BUCCS BOUNCE BACK TO WINNING WAYS

 

RUGBY with MICHAEL SILKE

 

BALLYMENA 13 BUCCANEERS 17

 

BUCCANEERS maintained their good away record when defeating Ballymena 17-13 in their Ulster Bank League Division 1B encounter at Eaton Park, Ballymena, on Saturday. Although the midlanders were worthy winners, their margin should have been more comprehensive as they squandered gilt-edged opportunities either side of halftime against the still winless hosts.

 

The Pirates, making five changes in personnel from the previous week’s home defeat, took some time to dominate despite the assistance of the strong, biting breeze. In the pack Garrett Halligan and Martin Staunton started in the front row while James Tormey was reinstated at lock. Due to prior commitments, John O’Brien was unable to travel with the team and thus Shane Layden switched to full back with fit again Mark McCrea making his first appearance of the season on the wing while Mark Dolan returned at scrumhalf after illness.

Ballymena had the better early territory before Jack Carty opened the scoring with an 11th minute penalty but the Athlone side failed to make decent use of the downfield wind that assisted them in the opening half. Both sides had half chances with McCrea just being unable to latch on to a smart diagonally kicked penalty but the winger could have coughed up a try moments later when his quickly taken throw-in was almost fastened on to by Alan Smith. Callum Boland then set the game alight with a wonderful break that carved the Braidmen apart and Alex Hayman was up in support to score an excellent 29th minute try which Carty converted.

This gave the visitors a 10-0 lead that they held at half-time but they should have added a brace of tries before the break. A wonderful flowing move on 32 minutes saw Buccs with a two-man overlap but a careless forward pass ruined what should have been a certain score while, in the final move of the half, referee Nigel Correll whistled back winger Boland for what he deemed a forward pass that (from my position on the home goal-line) looked legitimate. Eoghan Grace also made a terrific break but lacked support to punish Ballymena who were stretched at that stage, the pressure resulting in Martin Irwin being sin-binned for ‘slowing’ possession on 38 minutes.

With the elements including a low sun favouring Ballymena in the second half, Buccs lead looked tenuous. Nevertheless, the Pirates strove forward on the restart to pile further pressure on the northerners and Carty and Boland both got close but could not breach the home line while a straight-forward close-in penalty was tapped to touch without reward. The Athlone outfit was very much the dominant force at this stage but, with Ballymena not conceding while numerically depleted, the homesters began to make some inroads and Niall Martin kicked two penalties in quick succession at the end of the third quarter to narrow their arrears to 10-6.

But Buccaneers replied in style, Grace once more storming forward to link up with the returning Halligan whose off-load sent centre Hayman scampering through for his second fine try. This experienced trio were key to Buccs prevailing in this contest between two mainly young squads. Carty added a splendid conversion to this 62nd minute touchdown but Ballymena continued to battle in search of a first league win. Buccs then showed some nerves with both Carty and Layden uncertain in dealing with a couple of long kicks. With substitute John Burns prominent, the home side upped their endeavours to put pressure on the Pirates whose hooker Halligan was yellow-carded 13 minutes from time for ‘killing possession’. Almost immediately, a penalty try was awarded somewhat precipitately to Ballymena and outhalf Martin’s conversion tightened the scoreboard to 17-13.

A good break by Conor Finn steadied Buccaneers and they held their composure to hold off the Ulster side’s late challenge and thus earn a victory that really should have been a lot more comfortable in coach Hendrik Marnitz’s final game in charge. The busy Dolan kept the home defence guessing while Daniel Qualter had his best game to date at lock. David Heffernan was especially prominent in the first half while the front row effort was more solid on this occasion as Buccaneers collectively displayed much more urgency and enterprise from start to finish for a worthy win.

BUCCANEERS:- S.Layden; M.McCrea, A.Hayman, C.Finn, C.Boland; J.Carty, M.Dolan; M.Staunton, G.Halligan, J.Roets; J.Tormey, D.Qualter; D.Heffernan, E.Grace (captain) and L.Satchwell. Replacements used:- P.Reilly (for Staunton, h/t), R.Byrne (for Tormey, inj. 44 mins), M.Staunton (for Roets, 56 mins), J.O’Brien (for Layden, 66 mins), E.O’Brien (for Satchwell, 67 mins) and S.Layden (for Finn, 74 mins).

BALLYMENA:- T.Small; A.Smyth, P.Budina, M.Irwin, D.Montgomery; N.Martin, S.Gibson; A.Warick, J.Andrew, M.Irving; I.Caldwell, D.Whann; M.Rea, A.Hamilton and S.Mulholland. Replacements used:- C.Cundell (for Irving, 24 mins), J.Burns (for Andrew, inj. 30 mins) and M.Irving (for Whann, 39 mins).

REFEREE:- N.Correll (Leinster).

 

GARRYOWEN 17  BUCCANEERS 0

BUCCANEERS U-21s will be disappointed not to have salvaged something from their South-West Conference League Section A encounter away to Garryowen on Saturday when the homesters prevailed 17-0. Wind and rain at Dooradoyle meant for a scrappy affair with the team making least mistakes likely to take the spoils. Unfortunately, Garryowen took the breaks here, plundering their three tries from errors by the young Pirates. Otherwise, it was a fairly even contest with Buccs picking and driving to good effect. They were out of luck too when Ray O’Reilly was held up over the home line so came away empty-handed despite the brave endeavours of Ross Moony-Enraght, Paul Maxwell and Ben Carty against one of the fancied sides in this league.

BUCCANEERS:- T.Clifford; J.Feeney, R.Taylor, R.Sheridan, R.O’Reilly; B.Carty, R.Corcoran; S.Meunargia, S.Flanagan, D.Higgins; J.Donoghue, J.O’Rourke; R.Moony-Enraght, P.Maxwell and A.Connaughton (captain). Replacements used:- E.Kelly, J.Gormley, D.Lynch and G.Costello.

 

SLIGO 7  BUCCANEERS 42

BUCCANEERS THIRDS were not bothered by the wind, wet and cold at Hamilton Park, Strandhill, where they completely dominated Sligo Seconds to win their Connacht Junior 2 League meeting by 42-0 on Sunday. Buccs dominated all facets from the start against a Sligo outfit that never really threatened. They notched a “magnificent seven” tries with skipper Gerry Glynn leading by example as he grabbed a brace. Keith Grehan, Nigel Flynn, Mark Tormey and Damien Kelly also touched down as did Keith O’Neill and the evergreen fullback also added one conversion and a penalty. Nicky Purcell got in on the scoring act too by contributing a conversion. Glynn, Grehan and Trevor Thompson were pick of a dominant pack with backs Tormey and O’Neill making best use of the regular possession served up.

BUCCANEERS:-  K.O’Neill; D.Smith, D.Kelly, S.Flynn, M.Tormey; P.Smith, N.Purcell; T.Thompson, K.Grehan, L.Doran; D.Dunning, G.Kenny; G.Glynn (captain), N.Flynn and S.Byrne. Replacements:- C.Galvin, T.Couper, R.Silke, J.Coughlan, S.Warren, K.Dunne, R.Mahon, V.McGrath and K.Langdon.

 

MONIVEA 7  BUCCANEERS 52

BUCCANEERS put in a tremendous team performance when dishing out a 52-7 defeat to Monivea in their Connacht U-19 League meeting at The Castle Grounds, Monivea, on Sunday. Conditions were really testing on a pitch that cut up badly but these young Buccs were in rampant mood as they hit Monivea for seven tries. Ross Moony-Enraght was the star of the show with Conor McGrath also doing well in the forwards exchanges while Eoghan O’Reilly and Sean Dempsey were pick of an inventive backline where Ben Carty was in impressive kicking form. Six of Buccs tries were scored by backs. Eoghan O’Reilly pounced for a pair with Dempsey, Carty, Sean Doyle and substitute Robert McMickan also touching down. The ubiquitous Moony-Enraght completed the try haul and Carty converted all seven tries and landed a penalty.  

BUCCANEERS:-  M.O’Reilly; E.O’Reilly, B.Carty, S.Dempsey, H.Hughes; S.Doyle, R.Ashe; J.Gormley, C.McGrath, S.Gallagher; P.Hennessy, C.Morrissey; E.Galvin, R.Moony-Enraght and S.Flanagan. Replacements:-  I.Costigan, G.Murtagh, B.Gilligan, T.Finucane and R.McMickan.

 

BUCCS HOME TO BRUFF ON FRIDAY NIGHT

 

BUCCANEERS take on Bruff in the fifth round of the Ulster Bank League Division 1B at Dubarry Park, Athlone, on Friday night with this floodlit game kicking off at 7.30 p.m.

 

Surprisingly, the Pirates have lost their two home fixtures whilst winning ‘on the road’. With new coach Tony Dolan taking over the reins, the players need to step up on home form. This they are well capable off but need to be more clinical, energetic and disciplined from start to finish. Kolo Kiripati is still troubled by a persistent injury but will be keen to be involved on Friday night. However, the side showed sparks of what they are capable of at Ballymena and will be keen to open the gap further between Buccs and the sides struggling at the wrong end of the league table. With sustained focus and application, Buccaneers should prevail but canny Bruff can always be counted on to battle to the bitter end.

BUCCANEERS DEVELOPMENT SQUAD face a local derby away to Ballinasloe in the Connacht Junior 1B League on Sunday, kick off 2.30 p.m. Buccs lie second in the league table but the Moher Road men are a better outfit than their league standing indicates as they have lost a number of matches by very close margins. A tight clash is anticipated and discipline may be crucial.

BUCCANEERS THIRDS entertain Westport in the Connacht Junior 2 League at Dubarry Park on Sunday, kick off 2.30 p.m. when the Athlone club will be bidding to consolidate their lead at the top of the table. 

BUCCANEERS WOMENS team get back to on-field action following their holding of a well-attended and enjoyable Table Quiz last Friday. They travel to Tuam on Sunday for a Connacht Womens League duel and should have the wherewithal to maintain their winning sequence.

TONY DOLAN APPOINTED SENIOR COACH

TONY DOLAN has been appointed Senior Coach at Buccaneers RFC and takes immediate charge of team affairs. He was an interested observer in Ballymena last Saturday and “is looking forward to the challenge”.

Tony is a highly respected coach, both at the club and throughout Connacht. He was joint manager with Jude Lennon when Buccs made an immediate successful promotion campaign four seasons ago. He has coached various Connacht underage squads with some success too as well as being a guiding light behind Marist College’s Connacht Senior Schools double last season.

Dolan, whose son Mark plays at scrumhalf for Buccaneers Senior XV, is a regular attendee at most Buccs matches so he is well familiar with their personnel, game style and potential. Some of the more experienced players such as Garrett Halligan, Alex Hayman, James Tormey and Kolo Kiripati have previously played under the coach while most of the younger players in the senior panel have also been coached either on the club or Connacht teams by Tony. He believes there “is tremendous potential and decent skills levels” in the current squad and he expects that with hard work Buccs to be “highly competitive” in their division.

Due to prior work commitments in Germany, Tony will be unavailable for Buccaneers game at home to Bruff on Friday night when assistant Martin Cahill will hold the reins. Some ‘nuts and bolts’ of Tony’s tenure have still to be ironed out at time of writing but it is hoped that his appointment will extend beyond the current season. 

 

LOTTO

The numbers drawn in last week’s Buccaneers Lotto were 1, 22, 29 & 30.

 

CONDOLENCES

 

Deepest sympathy is extended to Kieran and Maura Harten on the death of Maura’s father Joe Mulhern. Condolences also to John Irvine and family on the recent passing of his brother Declan.

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