Midleton Senior XV took on Sligo RFC at home in Towns Park on Saturday the 3rd of February in front of the largest home crowd seen in a long time. The weather was good with plenty of sun, yet the ground was still soft under foot from weeks of rain. All credit to Graham Eady and his ground staff for making sure the pitch was in top condition for the game.
Tom Mul’s men went into this game only a point from the bottom of the table following a big bonus point win on the road against Tulamore but still needing a big performance to best second place Sligo. With nearly a clean bill of health, with the exception of one or two niggles, Midleton began the game abysmally, letting Sligo score off the kick off. A mere three phases saw them go in the corner to take an early lead, 7 nil up.
Rob Smyth gathered his men under the posts and very little was said, everyone knew their job and where it had gone wrong, there was no talking needed to go out and fix it, just action.
Minutes later a solid covering tackle from veteran prop, Kevin Brierley, saw Sligo full back knock the ball on just short of the Midleton 10 metre line. Smyth flashed the ball out to the attacking line who went on the charge, phase after phase making their way deep into the visitors 22. A solid scrum gave Stuart Lee a good platform to open up the defence and set fliers Louis Farnham and Rian Hogan loose, attacking the space and making the important yards. However, Sligo’s defence stood strong and forced a kick in behind which was cleared. Off the ensuing lineout came a penalty from a no arm tackle in the middle of the pitch between Sligo’s 10 and 22. Lee stepped up to aopen his scoring, 3-7.
Another penalty kick from Lee followed shortly after during a time of intense pressure close to the opposition line. Even though Midleton seemed well on top, cool heads prevailed and the decision to keep the scoreboard ticking over was made, 6-7.
From the restart Sligo went on the charge and made their way up to Midleton’s 22 when a cross field kick was gathered by the home side defender who was bundled into touch. Strong and eager defence from Midleton pushed the play back to their own 10 however, it might have been a touch of over eagerness as a penalty came from ruck time which was converted, 6-10.
A period of kick tennis ensued with the result being a penalty for Sligo coming from a lineout just inside the Home team’s 22. The points were added making the score 6-13. Despite being down by 7, however, Rob Smyth and his men never let the heads drop and continued to play to the game plan that had worked so well against Tullamore the previous week.
With a man in the bin for a no arm challenge on the opposition 10, Midleton upped the effort and won a penalty from a ruck just inside Sligo’s 22 which was kicked to within 7 of the try line. The maul got fierce momentum giving Michael “Yorkie” Cronin the chance to crash over the line for the first of the Home sides 4 tries. Lee neatly added the extras from way out by the touch line, 11-13 going into the break.
The second half started for Midleton just like the first, finding themselves underneath the post wondering how Sligo had scored so easily. Again cool heads saved the day as everyone kept their nerve and got on with the job at hand, this was to be the last of Sligo’s scores of the day, 11-18.
The restart resulted in some to-ing and fro-ing however, after a number of phases the home side found themselves with a put into the scrum on the opposition 10 metre line. The backs interlinked beautifully and Rian Hogan found himself in a 1-on-1, he was taken down high around the neck with the open field at his mercy, Sligo man sent to the bin for 10 minutes. After two previous successful mauls, one resulting in a try, the decision was made to go to the corner. However, the throw failed to find its man and Sligo were relieved of some pressure, but not for long.
Midleton again found themselves with ball in hand inside Sligo’s half, and moving it wonderfully from side to side they made their way closer and closer to the try line. A half break from outhalf Lee created the space out wide for Rory Horgan to crash over in the corner. Lee added the extras, 18-18.
Yet again the home side made their way into the Sligo 22, turning over the ball, however, 10 from the try line. The clearance kick was botched and the home side had a line out 15 yards out. Three phases later and they were over the line again, Yorkie getting his second of the day. Lee added the 2 points, 25-18.
Five minutes later Lee was again to add to his tally of the day with a long range penalty effort, 28-18.
With 12 to go a fantastic covering tackle from Dan Murray saw the ball spill straight into the hands of Rian Hogan on the half way line. Rian turned on the afterburners and sped away to score the bonus point try under the posts (see top image). Lee made his haul for the day total out at 15 points, a fine display with the boot and a 35-18 win.
This puts the Seniors in 7th with 5 games to go. However, the table is extremely tight with Malahide now going top as both Sligo and Thomond let it slip. only 5 points separate us from last place Tulamore and 6 points from the play offs.
Our next match is away to Thomond on the 17th of February, we hope as many can make the trip as possible.
We have an event on Friday the 9th of Feb in the club house for the kick off of the Midleton Lip Sync where the Rugby Club taken on the GAA in the battle of the century.