A physically stronger and more cohesive NUIG-CORINTHIANS wrested the Connacht U-20 Cup from holders Buccaneers on a 35-15 scoreline after a lively decider played in sunny and windy conditions at Galway Sportsground on Sunday. The Galway combination had more aces in their pack against a willing Pirates crew who battled gamely to the bitter end but were always chasing in this encounter.

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With outhalf Graham Lynch and scrumhalf Ricky Dixon out through injury, Charlie McMickan was switched to flyhalf and Patrick Browne made his first start in the key No.9 berth. Lock Conall O’Brien was unavailable with prop Ryan O’Meara moving to the second row and Cillian Walsh returning to the front row after illness. In the firm conditions, Buccs were slow to settle despite having the greater benefit of the blustery breeze.  NUIG-Corinthians were quick to apply pressure down the slope and, following a five-metre scrum, the ball was smartly popped to David O’Mahoney for a 5th minute try in the right corner. Dwayne Corcoran, operating at stand-off instead of Cathal Evans, judged his conversion perfectly to put the challengers 7-0 ahead.

u20f20153Buccs showed their promise four minutes later when Thomas Finucane made a good surge to link up with Harry Hughes who could not get to his own chip ahead. The Buccs scrum was in real bother in the first half and, following a set-piece on the left, NUIG-Corinthians put the ball through hands left to right where Conor O’Sullivan dotted down for a 19th minute try with Corcoran again adding the conversion to make it 14-0.

Buccs tackling for both tries lacked the necessary intent but they were finally getting improved possession and territory that earned a 23rd minute penalty but McMickan’s placekick from the left was never on target. Three minutes later, Finucane then made another typical burst and off-loaded to Sean Doyle but Hughes untypically knocked the fullback’s pass on and a real try chance was spurned. But they opened their account with a 28th minute McMickan penalty earned by the foraging of Evan Galvin.

The Pirates realigned their backline at this stage with McMickan switching to scrumhalf, Doyle to standoff, Hughes at fullback and Bobby Pears coming in on the wing with Browne being withdrawn. Brian Gilligan was to the forefront of some spirited Buccs attacking in the closing stages of the half but the Athlone side was unable to breach staunch covering by the Tribesmen despite tapping a number of close-in penalties and thus they trailed 14-3 at the interval.

Buccs set-piece troubles continued after the change of ends and they were forced back over their own goal line where they tried to play their way out of danger but Craig Hansberry snaffled possession to swoop for a  soft 44th minute try just to the right of the posts that really deflated the Pirates. Corcoran stretched his side’s advantage to 21-3. Finucane’s strong running was finally rewarded on 56 minutes when he finished off his side’s best play of the game for a well-taken try on the right but McMickan could not add the conversion.

u20f20154Then Ross Flanagan erred from the restart allowing the ball to hop over him into touch inside Buccs 22. NUIG Corinthians, through towering locks Thomas Feegan and in particular Peter Claffey absolutely lorded the lineouts from start to finish, and not for the first time they won a Buccs throw to set up Daniel Trayers’ 59th minute try. Corcoran continued his unerring place-kicking with the conversion to stretch the Galway side’s lead to 28-8.

Buccaneers continued to battle and James Foley’s unflinching efforts set a good attack in motion with Pears making ground down the left where Doyle was up in support to apply the finishing touch for a 70th minute try. McMickan’s fine conversion narrowed the arrears to 28-15 but NUIG-Corinthians had an instant riposte when substitute Evans thundered through a trio of tacklers to set up a 73rd minute try on the left for Roy Stanley. Corcoran maintained his 100% success rate with his fifth conversion but he knocked on with a late try chance while the same fate befell O’Meara for the losers in the closing stages.

Buccaneers sorely missed their regular half-back pairing and they would surely have been a much more forceful unit had they had their trio of Ireland U-20 internationals in the pack where they simply lacked the power and bulk of their opponents. Buccs scrum did improve as the game progressed but they were blitzed at lineout time. Foley, Galvin, Finucane and Gilligan did their utmost for Buccs while Claffey, Trayers, Corcoran and Evans were most influential for the winners.

One minute’s silence was observed before the match as a mark of respect for Annie Greene-Fox whose three sons played for Athlone RFC while a grandson Ruairi Greene was a member of the NUIG-Corinthians U-20 squad.   

BUCCANEERS:- S.Doyle; T.Finucane, B.Gilligan, S.Dempsey, H.Hughes; C.McMickan, P.Browne; C.Walsh, C.McGrath, N.Farrelly; R.O’Meara, J.Foley; R.Flanagan, E.Galvin (captain) and C.Morrissey. Replacements:- B.Pears (for Browne, 28 mins), M.Burnell (for Farrelly, inj. 41 mins), C.Kelly (for Walsh, 60 mins) and K.Joncker (for Doyle, inj. 77 mins).

 

NUIG-CORINTHIANS:- P.Griffin; C.O’Sullivan, J.Murray, P.Murphy, J.Olsthoorn; D.Corcoran, D.O’Mahoney (captain); S.Faulkner, M.O’Connell, C.Hansberry; T.Feegan, P.Claffey; P.Ennis, I.Kilcoyne and R.Stanley. Replacements:- D.Trayers (for Ennis, inj. 6 mins),  K.Harty (for O’Connell, inj. 16 mins), C.Evans (for Murphy, inj. h/t),  M.O’Connell (for Harty, 60 mins), S.Casburn-Trahan (for O’Mahoney, 65 mins), M.Donohue (for Feegan, 74 mins) and M.Conneely.

 

Referee:- Daniel Collins (Connacht).

 

ROBBIE NOMINATED FOR THREE AWARDS

ROBBIE HENSHAW has been nominated in three categories of the IRUPA Awards which are coming up shortly. He has been nominated again for the ‘Nevin Spence Young Player of the Year’ award, which he has won for the past two seasons, and is also nominated for the ‘Players Player of the Year’ honour. His try against England is one of three in the running for the ‘Try of the Year’ accolade. Here’s wishing Robbie all the best! 

Meanwhile, Cllr. Aengus O’Rourke has proposed that Robbie be granted a Civic Reception in Athlone and the Council have gladly acceded to this, so expect a celebration of Robbie’s achievements in the near future.

 

YOUTHS AWARDS ON SUNDAY EVENING

On a lower key level but no less important to the Robbie Henshaw’s of the future, Buccaneers Youths and Minis Awards will be presented at The Bounty on Sunday evening. The Minis get the proceedings under way from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. followed by the Youths from 7 p.m. till 9 p.m. There will be a BBQ and DJ music. Subscription is €10 for adults and €5 for Youths/Minis.

 

TABLE QUIZ ON THURSDAY

BUCCANEERS WOMENS team are holding a TABLE QUIZ in The Bounty on this Thursday, April 23rd starting at 8 p.m.  It should be a good night with prizes, spots and finger food. Entry fee is €40 per table of four. All welcome on the night but you can also book your entry in advance by phoning Geraldine at 0861732711.

 

SUMMER TAG LEAGUE

 

The SUMMER TAG LEAGUE will be starting shortly on Thursday, May 21st. It will run for ten weeks and the finals night is scheduled for July 17th. Entries are invited now from teams for this very popular social and sporting event and entry fee is €350 per squad (which can have up to 13 players). Matches are between Mixed teams of 7 players with 3 females playing at all times. It promises to be great craic and the leagues will be organised in “competitive” and “social” sections. Phone Yvonne at 0860488090 to enter and Yvonne also has a supply of special Tag Shorts on sale at only €20 each.

 

CONDOLENCES

 

Heartfelt condolences to the family of Patricia Kelly who passed away at too young an age. Patricia regularly volunteered at underage matches/blitzes and she will be sadly missed by her husband John, children, parents and extended family. Her son Conor plays with Buccaneers U-20 squad.

 

Deepest sympathy is also extended to the family of Annie Greene-Fox, whose three sons James, Robert and Joseph all played for Athlone R.F.C.  James’s son Ruairi plays with NUIG-Corinthians

U-20 team.

May they rest in eternal peace.

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