Conor Finn300BUCCS CLINCH PLAY-OFF BERTH

RUGBY with MICHAEL SILKE

BUCCANEERS 24  U L BOHEMIAN 23

BUCCANEERS clinched the Ulster Bank League Division 1B play-off berth when they pipped fellow contenders U.L.Bohemian 24-23 in an exhuberant contest at sunny Dubarry Park, Athlone, on Saturday. Not for the first time this season, the Pirates left it late to pillage the spoils with Jack Carty converting his own 73rd minute try to edge out a UL Bohs outfit after a lively tussle.

Buccs made three enforced changes for this ‘winner takes all’ duel. Back row forwards Luke Satchwell and Mata Fifita were ruled out through injury while Steve Macauley had departed to New Zealand (along with another regular Peter Reilly) on a ill-timed ‘secondment’ by Connacht. Sam McCormack joined fit again Conor Kindregan in the backrow while Conor Finn returned in the centre with Shane Layden switching to the wing for this ‘Glasson Country House Hotel & Golf Club’ sponsored match.

With two youthful squads in opposition on a firm sod in dry conditions, the exchanges were always going to be lively despite the diagonal breeze from the west. UL Bohs were quick to capitalise on this and, after some early flurries, Shane Airey (who had scored a super drop goal when the sides met earlier in the season) repeated the feat after 4 minutes. But it took Buccs just a minute to strike back with Mark Dolan somehow conjuring up space to dink an inviting ball over the cover for Layden to chase and dive over wide on the left for the opening try which Carty could not convert.

Six minutes later, Danny Qualter won lineout possession to set Kolo Kiripati rumbling in unopposed for Buccs second try on the left with Carty’s conversion not awarded after some consultation by the match officials. 10-3 to Buccaneers but now it was UL Bohs turn for a prompt retort and Robbie Bourke surged in on the right to touchdown within three minutes. Again another conversion went abegging.

The Limerick side’s scrumhalf Tim Rafferty was yellow-carded four minutes later when he deliberately knocked on to spoil a Buccs overlap on the right. Carty’s resultant penalty was carried wide by the fresh breeze. But the midlanders made their temporary numerical superiority pay when, following a fine Kindregan drive forward, Kiripati was in support to grab his second try. Carty had the first successful placekick of the afternoon when he converted this 24th minute touchdown.

The kicking woes of both sides continued when Bourke’s 28th minute penalty drifted wide of the near upright but, from the restart, Ed Kelly made good ground for the visitors and Ireland U-20 No 8 Jack O’Donoghue finished off the move for an unconverted try on the right. Halftime arrived with Kiripati in the sin bin (also for a knock on deemed to be deliberate) and the Athlone side 17-13 to the good.

However, within two minutes of the restart, Darren Moloney sailed through a gap wide enough for Noah’s Ark as a gulf opened in the home defence. His try at the posts was converted by Airey to put UL Bohs back in the lead. Six minutes later, visiting skipper Kelly was fortunate that his spear-like tackle on Garreth Halligan did not incur at least a yellow card. The wind was not as great a factor in the second half and Carty’s resultant penalty looked true but was not awarded.

Despite being back to a full complement, Buccaneers were struggling to impose themselves on the proceedings. They looked in real trouble when Airey’s 64th minute penalty nosed the Munster outfit 23-17 ahead. A quickly tapped penalty by Layden roused some momentum and raised the encouragement from the crowd. Finally, Buccs got some territory as they held on to possession in a more measured manner for a spell and the busy Conor Finn, who had spoiled some promising work by taking on a bit too much, began to make his presence felt. Seven minutes from time, he was in the vanguard of a well-worked attack that stretched the visitors’ defence and Carty, who had by his own standards made a disappointing contribution, showed class and composure to wrong-foot the UL cover for a smartly taken bonus point try. His conversion then secured the vital victory, although the Pirates had to survive a real scare in the dying moments when Airey blazed a penalty wide from a very kickable position.

In a game that was akin to a ‘Sevens’ match, this was not one of Buccaneers better performances as they too often lacked structure and precision. It was wildly exciting albeit loose stuff and must have been infuriatingly frustrating for both teams’ coaches. Scores came too easily early on and, indeed, the winners had a blank scoring gap of almost 50 minutes. Finn’s industry and endeavour warranted his ‘AUDI ATHLONE Man of the Match’ accolade. Layden was a threat in possession, Billy Henshaw was solid throughout and substitute Ger O’Connor also contributed well. In the forwards battle, Kiripati and Qualter worked hard and replacement Evan Galvin will be happy with his participation. O’Donoghue is a class act for UL Bohs and Kelly put himself about in the forwards exchanges while Sam Sterling and Moroney were pick of the losers backline.

With Corinthians coming acropper at home to Belfast Harlequins, Buccs bonus point win means that neither the Galway club nor UL Bohs can now catch the Pirates in the hunt for the play-off spot. Buccs opponents will not be known until after next weekend’s final round of league fixtures. Currently, Ballynahinch lie second from bottom of Division 1A so it looks like a trip to the Co. Down foothills on Saturday, May 3rd. However, depending on last day results, Dolphin or Young Munster could yet  be the play-off opponents facing Buccs. Meanwhile, Buccaneers travel to champions Terenure College for their final league game at Lakelands Park, Dublin, on Saturday, k.o. 2.30 p.m.                     

BUCCANEERS:- C.Boland; B.Henshaw, C.Finn, A.Hayman (captain), S.Layden; J.Carty, M.Dolan; M.Staunton, G.Halligan, D.Higgins; J.Tormey, D.Qualter; C.Kindregan, S.McCormack and K.Kiripati. Replacements:-  E.Galvin (for McCormack, 43 mins), G.O’Connor (for Dolan, inj. 45 mins),  S.McCormack (for Kindregan, 58 mins), J.Walshe (for Staunton, inj. 67 mins), C.Kindregan (for McCormack, 70 mins) and E.O’Reilly (for Henshaw).

U.L.BOHEMIAN:- D.Moroney; R.Bourke, M.Lawlor, R.Sterling, P.Bolger; S.Airey, T.Rafferty; K.Flanagan, K.O’Byrne, M.Lynch; E.Sweeney, E.Kelly (captain); K.McManus, I.Condell and J.O’Donoghue. Replacements:- R.Buckley (for Sweeney, 22 mins), E.Sweeney (for Buckley, 30 mins), R.Buckley (for Bolger, h/t), J.Sutton (for McManus, 52 mins) and G.Walsh (for Lynch, 60 mins). 

Referee:- Mark Patton (IRFU).

THIRDS LOSE GRIP ON CUP

BUCCANEERS 3  CORINTHIANS 10

CORINTHIANS THIRDS gained swift revenge for their Connacht J2 League final defeat by Buccaneers Thirds when they knocked the holders out of the Ard-Na-Cregg Cup on a 10-3 scoreline at Dubarry Park, Athlone, on Sunday.  A strong breeze blew from end to end on a fine but fresh afternoon and conditions were otherwise good for this much anticipated joust.

Buccs had first advantage of the elements and enjoyed decent territory in the opening quarter. But they lacked a cutting edge on this occasion against opponents clearly fired up after losing their league crown. Corinthians worked the harder in the first half and indeed they had spells of solid territory and possession as the half progressed. The homesters had the first scoring opportunity but Darren Costello’s fifth minute penalty was wide. His second placekick found the range after 24 minutes and he was off-target with a third attempt three minutes later. 3-0 was poor reward for Buccs at that stage and, despite promising snipes by Peadar Hennessy, Karl Turley and Keith Grehan, that’s how it remained at the interval.

Such a slim advantage never looked like being sufficient for the holders but it took Corinthians some time to get a firm foothold in the home half following the resumption. When they did, they found Buccs in more spirited mood as they defiantly kept their line intact during the third quarter. However, the pressure told and the Galway side’s centre got in for a try which Tim Clifford converted. The ex-Buccs Corkonian dropped a neat goal shortly afterwards but the outhalf then missed a trio of penalties from more or less the same position.

This kept Buccs in with a chance but, in reality, they never looked like making a try scoring break. Skipper Costello’s late red card meant little difference to the outcome as the Athlone side were a shadow of the team that dominated the recent league final between these two teams who have built up a healthy rivalry in recent seasons. The lineout did not function, be it the wind or whatever, while Buccs conceded far too many turnovers and their discipline was not what it needed to be . The scoring was unexpectedly low by both teams but Corinthians, much better organised and more purposeful on this occasion, proved worthy 10-3 winners.

BUCCANEERS:-  G.Costello; J.O’Connell, M.Tormey, K.Turley, R.Sweeney; D.Costello (captain), N.Purcell; K.Grehan, M.Lyons, B.Teape; G.Kenny, G.Glynn; K.Kennedy, N.Hyland and P.Hennessy. Replacements:- C.Galvin (for Kenny, h/t), C.Shanley, C.Hennessy, G.Fallon and J.Lopez.

BUCCS TILT AT CHAMPIONS TERENURE

BUCCANEERS finish off this season’s Ulster Bank League Division 1B fixtures list with a tilt at champions Terenure College in Lakelands Park, south Dublin, on this Easter Saturday afternoon. Kick off is 2.30 p.m. Terenure, already guaranteed promotion, will be primed to maintain their 100% winning sequence while Buccs will be equally keen to maintain their momentum and confidence.

College came out on top 13-0 when the sides met in Athlone just before Christmas. Nure acquired all their wind-assisted scores in the opening quarter on that day but Buccs never really got going. They believe it was a winnable match and will wish to prove that on Saturday. Pressure is off the Pirates now as they have secured the coveted play-off spot but pride is at stake for both teams so neither will be easing off just yet.

Terenure are a very well-drilled and effective outfit, highly competitive in all areas and organised. Halfbacks and brothers Mark and Kevin O’Neill make them tick. Flanker James O’Neill (no relation) is an astute skipper and Alex Dunlop and Joey Barretto are two other very able operators in their pack. They are strong in set-pieces particularly lineouts and have a very settled squad.

But Buccs desire will not be found wanting on the back of an impressive six match winning streak, four of them bonus point victories. They were not at their sharpest or cohesive against UL Bohs, yet forged a vital win. Passion and commitment must be shown and, if they are a bit more direct on Saturday, Buccs have the enterprise, pace and potential to trouble Terenure. It will be a tight affair but unlikely to be lacking Easter ‘eggs-citement’!   

Leddy200BUCCS U-16’s CAPTURE LEAGUE TITLE

Buccaneers 22 Ballyhaunis 10

Buccaneers U-16’s, playing in the Connacht U-17 Development League Final, welcomed Ballyhaunis to Dubarry Park on a dry but windy afternoon for the decider. After being beaten by the same opposition a fortnight earlier in the U-17 Development Cup quarter-final, Buccs felt they had a score to settle and so it proved with the Athlone club triumphing by 22-10.   

They started the match enthusiastically and their efforts paid off with a penalty being awarded within kicking range but, in the difficult wind, Thomas McGann missed this early effort. A few minutes later Buccs opened the scoring with a well worked try when outhalf Brian Kenny got the backline moving with a skip pass to Thomas Appelby, who rounded a defender to feed McGann who finished off the move with a try. Buccs scored the conversion to lead 7-0.

Ballyhaunis got back into the game when they moved the ball wide through a number of recycles and got it to their left winger who broke the Buccs defence to score out wide. A fine conversion levelled the scores. Buccs brought the game to Ballyhaunis and dominated possession through strong rucking and solid set pieces, dominating the scrum against a bigger Ballyhaunis pack, while the lineouts also worked well. Ballyhaunis danger men were Darragh Crawley and Ryan Convey, but they didn’t get enough ball to cause real damage.

Buccs scored their second try with 5 minutes to go to half time following a penalty on the Ballyhaunis five-metre line. After sustained pressure, scrum half Dermot O’Rourke fed Kenny who linked with Jordon Murtagh and the flanker crashed over to score a well deserved try. This gave the young Pirates a 12-7 half-time advantage.

Buccs started the second half with the kick-off and kept applying the pressure with strong defence and solid set piece. They scored their third try with a backline move which led to first centre Appelby breaking the Ballyhaunis defence and he was through but for a foot tap tackle. However, Buccs recycled the ball and after a couple of phases, the excellent McGann received possession and with his blistering pace went outside the defence to score out wide. Buccs pack continued to work hard with dynamic captain Darren Buckley and Murtagh tackling like demons as well as working hard at the breakdown. Buccs again got the ball out wide to McGann who kicked ahead and trusted his pace in a tight race for the line, with the referee giving the benefit of the doubt to the Ballyhaunis defender with both diving for the ball.

Buccs attacked again a few minutes later when Kyle Higgins made a break and made solid ground. The ball was recycled and got wide to full back Arron Martin who went over in the corner. Ballyhaunis to their credit kept battling and were awarded a penalty 20 metres out in front of the posts. They decided to kick at goal and took their three points. Buccs attacked again but lost the ball out wide and Ballyhaunis broke the hosts’ defence with their winger flying up the line. He would surely have scored only for a crunching tackle from the exciting Martin which summed up the Buccs commitment.

In the end it proved to be Buccs day with a 22 -10 victory to finish the season on a high. Connacht Vice-President Adrian Leddy presented the trophy to victorious captain Darren Buckley.

BUCCANEERS:- Aaron Martin; Taylon Buyukkaya, Thomas McGann, Thomas Appleby, Kyle Higgins; Brian Kenny, Dermot O’Rourke; Cian Malone, Darren Buckley (captain), David Noad; Jimmy Curley, Tadhg Prendergast; Jamie Milling, Jordan Murtagh and Daniel McGlynn. Replacements:- Kalem Byrne, Shane Seery, Eric Fletcher, Cian Morrissey, Robert Teape, Colin Daly, Michael Macken and Daniel Guidan. 

BALLYHAUNIS:- J.Cribben; W.Ganley, P.Caulfield, D.Egan, S.Carrick; R.Convey, C.Reidy; O.Coffey, A.Quinn, M.McDonagh; S.Sutton, S.Tarmey; D.Hunt, M.Freyne and D.Crawley (captain). Replacements:- E.Phillips, M.Mulkeen and B.O’Neill.

Referee:- Diarmuid Morrissey (Connacht).

BEST WISHES

Ferbane’s Conor Kenny became the sixth Buccaneers player to represent Ireland this season when he came on as a replacement in the U-18 European Schools championship win over Georgia. Congrats, Conor!

Good luck to Senior players Peter Reilly and Steve Macauley who have been ‘seconded’ by Connacht to New Zealand for a three-months period. We hope it proves a fruitful sojourn for both players, who were very committed to Buccs.

Best wishes too to Owen Stuart-Trainor and Derry Fitzpatrick following recent spells in hospital.  

RUN-ATHLONE 10k on Saturday week.

The inaugural RUN-ATHLONE 10k takes place on Saturday week, April 26th , starting from Dubarry Park at 11 a.m. On-line Registration is €20 and is now open at www.runireland.com  This race, hosted by Buccaneers RFC and supporting Special Olympics, is open to participants of all levels of fitness. Minimum age for entrants is 18 years. There will be cash prizes for both Male and Female categories, as follows:- 1st €200; 2nd €120 and 3rd €80. For further details, log on to www.buccaneersrfc.com

All runners welcome as are volunteers to help at the run.  

TAG RUGBY starting soon

The TAG RUGBY SUMMER LEAGUE commences next month. Entries are invited from mixed squads to participate in this event, which is growing steadily in popularity in recent summers. Each squad is of 13 players. Teams are 7-a-side and three female players must be on the pitch at all times. Again, Buccaneers website has further information.

PLAYER OF THE YEAR AWARDS EVENT

Another event that is proving very popular is the BUCCANEERS PLAYER OF THE YEAR AWARDS occasion which takes place in The Bounty on Friday, May 9th. Awards will be presented to Senior, U-20s, Womens, Seconds and Thirds players as well as to the Club Person of the Year. Presentations will also be made to Buccaneers players who have been capped by Ireland during the season. Tickets (which are limited) are now on sale in the club at only €25 each for a 3-course meal + wine & music. We know the ladies will ‘glam up’ and the guys are reminded that it is ‘smart dress’ code!  

MINI’S CYCLE

The annual Mini’s Sponsored Cycle is scheduled for Saturday, May 3rd from Dubarry Park.

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