BUCCS WIN HIGH-SCORING CONTEST
RUGBY with MICHAEL SILKE
BUCCANEERS 39 BELFAST HARLEQUINS 22
A SPARKLING PERFORMANCE by Buccaneers in the opening half of their rescheduled Ulster Bank League game against Belfast Harlequins sent them on their way to a 39-22 Division 1B victory at sunny Dubarry Park, Athlone, on Saturday. On a firm surface, two understrength teams endeavoured to play at tempo resulting in ten tries amid the feast of scores for those tempted away from their armchair rugby.
Both sides were depleted and gave youth its chance with Ben Carty making his AIL debut at outhalf for the Pirates in place of elder brother Jack who was skippering Connacht Eagles. Dominic Griffith came into a much-changed backline on the wing while Castelbar’s Shane Casey made his first start for Buccs in the backrow. Lawrence Babe captained the visitors who too were missing their contracted players.
Buccs secured a bonus point in the first half during which they scored four tries, Luke Satchwell opening their account when he provided the overlap to finish off enterprising play with just three and a half minutes on the clock. The flanker was injured shortly afterwards with another U-21 Paul Maxwell coming in. Buccs showed another side to their play with a superb maul being finished by AUDI ATHLONE Man of the Match Martin Staunton for their second try on 21 minutes. This stemmed from a smashing penalty to touch on the left by Carty and a clean lineout take by James Tormey who, five minutes later, charged through for a try following good ground made by Kolo Kiripati and Alex Hayman. The sterling Hayman grabbed try number four after 33 minutes following more enterprising work by the homesters. With Casey tidying up a rare Quins attack on the home line, Callum Boland’s penalty and conversion gave the midlanders a solid 25-0 halftime lead.
Rob Creighton intercepted near halfway within a minute of the change of ends to grab a try at the posts and John Holmes converted to give Quins hope of a comeback and Buccs had to defend robustly for a period to force a relieving penalty. This was kicked downfield to touch where Tormey soared to claim the lineout possession to set up Hayman’s touchdown for his second try on 53 minutes. Boland’s conversion made it 32-7 on the scoreboard.
Casey incurred a harsh yellow card at a ruck on the hour mark while Boland saw a fine 65th penalty effort rebound off an upright following a flagging. Hayman ghosted through midfield three minutes later but, for once, support was slow in arriving. With their bench unloaded, Buccs’ cohesion and organisation dropped a little but the scores remained unchanged until a hectic final six minutes in which four tries were scored. Roger Kirkwood scored what seemed a consolation try for the northerners after 76 minutes but it galvanised them to notch two more in rapid fire succession! Fullback Holmes then surged through three minutes later and, within a minute, substitute Michael Scholes was haring in for another to earn Quins an unlikely bonus point as the midlanders lost concentration and solidity.
However, Buccs had the final say when, straight from the restart, Kolo Kiripati thundered through for Buccs sixth try (all of which were scored in the left corner!) and teenager Carty added an excellent touchline conversion to complete the 39-22 scoreline, which could have been even higher had placekickers for both teams been fully on song, for a richly merited victory that keeps the Athlone club in fourth place in the league table. Staunton was superb and Casey made a terrific impact. Hayman is enjoying a majestic season, Boland excited and Carty settled well into his role after a nervous opening.
BUCCANEERS:- C.Boland; B.Henshaw, C.FitzGibbon, A.Hayman, D.Griffith; B.Carty, M.Dolan; M.Staunton, G.Halligan, D.Higgins; J.Tormey, R.Byrne; S.Casey, L.Satchwell and K.Kiripati (captain). Replacements:- P.Maxwell (for Satchwell, inj. 9 mins), J.Roets (for Higgins, 48 mins), B.Digby (for Dolan, 55 mins), B.Teape (for Staunton, 69 mins), T.Clifford (for Boland, 71 mins) and D.Higgins (for Tormey, inj. 71 mins).
BELFAST HARLEQUINS:- J.Holmes; R.Creighton, M.Ryan, W.Stewart, M.Holmes; M.Best, R.Kirkwood; P.Greenaway, T.Fraser, N.Simpson; P.Rea, A.Heatlie; K.Adams, K.McCombe and L.Babe (captain). Replacements:- D.McRitchie (for Rea, inj. 29 mins), M.Scholes (for M.Holmes, 46 mins), A.Pollock (for McCombe, 46 mins), O.McIlmurray (for Simpson, 48 mins) and N.Simpson (for Greenaway, 60 mins).
Referee:- Kieran Barry (IRFU).
League final woe for Buccs
BUCCANEERS 8 CORINTHIANS 11
For the second successive match, Buccaneers Thirds suffered the cruel fate of losing through the final kick of the game when Corinthians landed a penalty to claim the Connacht Junior 2 League title on an 11-8 scoreline at Crowley Park, Galway, on Sunday. It was an even enough decider with a biting crossfield breeze and rock hard surface making it an endurance test for players and spectators alike but Corinthians had that little bit of unpredictability about them that perhaps warranted this hard-earned triumph.
Buccs started with the same XV pipped so agonisingly by Tuam in the semi-final before Tuam were deemed to have fielded an illegal player. The conditions ensured for a nervy and sometimes scrappy contest. Corinthians had the better of the opening exchanges with the slope and the diagonal breeze assisting them. David Dunning did well to tidy up in front of his posts after 9 minutes while the Galway club had Kieran Dolan yellow carded for slowing the ball six minutes later. Yet they took the lead on 19 minutes when Jack Campbell slotted over a penalty. Buccs came more into the game in the second quarter and Keith O’Neill got over the Corinthians line but a knock-on in the build up meant no try was awarded.
Darren Costello was off-target with a 25th minute penalty but made no mistake four minutes later to level the scores. Buccs were now enjoying the better of the exchanges but, following a penalty kicked to the left, the Pirates lost possession when a promising maul looked likely to reap the dividend of a try. In the final minute, a clever crossfield kick was just too high for Ger Fallon and the sides were tied 3-3 at the interval.
Following a penalty five minutes into the second half, Buccs surged forward from the subsequent lineout and Keith Grehan drove over in the right corner for a well-taken try but O’Neill’s conversion attempt was weak. It seemed like the midlanders would now build on this impetus but their line-kicking was poor and they did not pen Corinthians back enough. Eleven minutes later, Dolan conjured up a clever blindside try, his break catching the Buccs defence napping. His conversion attempt went narrowly wide but the teams were level again at 8-8.
At the end of the third quarter, Dunning got in a great block on Dolan to force a penalty but Costello’s kick was woeful while, four minutes later, Dolan was off-target at the other end. But the winger went from villain to hero in the final flurry which saw Buccs veteran fullback O’Neill incur a red card for retaliation and Dolan administered further punishment when his penalty kick from the right just scrambled over the crossbar to clinch a dramatic title win for Corinthians. This victory was savoured by the victors whose only league defeat had been at the hands of Buccs. Meanwhile, the Pirates can take great credit for a wonderful league campaign but, on this occasion, though they fought to the bitter end and put in a massive effort, they did not harness the elements as well as the winners and lacked the guile and craft of Corinthians for whom ‘man of the match’ Dolan’s elusive running was a constant torment for Buccs. Nicky Purcell and Sean Flynn were best of Buccs backline while Dunning, Liam Doran, Tristan Couper and Sean Byrne could not be faulted in the forwards battle.
BUCCANEERS:- K.O’Neill; D.Smith, M.Tormey, S.Flynn, G.Fallon; D.Costello, N.Purcell; T.Thompson, K.Grehan, L.Doran; G.Glynn (captain), D.Dunning; N.Flynn, T.Couper and S.Byrne. Replacements:- M.Turley (for Glynn, inj. 63 mins), P.Rikadze (for Thompson, 63 mins) and D.Kelly (for Tormey, 63 mins).
CORINTHIANS:- C.Egan; S.Quinlan, A.Quinn, C.Conway, K.Dolan; W.Casserly, J.Campbell; D.Broderick, J.Barrett, D.Grealish; N.Hogan, E.Coyle; K.Ryan, C.O’Driscoll and L.Naughton.
Referee:- Peter McCarthy (Connacht).
Buccs edge into U-19 Cup final
GALWEGIANS 11 BUCCANEERS 13
BUCCANEERS held on for a narrow 13-11 Connacht U-19 Cup semi-final victory away to Galwegians at Crowley Park on Sunday. With Buccs facing Bandon in next Saturday’s All-Ireland semi-final, their mentors took a calculated gamble on resting some players --- and just got away with it!
The improvised Buccs side kicked off and promptly reclaimed possession to spread the ball wide and Sean Doyle steamed over the home line for a try in just 30 seconds. Due to all the changes in personnel, the young Pirates were understandably lacking co-ordination but they were certainly not shy about hard work and industry. Barry Goode kicked a penalty while Wegians landed two placekicks as Buccs led 8-6 at halftime.
Early in the second half, Tom Finucane broke from near halfway to score an excellent try. Wegians replied with a try to leave just two points between the teams. In a finely balanced contest, the hosts had a real opportunity to grab a late, late victory but they missed a final minute penalty. So fortune favoured the brave on this occasion with Evan Galvin and Ross Moony-Enraght putting in wonderful shifts in the Buccs pack while Finucane and Goode stood out in the backline.
BUCCANEERS:- E.O’Reilly; T.Finucane, C.Langdon, S.Dempsey, M.O’Reilly; S.Doyle, B.Goode; S.Gallagher, C.McGrath, J.O’Meara; C.Morrissey, C.White; P.Hennessy, R.Moony-Enraght and E.Galvin. Replacements used:- J.Gormley, S.Flanagan, C.McMickan and B.Carty.
Womens brave season ends
RAILWAY UNION 35 BUCCANEERS 17
BUCCANEERS WOMENS TEAM bowed out of the Leinster Womens Cup when they were defeated by Railway Union 35-17 in a hugely entertaining quarter-final in Dublin on Sunday but the Athlone ladies can hold their collective heads high after really testing Railway Union. The metropolitans fielded a much more experienced squad, some with a very high level particularly their scrumhalf, but the Buccettes really put it up to Union in an enthralling contest.
Buccs made two changes from their previous outing with the versatile Myriam Borque-Cascajo starting at scrum-half and Colette McSpadden coming in at centre. On a dry but breezy afternoon, the hosts had first benefit of the sea breeze and moved 10-0 ahead before Buccs opened their account with an Emma Treanor penalty. Union added a second converted try before Sinead Taylor powered forward from midfield to score a magnificent try which Treanor converted. Although Union added a penalty, Buccs were very much in this contest at half-time despite trailing 20-10.
The midlanders had loads of possession and territory following the change of ends but conceded some silly infringements to take the pressure off Union who retorted with an unconverted try. However, Borque-Cascajo caught the home side napping when she smartly tapped a penalty and raced in from the 22 for a try which Treanor converted to keep Buccs in the hunt, just 25-17 adrift. The Athlone girls piled on more pressure but lacked the guile to outwit the homesters who got the benefit of a wicked bounce to secure a decisive late try. This was converted as was a penalty for a 35-17 margin that did not do true justice to the endeavours of Buccaneers.
They gave a really good account of themselves on the day and indeed throughout this competition, which will be of enormous benefit to them. A lack of experience and a failure to make the most of the elements in the second half is all that separated the two teams. Emer Phelan and Annemarie Sleator excelled in the pack with Niamh Ni Dhroma and Borque-Cascajo (although playing out of position) pick of the backline in a spirited performance. Well done to all players and mentors on another memorable season. Pity that Connacht did not see fit to “invite” them to defend their Connacht Cup crown!
BUCCANEERS:- N.Ni Dhroma; A.Kelleher, C.McSpadden, S.Taylor, N.Gough; E.Treanor, M.Borque-Cascajo; C.Mannion, M.Kiripati (captain), A.M.Sleator; C.Moore, N.Egan; S.O’Shea, E.Conlon and E.Phelan. Replacements used:- S.Hynds, Y.O’Shea and L.Stuart-Trainor.
BUCCS HOME TO BALLYMENA ON SATURDAY NIGHT
BUCCANEERS play their final home game of this season’s Ulster Bank League when they host Ballymena at Dubarry Park on Saturday night. This floodlit game, sponsored by Glasson Country House Hotel & Golf Club, has a 7 p.m. kickoff.
Ballymena, a club steeped in rugby tradition and history, have had a torrid season. The one time All-Ireland League winners currently lie in last place with just two wins to date. However, one of those victories was in their most recent fixture when they defeated Bruff, who are now above Ballymena only on scoring difference. Both trail third from bottom Dungannon by ten points with just three rounds of fixtures remaining. Consequently, the Braidmen are in dire need of league points but they now travel with a ray of hope of avoiding automatic relegation and Buccs will be prudent to be wary. However, the Pirates should possess too much class and enterprise and, if they move the ball with pace, they can keep on the heels of the leading trio.
BUCCS FACE BANDON IN ALL-IRELAND U-19 SEMI-FINAL
BUCCANEERS square up to Bandon in the semi-final of the U-19 All-Ireland Cup at Galway Sportsground on Saturday, kick off 2.30 p.m. Buccs captured this Cup just two seasons ago and the current crop of rising stars will be keen to advance to the final in Naas. However, they will surely face a searching test from this year’s Munster kingpins from the home town of Graham Norton.
This is a well-balanced Buccs squad although perhaps lacking a bit of height in the pack. With Jacob Walshe unavailable, John Gormley, Scott Flanagan, John O’Meara, Conor McGrath and Saba Meunargia will be battling for starting berths in the front row. Josh O’Rourke, Cian White and Niall Carr are vying at lock while Ross Moony-Enraght put his hand up last Sunday for inclusion in the backrow where Evan Galvin, Brian Cooper and Conor Morrissey have strong claims to start. Scrumhalf Rob Ashe is the team’s only injury worry with Barry Goode a likely replacement if necessary. Ben Carty has the nous and skills to control matters at fly-half as well as being a prodigious place-kicker. The two Seans --- Dempsey and Doyle --- could form the centre partnership but Conor Langdon’s inclusion would not weaken this sector. Harry Hughes is a try-poacher supreme while Rob McMickan or Mark O’Reilly are very able operators on the other flank. Eoghan O’Reilly is a solid, attack-minded fullback so, all in all, this a pretty rounded band of Pirates.
Bandon claimed the scalps of Bruff and Sundays Well with home advantage but doled out a good beating to Highfield in the Munster final so they will pose a stiff test. However, Buccs too had a solid Connacht final win. Semi-finals are notorious, particularly as neither team wants to miss out at the penultimate hurdle. But, if Buccs play to their collective strengths, hold their nerve and keep both focus and discipline, then their experience of the Sportsground can be a vital ingredient against the boys from west Cork. They are certainly worthy of supporters taking the now short trip west along the motorway so let’s see and hear a big crowd cheering on these young Buccs.
THIRDS KICK OFF CUP CAMPAIGN
BUCCANEERS THIRDS get a swift opportunity to shake off the disappointment of losing the league final through the last kick of the decider when they host Tuam in the Ard-Na-Cregg Cup at Dubarry Park, Athlone, on Sunday. This could be a hotly-contested affair as Tuam pipped Buccs in the league semi-final only to be eliminated from that competition due to fielding an illegal player in Athlone. Both sides were evenly matched two weeks ago, the Galway club stronger in the pack but Buccs more expansive out wide. The Pirates lacked a killer instinct in their two most recent matches but there is decent quality and potency in their squad and, if the players deliver to their capabilities and perform with a bit more “hardness”, then they can advance. The action here gets under way at 3 p.m.
AIL fixtures rescheduled
Buccaneers concluding fixtures of the Ulster Bank League have been redrawn somewhat due to recent postponements. Buccs defeated Belfast Harlequins last Saturday in a rearranged game while they play Ballymena as scheduled next Saturday night at 7 p.m. The postponed game away to champions elect Ballynahinch will now take place on Saturday, April 20th, with the fixtures of that week being put back to April 27th when Buccs travel to Bruff.
Deepest sympathy is extended to Jude Lennon and family on the death of his sister Joan Sheehy.
Congrats to Saba Meunargia and Jacob Walshe on their recent caps for Ireland U-19s against England and France. Well done too to David Heffernan, Conor Finn, Mata Fifita, Peter Reilly and Jack Carty who all played for Connacht Eagles against crack Russian club Enesei STM. Carty captained this A team. Incidentally, Connacht Eagles will complete their British & Irish Cup campaign when they entertain Welsh club Newport at Dubarry Park on Saturday, April 27th.
BUCCS ARE CONNACHT U-19 CHAMPIONS
RUGBY with MICHAEL SILKE
BUCCANEERS 10 WESTPORT 3
BUCCANEERS captured the Connacht U-19 League title when they defeated Westport 10-3 in a hugely committed and exciting final at Galway Sportsground on Easter Saturday. An early piece of magical combination by Eoghan O’Reilly and Harry Hughes created the decisive score for Buccs in an immensely competitive but sporting decider where both teams went at it hammer and tongs from the off. Conditions were sunny and dry but the ubiquitous Sportsground breeze was an influence on the proceedings on a firm sod.
The Buccs squad was backboned by Marist College players who had recently completed the Connacht Senior Schools Cup and League double. Westport (runners-up last season) were boosted by their spirited semi-final victory over Sligo, which gave them a more searching workout than the Athlone club’s win over Galwegians. Nevertheless, the young Pirates were the slight favourites and, when they conjured a wonderful fifth minute try despite playing against the stiff breeze, it seemed that the bookies had got it spot on. But, as they did against Sligo, the westerners rolled up their collective sleeves to the very end to play their part in a compelling final.
Aided by the considerable breeze, Westport pinned Buccaneers back in the opening minutes. Then, after absorbing this pressure, fullback O’Reilly unleashed a tremendous counter-attack from deep in his own half to stretch the Bulls cover. Right wing Hughes did the rest, haring down the grandstand flank in typical will-o-the-wisp fashion to outpace exposed defenders for a sparkling tonic try after just five minutes. Ben Carty added a fine conversion in the testing conditions to put Buccs 7-0 ahead and settle any nerves.
With the wind at their backs, Westport continued to force the pace but, in the face of tigerish Buccs tackling, they coughed up possession too frequently. However, their endeavours were rewarded when wing Tom McHale landed a 15th minute penalty. Yet they rarely threatened the Athlone side’s goal line. Meanwhile Buccs, although understandably not getting inside the Westport 22 too often, looked the more likely to cross the whitewash and a try looked on after a good concerted spell of play in the second quarter. However, they too found the opposing defence in uncompromising mood and a tricky Carty penalty that went wide after 23 minutes was the nearest the midlanders came to scoring. With both defences holding firm, it remained 7-3 in favour of Buccaneers at half-time.
It seemed that Buccs would kick on after the change of ends and the early exchanges suggested this as they kept Westport on the backfoot despite losing Rob McMickan through injury five minutes into the second half, but Cormac Langdon proved a very able deputy coming in at centre with Sean Dempsey moving to the left wing. Hughes made another typical mazy run and the steady pressure yielded a 43rd minute penalty but Carty’s placekick was not struck with his usual precision.
Buccs became hurried and a little frustrated in their efforts as the anticipated scores did not accumulate. With more patience and composure that may not have been the case. Of course, Westport too made life difficult for the Athlone outfit and the workrate and ferocious tackling by both sides never relented. Dempsey made a couple of promising sallies as did O’Reilly while Carty’s line-kicking was terrific, making much better use of the elements than Westport had in the first half. The outhalf sealed the issue with a 60th minute penalty which he kicked straight and true.
The remaining ten minutes were tense and frantic as Westport threw everything at the Pirates to save the day. But Buccs were ceaseless in their tackling and covering while the support play was generally topclass in a fine all-round team performance. Buccs matched fire with fire in the unremitting duel among the forwards while their backs possessed a more cutting edge. Evan Galvin lorded the lineouts and was a dynamic force around the paddock while the front row trio of John Gormley, Scott Flanagan and John O’Meara beavered assiduously throughout. Carty played a captain’s role at standoff while O’Reilly, Hughes and Dempsey were a constant threat to Westport who, arguably, had the best player on view in effervescent scrumhalf Dylan Carpenter.
BUCCANEERS:- E.O’Reilly; H.Hughes, S.Doyle, S.Dempsey, R.McMickan; B.Carty (captain), R.Ashe; J.Gormley, S.Flanagan, J.O’Meara; J.O’Rourke, N.Carr; C.Morrissey, B.Cooper and E.Galvin. Replacement used:- C.Langdon (for McMickan, inj.40 mins).
WESTPORT:- R.Ludden; P.Glavey, A.McAleer, B.Mullen, T.McHale; S.Tobin, D.Carpenter; T.Geraghty, P.O’Toole, C.Groden; F.Murphy, E.Dunning; K.Coughlan, M.Brady and M.O’Grady. Replacements used:- R.Murphy (for Dunning, 47 mins) and J.Cashman (for McHale, inj. 61 mins).
REFEREE:- Tom Horkan (Connacht).
THIRDS COME A CROPPER IN LEAGUE SEMI-FINAL
BUCCANEERS 8 TUAM 10
After a sterling Connacht Junior 2 League campaign in which they achieved a 100% success rate, Buccaneers Thirds imploded in their league semi-final at home to Tuam on Easter Monday when a converted try by the visitors, an astonishing 9 minutes into added time, gave the Co. Galway side a dramatic 10-8 victory.
This was a hugely disappointing outcome for this Buccs squad who had been consistently impressive in the league section. Whether it was semi-final nerves or not being used to the wide open spaces of the main pitch at Dubarry Park but this was a totally underwhelming performance by the midlanders in a dire contest played in bitterly cold conditions. Unforced errors abounded throughout with the homesters perhaps more guilty in this respect. They never settled into a rhythm, scrums were messy, lineouts a lottery in the breeze and tactical kicking was poor. Tuam were dogged and, aided by the elements in the opening half, they got a foothold on the proceedings although they missed two penalties before taking the lead towards the end of the opening quarter. Buccs eventually made some inroads but knock-ons spoiled two promising raids while Darren Costello was unable to gauge the breeze with two tricky penalties. Tuam too were off-target with a 55 metre kick just before halftime at which stage they led tenuously 3-0.
On the restart, the westerners battled doggedly while poor decision-making meant that Buccs found it difficult to get into the visitors’ 22 although Tuam escaped with blatant obstruction as Buccs chased a kick ahead early in the second half. The visitors’ placekicker was way off-target with a 62nd minute penalty and four minutes later Buccs eventually drew level when Costello drilled over a penalty following a high tackle. The Pirates grabbed the lead on 70 minutes when Nicky Purcell broke free at halfway and held his nerve to get over on the right for a magnificent try which Costello could not convert.
The outhalf was wayward with another penalty five minutes later but at last Buccs were ahead 8-3 and playing in the Tuam danger zone. However, they coughed up possession once too often and Tuam counter-attacked from their own 22 after 49 minutes of the second half to conjure up a wonderful try at the posts past despairing home efforts to cover. The conversion, with the last kick of the match, was a formality and Tuam inflicted a first competitive defeat of the season on this Buccs outfit. Few in their camp can look back with any satisfaction on their most disappointing endeavours on the day but, while there were some stoppages in the second half, the nine minutes added time played was utterly inexplicable. Buccs get a quick opportunity to redeem themselves when they again face Tuam on Sunday week in the quarter-final of the Ard-Na-Cregg Cup in Athlone.
BUCCANEERS:- K.O’Neill; D.Smith, M.Tormey, S.Flynn, G.Fallon; D.Costello, N.Purcell; T.Thompson, K.Grehan, L.Doran; G.Glynn (captain), D.Dunning; N.Flynn, T.Couper and S.Byrne. Replacements:- G.Kenny (for Dunning, 43 mins), M.Turley (for Thompson, 43 mins) and C.Galvin (for Grehan, 58 mins).
BUCCS FACE QUINS IN RESCHEDULED FIXTURE
BUCCANEERS are home to Belfast Harlequins in their rescheduled Ulster Bank League Division 1B fixture at Dubarry Park on Saturday, kick off 2.30 p.m. The original fixture was postponed as Quins claimed inability to travel due to the severe weather up North. However, some of their supporters had no difficulties travelling and were somewhat aggrieved to learn on arrival in Athlone that the game was cancelled.
Buccs too were not happy at the hasty postponement as playing conditions were near perfect in the midlands while main roads from Belfast were very much passable. Quins were missing the spine of their team for one reason or another last month with Richard Lutton, Stuart Olding, Michael Heaney and Michael Allen all involved with Ulster while Rory Scholes, Gareth Rourke, Michael Ferguson and Neil McComb were other regulars not included in their squad for that game! Now it looks like the Pirates will be short key members of their crew as Connacht A have a game against Russian club Enisei STM organised for Saturday afternoon! Jack Carty, Conor Finn, David Heffernan, Eoghan Grace, Peter Reilly and Mata Fifita are all likely to be involved in that end of year friendly, which seems to be a bit meaningless at this stage of the season.
Buccaneers Womens team travel to Dublin on Sunday where they face Railway Union in the quarter-final of the Leinster Cup. This will be a real step up in class for the Buccettes but they have shown wonderful resolve, commitment and enterprise in advancing to this stage. While the more experienced Railway Union will be warm favourites, the Buccs ladies are well capable of claiming another scalp.
TRINITY TOPS IN TIGHT AFFAIR
RUGBY with MICHAEL SILKE
DUBLIN UNIVERSITY 23 BUCCANEERS 19
DUBLIN UNIVERSITY pipped Buccaneers 23-19 in their crunch Ulster Bank League encounter at College Park, Dublin, on Saturday. Just a solitary point separated these teams before this vital clash of third versus fourth as Division 1B enters the final straight and the home win now gives Trinity a key edge in the chase for promotion.
A fine afternoon and a decent, if passing, attendance witnessed an exhilarating contest that could have gone either way on a firm, relatively grassless surface. College made three changes, all in their backline, from their colours defeat to UCD. James O’Donoghue came in at fullback, Ariel Robles in the centre and Cathal Marsh at outhalf. Meanwhile, Buccs fielded an unchanged squad with Kolo Kiripati again on the bench.
Trinity were quickest out of the starting blocks and early pressure was rewarded with a 3rd minute Marsh penalty from in front of the posts after Buccs came in from the side. But when the Students were guilty of not rolling away six minutes later, Jack Carty opened the Pirates’ account. Then a high tackle that stopped a promising 13th minute break by Conor Finn went unpunished and Trinity made the most of their good fortune when Neil Hanratty countered through the midlanders’ ranks where his progress was eventually stopped by Conor FitzGibbon but Paddy Lavelle was on his shoulder to touchdown just right of the posts. Marsh’s conversion was straight-forward for a 10-3 advantage.
But Buccs were back on level terms within five minutes. Finn was prominent again going forward and the visitors pack then made good ground to force a five-metre scrum from which Eoghan Grace peeled away to get the ball via Mark Dolan to FitzGibbon and the teenage winger scythed through for a try at the posts which Carty converted. FitzGibbon then fielded a poor Michael McLoughlin clearance and, when the Students came in from the side, Carty landed a lengthy penalty to put Buccs 13-10 ahead after a hectic opening 23 minutes.
Carty was off-target with two penalty kicks either side of a Marsh miss while Buccs should have had a healthier lead at the interval but Garreth Halligan had no support as his terrific charge down the left flank was stopped by a quartet of Trinity players just short of the hosts’ line.
Mataele Fifita replaced FitzGibbon (with Finn switching to the left wing) for the second half but the big centre had a torrid introduction, promptly conceding two penalties (both of which Marsh gratefully converted, his second effort just squeezing inside the far upright) as well as visiting the sin bin on 50 minutes for slowing possession after Finn had run into trouble when he had space to kick into. This rejuventated Trinity, who now led 16-13, whilst putting an added workload on the Athlone side already busy dealing with a more solid College pack.
The experienced Kiripati now came on for Rory Byrne and Buccs took the game to their hosts despite their temporary numerical deficiency. The Pirates’ skipper broke from the back of a scrum after 57 minutes and sent Billy Henshaw scampering down the right flank before the Trinity defence forced him into touch six metres short of the goal line. Then hands on the ground by the Students yielded a penalty which Carty slotted over from the left to level matters again at 16-16.
The decisive score arrived after 66 minutes, Trinity wrong-footing Fifita before the ball was spread swiftly to the left where, for once, Niyi Adeolokan evaded Henshaw for his ninth try of the season and Marsh, who later missed a penalty, added the conversion. Carty was blatantly body-checked after chipping the cover on 74 minutes but no penalty accrued to Buccs who continued to press forward. Kiripati made a surge down the left a minute later and off-loaded to Halligan but the gallant hooker was wrapped up and just could not get his pass away to the over-lapping Dolan.
However, moments later, Carty drilled over a fine drop goal to set up a grandstand finish. Buccs had survived a Trinity onslaught in the closing stages when the sides met earlier in the season at Dubarry Park. Now it was College’s time to defend desperately but they conceded one more penalty in midfield which Carty lofted towards touch in the left corner. His kick fell just short and was taken back over the home line by a Trinity player who then grounded the ball. To the amazement of most spectators, not only was a five-metre scrum not awarded to Buccs but the referee blew full time prematurely, certainly short of 80 minutes!
This left Buccaneers frustrated after an exciting, fast duel in which they played their part in this absorbing contest. Trinity are very well-drilled with an excellent pack where Pierce Dargan was a persistent menace. Their backline, orchestrated superbly by Marsh, constantly probed at pace and, overall, College just about deserved the spoils that keeps them just one point adrift of their arch rivals UCD. Buccs had to work that bit harder to counter a lack of real bulk in their forwards and, on the day, their tackling was not as crisp as it usually is or needed to be. However, their first losing bonus point of the campaign keeps their aspirations still alive.
TRINITY COLLEGE:- J.O’Donoghue; N.Hanratty, A.Robles, P.Lavelle, N.Adeolokan; C.Marsh, M.McLoughlin (captain); I.Hirst, W.Larkin, M.Kelly; C.MacDonnell, J.Kelly; P.Dargan, B.du Toit and J.Dilger. Replacements:- W.Scott (for MacDonnell, h/t), S.Pitman (for M.Kelly, h/t), C.Wade (for Robles, inj. 54 mins), A.Lloyd (for Adeolokan, 72 mins) and G.Blackburn.
BUCCANEERS:- C.Boland; B.Henshaw, C.Finn, A.Hayman, C.FitzGibbon; J.Carty, M.Dolan; M.Staunton, G.Halligan, J.Roets; J.Tormey, R.Byrne; L.Satchwell, D.Heffernan and E.Grace. Replacements:- M.Fifita (for FitzGibbon, h/t), K.Kiripati (for Byrne, 51 mins), P.Reilly (for Roets, 66 mins), D.Higgins and B.Digby.
REFEREE:- Olly Hodges (IRFU).
BUCCS Women capture League title!
BUCCANEERS 13 SLIGO 7
BUCCANEERS WOMENS squad proved too hot for Sligo as they wrestled the Connacht Womens League title from the north-westerners by defeating the holders more comprehensively than the 13-7 margin indicates after a good final played at Ballyhaunis on Saturday afternoon. The Buccs ladies were dominant from the off and, apart from a late rally by Sligo, the winners looked comfortable throughout.
With Buccs going well in the Leinster Cup and Sligo recent winners in the Ulster Cup, confidence was high in both camps. But the Buccettes signalled their intent from the off to force the pace and dominate territorially for the vast portion of a tough decider played in fine conditions on a sandy-based pitch. Elaine Conlon displayed her versatility when operating at prop with Emer Phelan retaining the No.8 berth. Sinead Taylor and Colette McSpadden, both absentees last week, returned to play key roles in the centre.
Tackling was tight throughout and both teams fared well at setpieces but Buccaneers had a sharper cutting edge although it took them until the 17th minute to open the scoring when Emma Treanor slotted over a penalty. Taylor then made a typically barn-storming break from her own 22, handing off four attempted tackles enroute to a magnificent 29th minute solo try that gave the Athlone girls, who missed one long-range penalty, an 8-0 half-time advantage.
Buccaneers continued to force the pace on the resumption and Niamh Ni Dhroma, try poacher supreme, added another touchdown to her growing collection when she squeezed through in the third quarter to stretch over the Sligo line. This gave Buccs a 13-0 lead that should have been greater as two kickable penalties in this period were spurned while Yvonne O’Shea went close with a promising break. Sligo did not relish losing their title so readily and they battled on gamely, and a 71st minute try at the posts was converted to set up an edgy finish. However, Buccs maintained their composure and shape to deservedly take the honours.
Try scorers Taylor and Ni Dhroma received best support in the backline from McSpadden. Mele Kiripati led by typical example in the front row exchanges, Treanor was a tower of strength at No.8 and Myriam Borque-Cascajo was as busy as a bee around the fringes. All in all, it was a very decent all-round squad effort by Buccaneers that reaped it’s due reward as they captured the League crown in only their second season to add to last year’s Cup triumph. Congratulations to all involved in this historic success.
BUCCANEERS:- N.Ni Dhroma;, A.Kelleher, S.Taylor, C.McSpadden, N.Gough; E.Treanor, S.Hynds; A.M.Sleator, M.Kiripati (captain), E.Conlon; N.Egan, C.Moore; M.Borque-Cascajo, S.O’Shea and E.Phelan. Replacements:- A.Kemmy (for Egan), Y.O’Shea (for Borque-Cascajo), A.Taaffe (for Kelleher) and M.Devaney (for Gough).
BUCCANEERS 38 THOMOND 13
BUCCANEERS U-21s returned to winning ways when they defeated Thomond 38-13 in their South-West Conference League game at Dubarry Park on Saturday. Conditions were ideal for this Section A fixture and Buccs were well on top until they dropped their focus and workrate in the closing stages.
Buccs quickly got on the scoreboard with Rossa Taylor finishing off a fine backline move for a 6th minute try. Later in the half, Paul Maxwell broke from a ruck for the homesters second try, both of which Jack Feeney converted for a 14-3 lead. A gritty Thomond battled gamely in the opening half and they caught the midlanders napping before the break when they quickly tapped a penalty to forge a converted try that left them 14-10 in arrears at the interval.
Buccs kicked on following the restart with Ben Carty putting the finishing touch to a slick backs move when he dummied neatly for the Pirates third try. Substitute Ryan Sheridan then bashed his way through for a brace of tries and Feeney maintained his 100% success rate with the conversions as well as landing one penalty while a solitary penalty is all the Limerick outfit could muster in this period. The exchanges got a bit scrappy in the final quarter but Buccs, with notable contributions by Feeney and Carty in the backs as well Michael Mannion, Josh O’Rourke and Maxwell in the pack, were well worth their bonus point victory.
BUCCANEERS:- R.Taylor; R.Pepper-Hobbs, B.Carty, T.Clifford, R.O’Reilly; J.Feeney, R.Corcoran; B.Teape, S.Flanagan, C.Flynn; M.Mannion, J.O’Rourke; J.Donoghue, P.Maxwell and A.Connaughton (captain). Replacements:- E.Kelly (for Flynn), E.O’Reilly (for Pepper-Hobbs), G.Costello (for Corcoran), N.Carr (for Mannion), C.O’Reilly (for Taylor) and R.Sheridan (for Clifford).
OUGHTERARD 20 BUCCANEERS 23
BUCCANEERS THIRDS continue to set the pace atop the Connacht J2 League but they took their collective feet off the pedals a shade too early and almost paid the price at Oughterard before prevailing 23-20 on Sunday.
Despite a lack of recent matches, Buccs did not show too many signs of rustiness for the opening hour after which they led 23-6. They opened the scoring following a quickly tapped penalty after only 6 minutes when Gerry Glynn popped the ball to Mossy Turley who crashed over for a try. Nicky Purcell added the second, breaking from the back of a scrum and giving two dummies for a snappy try. There was good handling in the lead up to Keith O’Neill’s try and the fullback kicked one conversion to put Buccs 17-3 ahead at halftime.
As Buccs continued to dominate a physical contest, Darren Costello added a pair of penalties but then Oughterard capitalised when Buccs eased off the throttle in the final quarter. Two late home tries almost yielded an upset result but Buccs held on to maintain top spot in the league table with just one game remaining. Liam Doran, skipper Glynn and Nigel Flynn were pick of the pack while Peter Smith, Sean Flynn and Purcell were best of the backline.
BUCCANEERS:- K.O’Neill; J.Bonnar, P.Smith, S.Flynn, M.Tormey; D.Costello, N.Purcell; P.Rikadze, K.Grehan, L.Doran; V.McGrath, D.Dunning; G.Glynn (captain), N.Flynn and T.Turley. Replacements:- C.Shanley, S.Byrne and Leo Aadic.
BUCCANEERS 13 BALLINASLOE 36
A seasoned Ballinasloe outfit proved too much of a handful for a young, light Buccaneers Development Squad in this Connacht Junior 1B League game at sunny but cold Dubarry Park on Sunday where the visitors came out on top by a 36-13 margin.
The big game in Athlone this weekend is the ‘Electric Ireland’ U-20 Six Nations Championship showdown between Ireland and France in Dubarry Park on Friday night, kick off 7.45 pm. (See separate article).
Meanwhile, Buccaneers U-21s have a long haul to Cork on Saturday where they face Highfield in the South-West Conference League. Kick off in the city’s western suburbs is scheduled for 2.30 pm but that may be changed due to the Six Nations matches. Buccs Development Squad are away to Creggs in the Connacht Junior 1B League on Sunday. Apart from leaders Castlebar, this league is fairly congested and the Pirates really need to salvage something from this game, which won’t be easy at The Green. Kick off 3 pm. The Thirds complete their Connacht J2 League schedule with a home game to second placed Corinthians. A home victory will guarantee the title for Buccs but the Galway outfit, with a game in hand, still have designs on the silverware so a very competitive joust is anticipated from 3 pm. Finally, Buccaneers Women are on the road again, into uncharted territory this time as they journey to Carlow for a Leinster Cup encounter. Carlow are a Division One side in the east province so this will be a step up for the Buccettes. But the Athlone girls love nothing better than a challenge and, if their Connacht League title win celebrations have not been too hectic, they can be counted on to give Carlow a decent run for their money!
BAG PACKING THIS WEEKEND
BAG PACKING in aid of Buccaneers youth rugby takes place in Dunnes Stores, Irishtown, this Thursday, Friday and Saturday. Volunteers to help are always welcome and those willing to help should contact our Administrator Geraldine at 0861732711.
Deepest sympathy is extended to the family of the late Sean (Jack) Flanagan.
IRELAND tackle ENGLAND in Athlone on Friday night
IRELAND take on champions England in an ‘ELECTRIC IRELAND’ U-20 Six Nations Championship clash at Dubarry Park, Athlone, on this Friday night, February 8th. Kick off time is 7.35 p.m.
This battle with the ‘old enemy’ always draws a bumper crowd to the compact Athlone venue. It’s central location and ease of access from the M4 motorway ensures it is an easy reach from the broader midlands as well as from Dublin and Galway for one of sports great rivalries.
Ireland have a wonderful record in Dubarry Park over the past six seasons and a new-look squad will be greatly encouraged by the recent Junior World Cup victory over England that helped secure a highest ever finish in that tournament. Luke McGrath, Stuart Olding and Josh van der Flier are the only survivors from that competition in South Africa last summer. Nevertheless, an inexperienced Ireland was unlucky to lose 17-15 away to Wales in the opening round last Friday. The Principality had eight survivors from last season’s campaign so were the much more experienced outfit.
Yet Ireland really put it up to their hosts with team captain McGrath putting in a ‘Man of the Match’ effort at scrumhalf. Olding also shone as did centres Tom Daly and Rory Scannell while outhalf Steve Crosbie had some good moments. Lock John Donnan, hooker George McGuigan and No.8 Conor Joyce were prominent in an Irish pack that struggled sometimes in the setpieces. Coach Mike Ruddock admitted that Ireland “need to work on their scrummage and also cut down on the penalty count” but he noted “there were a lot of positives from continuity to tackling”.
Connacht and midlands sports followers will be hopeful that Buccaneers rising starlet Robbie Henshaw will start on his home ground against England. The Athlone teenager was rested last week after a hectic season of over 20 matches to date. He would certainly add to the ‘electricity’ if selected and would likely start at fullback which could release the more composed Olding to his preferred outhalf role. Corinthians David Panther did well in his brief stint and he could well replace the slight Alex O’Meara on the wing.
See the stars of the future!
When England last played in Dubarry Park, Stuart Lancaster was their coach and his graph continues on an upward curve now with the Senior squad. He has not been slow to tap in on that U-20 squad and four of the players involved in 2011 played in England’s recent landmark victory over the All Blacks! Owen Farrell, Joe Launchbury, Maku Vunipola and Jonathan Joseph are the quartet, the first three also starting in last Saturday’s Calcutta Cup win over Scotland. Tom Youngs and Danny Care are two others who come to mind who have featured at U-20 level in Athlone in recent seasons as have Craig Gilroy, Simon Zebo, Jonathan Sexton, Conor Murray, Cian Healy, Peter O’Mahony, Sean O’Brien and Keith Earls, all eight of whom played in Ireland’s exciting win over Wales at the weekend. So, if you want to see the rugby stars of the future, then Dubarry Park is the place to be on next Friday night!
Tickets are now on sale at The Bounty for this highly attractive match. Family tickets are good value at €30 for 2 adults and 2 children in the covered terrace. Stand tickets cost €20 each and are selling steadily already as is the pre-match function where you can enjoy a 3-course meal with wine and also have a reserved seat in the stand for only €40 per person. Group bookings welcome. All pre-match function and/or match ticket enquiries/bookings to Geraldine at 086-1732711.