. The former Ulster player exchanged passes with out-half Gavin Martin down the left and he cut in unopposed for a try at the posts. McLean added the extras.

Sligo responded with some momentum-building play which kept Rainey in their own half, but when a long kick from Martin and a good chase earned Rainey a penalty, McLean obliged despite not striking the ball as well as he would have wished. With the gap down to 14-13, he then decided to have a go from further out, but again failed to make proper contact off the tee and missed the target this time.

One kick could have given Rainey a remarkable comeback success, but Sligo were not to be denied as they stamped their authority on the closing stages and added a clinching 78th-minute penalty from Keegan.

The big matches keep coming for Sligo who entertain another ambitious club in Bruff next Saturday afternoon. The Limerick men are smarting from a frustrating 15-8 loss at home to table toppers Navan.

Harry Hester’s second half try in the corner, converted with aplomb by Declan Bannon, proved decisive for the Meath outfit who had led 8-3 at the break. Conor Ryan barged over for a seventh minute try to add to Bannon’s initial 40-metre penalty.

Bruff will be kicking themselves as Navan were down to 13 men for a period during the first half and while Maghnus Collins gave them a great start to the second half with a levelling five-pointer, they could not avoid the setback of a first defeat in four rounds.