BUCCANEERS 28  GALWEGIANS 33

 by Michael Silke

BUCCANEERS and Galwegians Seconds teams served up hugely entertaining and committed fare in the Connacht Junior Plate final before a last move of the match try separated the two whole-hearted squads with Wegians prevailing by 33-28 at sun-drenched Galway Sportsground on Easter Sunday.  Buccs will feel they left this one slip away against more seasoned opponents in a decider that warranted larger support from both clubs.

 

Buccs, who got a walkover in the semi-final, made five changes from their quarter-final win over Sligo. Ruairi Byrne returned at lock with Peadar Hennessy and Evan Galvin starting in the backrow while the wing berths went to Dominic Griffiths and Harry Hughes. Galwegians, who had a longer league season and more Cup matches than the midlanders, benefited from their more recent activity and accordingly commenced at a high tempo. In ideal weather and pitch conditions, they dictated the early exchanges and Gearoid Armstrong opened their account with a 6th minute try on the right. They almost added a second try following a Ross Shaughnessy break that was carried on by Armstrong but Hughes tackled to stop progress.

The light blues, playing down the slope, were really dominant in the opening quarter with their bulkier forwards causing steady problems for a primarily younger and lighter Pirates pack. But Buccs snatched an opportunist 19th minute try when Nick Purcell fastened on to loose possession close to his own 22 and the scrumhalf had both the pace and composure to hare up the right flank before touching down for a try at the posts with David Fagan’s conversion giving Buccs a 7-5 lead against the run of play.

But Buccs knocked on from the restart and Wegians made the most of possession and good fortune. They earned a penalty which they punted to touch on the right and, following the lineout, they dinked the ball over the top where Purcell was blatantly impeded as he was about to catch the ball. Referee Shane McElwee was well positioned but, incredibly, let play continue and Armstrong profited to notch his second try near the posts. Shaughnessy converted to put the light blues 12-7 ahead after 23 minutes but the Athlone side surely should have had a relieving penalty instead in this critical incident.

However, Buccaneers were now settling into the contest and their improving territory and possession earned them a brace of penalties which Fagan duly slotted over to edge them 13-12 ahead by the half hour mark. A 37th minute Shaughnessy penalty gave Galwegians a 15-12 halftime advantage although it could have been greater as Paddy Finn (brother of Buccs Conor) made a powerful break down the right flank where Glen Costello did just enough to force the centre put a foot in touch before he could ground the ball.

Buccs began the second half in similar manner to Wegians in the first period and the Pirates applied growing pressure on the Tribesmen. Scott Flanagan made a rousing charge forward that led to a sustained spell close to the Galwegians line and the Shannonsides forced a series of close-in penalties. The light blues scrum was now in trouble and twice the referee whistled a shade prematurely to negate two James Donoghue touchdowns whilst awarding penalties to Buccs in the process! Nevertheless, the pressure paid off when Sean Flynn burrowed through for a 49th minute unconverted try but a Shaughnessy penalty within three minutes levelled the scores at 18-18.

Just two minutes later the referee finally lost patience with Galwegians persistent scrummage infringements and prop Kurtis Kyne was sin-binned. Buccs promptly added to their opponents’ difficulties when, following good lineout possession won from the resultant penalty to touch, Brian Campbell drove forward and when the ball was recycled Flanagan surged through for a well-taken unconverted try. The midlanders now looked like getting the upper hand but a Shaughnessy penalty just before the hour mark stemmed the tide.

Then Buccs conceded a penalty in a promising position and, following the placekick to touch near halfway, Wegians put their best move of the game together switching play from right to left and Ronan Burke joined the line to score a smashing 63rd minute try, matched by Shaughnessy’s conversion, for a 28-23 lead. Hughes soon made a good break for Buccs but the final pass lacked precision and the game remained finely balanced approaching the closing minutes. Then Galvin turned over possession near halfway and Fagan made a snipe before grubber kicking ahead. Hughes won the race for possession to ground the ball wide on the left for a 76th minute try but Fagan was off-target with a third successive conversion. This left the match deadlocked at 28-28 and extra time looked inevitable.

But from the restart, Buccs were penned inside their own 22 and just could not clear their lines and, eventually, Wegians snaffled possession on the right before smartly moving the ball to the opposite wing where substitute Michael O’Hare emerged the hero when dotting down for the match-winning score in the final move of an absorbing contest. It mattered not a whit to Galwegians that Shaughnessy’s conversion fell short as the City side took the honours on a 33-28 margin after a high-scoring decider.

Buccaneers were justifiably aggrieved that Galwegians second try was allowed — it proved the difference between the sides — but they will also rue poor tackling early on and, more crucially, too many unforced errors throughout a contest in which they gave as good as they got after taking the opening quarter to get to the pitch of the duel. Promotion in the league was their primary goal and they achieved that. Now they know what they have to do when they square up to sides such as this Wegians outfit next season. The margins were finite and Buccs can take great heart from their performance in what was a highly commendable final.

BUCCANEERS:- G.Costello; D.Griffiths, S.Flynn, B.Walsh, H.Hughes; D.Fagan, N.Purcell; K.Grehan, S.Flanagan, B.Campbell; R.Byrne, S.Byrne (captain); P.Hennessy, E.Galvin and J.Donoghue. Replacements:- B.Pears (for Walsh, h/t),  N.Flynn (for Hennessy, 63 mins), G.Fallon (for Purcell, 63 mins), R.Grenham, K.Langdon, J.Lopez and M.Lyons.  

GALWEGIANS:- R.Burke; G.Armstrong, D.Symes (captain), P.Finn, S.Madden; R.Shaughnessy, D.Quill; C.Gavin, C.Dunne, K.Kyne; S.Perkins, C.O’Malley; E.Touhey, R.Moore and E.Hannon. Replacements:- M.Fox (for Gavin, h/t), C.Mackey (for Finn, inj. h/t), L.McKnight (for Perkins, 61 mins), M.O’Hare (for Madden, 70 mins) and A.Byrne (for Hannon, temp. 57/64 mins).        

Referee:- Shane McElwee (Connacht).

 

BUCCANEERS 3  SLIGO 13

 

Despite a strong start, Buccaneers Womens team were unable to maintain their impetus against a better balanced and more rounded Sligo side who claimed the Connacht Womens Invitational Cup by 13-3 at Galway Sportsground on Saturday.

 

With Saturday being a work day, Buccs were short a number of players including Christine Mannion and Aislinn Kelleher while Mele Kiripati was another absentee due to a bereavement. Nevertheless, their rejigged side started brightly and spent lots of time inside the Sligo 22 and indeed much of that within ten metres of the north-westerners’ line. Emer Phelan looked like getting an early try but came to ground tantalisingly short of the line and, following this initial dominant spell, all Buccs had to show for their efforts was a Colette McSpadden penalty.

Gradually, Buccs line speed and shape fell off and Sligo began to take control, primarily through the promptings of Ruth Godwin. Buccs tackling was not what it needed to be in a final and they will be somewhat disappointed that they did not do themselves full justice on the occasion. Skipper Phelan led by example but could perhaps have been even more effective had she been more direct at times. Dona Cromar carried well in the forwards exchanges. Busy fullback Michelle Reynolds also excelled and Niamh Gough got through a lot of work.

Nevertheless, the Buccaneers ladies can take considerable credit from a season in which they have regrouped and rebuilt. They may have no silverware to show for their endeavours but they reached both the League and Cup finals, no mean achievements indeed. A lot of girls new to rugby have gained invaluable experience that will stand the squad in good stead for next season.

BUCCANEERS:- M.Reynolds; E.O’Brien, F.Cooney, S.Griffin, N.Gough; C.McSpadden, H.Kilduff; T.Finnerty, S.Kelly, K.Hynes; D.Cromar, K.Bradley; D.Farrell, A.Kemmy and E.Phelan (captain). Replacements:- M.Devaney, T.Kiernan, L.Stuart-Trainor, R.Jordan and G.Goldrick.

 

 

FIRSTS AWAY TO BALLYMENA

BUCCANEERS face a long round-trip to Eaton Park on Saturday to play Ballymena in their final Ulster Bank League fixture of the season, kick off 2.30 p.m. Both teams have little to play for at this stage apart from pride. Ballymena’s bid for a promotion berth faded in the run-in and they lie in fourth position, ten points behind third placed Dublin University and ten ahead of Belfast Harlequins in fifth. After a promising start, Buccs hopes petered out too primarily due to dismal home form. They are currently in sixth place in Division 1B, their lowest for a number of seasons, and are four points behind Quins, who are away to Trinity. The Pirates will need favourable results to move up a slot but they will nevertheless have some incentive in acquiring points as they will be keen not to be over-hauled by Shannon (who play at Malone) on the final day. However, Ballymena looked a decent side when winning at Dubarry Park and its likely the Pirates will come home empty-handed from this raid up North. 

 

U-2O’s Cup Semi-final at Galwegians

BUCCANEERS and Galwegians square up to one another again in the semi-final of the Connacht U-20 Cup at Crowley Park, Galway, on Saturday. Wegians endured a torrid Donal Walsh Trophy campaign, including a heavy home defeat by the Athlone club. They secured just one win but that was a fairly decent victory over Garryowen in their final outing so Buccs must not underestimate the Tribesmen. In games between these rivals, form can go out the window and often there is little between the sides. However, this Buccs squad will be eager to have something to show from a pretty good season and they look to have a better balanced squad that has the greater potential. This Glenina showdown has a 12 noon kick-off prior to the big AIL encounter there between Galwegians and Garryowen. 

 

Bag Pack volunteers needed

BUCCANEERS have two days of bag-packing at Smith’s Supervalu, Monksland, on Friday and Saturday, April 17th and 18th. Volunteers from all adult and youths teams are sought for this venture.

 

Congratulations

Congrats to Luke Carty and Conor Kenny who played with Ireland U-18 Clubs and Ireland U-19’s respectively over the Easter period. Well done too to Athlone Institute of Technology on retaining the Ireland Colleges Senior Cup crown. 

 

Condolences

Deepest sympathy is extended to Hugh Campbell and family on the death of his mother Rosanna.

 

 

 

 

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