Belfast Harlequins 19 beat Buccaneers 14

Buccaneers (Div1B) suffered their first Ulster Bank League defeat downed 19-14 by Belfast Harlequins over the weekend. Both teams contended with galeforce diagonal winds wreaking havoc across Deramore Park. With Eoghan Grace and Michael Kearney absent on Connacht detail, Padraig de Burca came in at lock while teenager Luke Satchwell made his second start in the backrow.

James Robinson returned after injury in place of Benny Gilligan. Quins welcomed back Michael Allen on the right wing and fielded the monolithic Neil McComb at Number-eight. The midlanders had first dibs on the elements but took far too long to capitalise.

Buccs had plenty of possession in the opening half but tended to over-elaborate and hurry matters. Skipped passes were a constant problem in the breeze and it was some time before outhalf Carty pinned back the northerners with adroit line-kicking. ‘Crossing’ denied Buccs a decent chance after 11 minutes and, from the ensuing penalty, Quins cleared their lines and found a good touch on the right. From lineout possession, they moved the ball smartly and the Pirates were stretched but the combined forces of Shane Layden and Kolo Kiripati forced a Quins knock-on with the visitors’ tryline begging.

Buccs’ scrum was under pressure from a bigger home unit and this led to the opening score of the game, a Michael Heaney penalty on 16 minutes.

At the half-hour mark, Carty lofted a sublime garryowen knocked on by a home defender and teammate Niall Annett retrieved from offside. Carty duly slotted the penalty and levelled the scores. David Heffernan thundered upfield and Callum Boland and Kiripati carried the move on before the ball found Daniel Qualter who powered over in the left corner for a 33rd minute try. Carty was unable to add the extras from wide out.

The Pirates’ points advantage was short-lived however, Rory Scholes earned a penalty for Harlequins (6-8), and shortly after scythed through a yawning gap for a seven-pointer. Half-time arrived 13-8 Harleys. Into the wind and five points down was not an ideal situation, and Buccs came under fire from the outset. Buccs withstood a 10-minute onslaught before introducing Adam Kennedy for Alex Hayman on 50 minutes and gradually regathered momentum, Carty and Layden raking off valuable metres with good clearances. good yardage. Improved ball-retention and short leg-drives from the base of the ruck characterised the spirited Buccaneers fightback.

Carty narrowed the margin to two with a fine penalty, and Martin Staunton replaced Robinson in the front row. The game poised to swing either way, de Burca got himself carded for a high-tackle and former Ireland U-20 Heaney made Buccs pay landing the ensuing penalty. Denis Buckley found himself in the referee’s sights, but poetic justice saw Heaney fail with the three-pointer. Their own worst enemy on occasion, Buccs sent their restart straight into touch and followed that up with an offside. Heaney compensated for his previous strike, and stretched the lead to eight, 19-11. Buccaneers unloaded the bench in a desperate bid to retrieve the situation and battled whole-heartedly to the very end, epitomised by a wonderful 78th minute Layden break that was stopped short. Buccs maintained territory in a hectic finish and their undying efforts gained some reward when, with the final kick of a spirited contest, Carty salvaged a bonus point with an 83rd minute penalty from a daunting position to narrow the margin to 19-14.

Buccs’ impatience, rushed moves, and too many errors in the first half proved costly in hindsight, and struggled to settle into any rhythm. Grace’s absence was telling, especially given the impact McComb had for Harlequins. Heaney’s kicking was top-class in the conditions while Scholes and Allen both troubled Buccs every time they got possession.

Overall, Athlone’s collective display was below par in lihgt of recent history but they never shirked the battle in difficult conditions, their persistent endeavours yielded the campaign’s first bonus point.

BUCCANEERS: J.O’Brien; S.Layden, P.Harte, A.Hayman, C.Boland; J.Carty, M.Dolan; D.Buckley, G.Halligan, J.Robinson; P.de Burca, D.Qualter; D.Heffernan, L.Satchwell and K.Kiripati (captain). (Replacements) A.Kennedy (for Hayman, 50 mins), M.Staunton (for Robinson, 62), S.Stapleton (for Halligan, 77), C.Lavelle (for Boland, 77) and J.Tormey (for Satchwell, 79).

BELFAST HARLEQUINS: R.Scholes; M.Allen, M.Kettyle, W.Stewart, M.Holmes; O.McMurray, M.Heaney; R.Lutton, N.Annett, M.McGrath; G.Rourke (captain), M.Ferguson; P.Rea, L.Babe and N.McComb. Replacements:- R.Logan (for Annett, 40), Annett (for Rea, 50), A.Scott (for Babe, 50), J.Shiells (for McMurray, 78) and D.Creighton (for Heaney, inj. 79).

REFEREE: Dudley Phillips (IRFU).

(contributed – Michael Silke)

BUCCANEERS are at home v Dungannon on Saturday afternoon. Both outfits sit on 19points, their final game pre-Christmas.

Following a two-point penalty and the Belfast loss, Buccs now occupy fourth spot, but are only four short of table-toppers Ballynahinch. Indeed, until last Saturday, Buccs were just one of two clubs with 100% success records but Cashel, (leading Division 2A), now boast that tag alone.

Dungannon, who beat UCC last weekend, boast only a 50% win-loss ratio. Dungannon are top dogs across all boards for bonus point hauls, with seven courtesy of four-try wins and narrow losses. Dungannon have a hardy, handy pack while pace out wide in the backline means the Ulster side has never struggled to score tries. Chris Cochrane is a real danger (wing) as is fullback Conor Gaston. Both are promising players known to Ulster but not as regularly as they might wish this season. Glen Sinnamon, Adam Duhig and Mark Farquhar comprise a seasoned frontrow trio. Ali Birch is a formidable openside while lock Tim Barker could be hugely influential if available.

Buccs made a terrific league start and should not be despondent by last Saturday’s setback. Their young squad boasts promise, and will benefit from senior competition experience from each game together. Connacht is in action on Saturday also and the midlanders will not know until later in the week whether Michael Kearney and/or Eoghan Grace will be available. The more-experienced Grace would be an asset for this contest but Padraig de Burca and James Robinson will both have benefited from First XV duty last weekend and should be sharper as a result. Buccs got everything right, on and off the pitch, against leaders Ballynahinch in their last home match and, hopefully, a near full-strength panel can repeat the dose as the Pirates face Ulster opposition for the third successive fixture. With Buccaneers going so well and playing expansive, entertaining rugby, they promise a decent spectacle for those willing to stray from the fireside.

Admission is €10 (Pirates free with members’ cards) as are accompanied children up to 14.

Other Fixtures

All other Adult fixtures fell victim to the dreadful weather last weekend but the Buccs ladies’ Connacht Womens League game against Tuam has been refixed for Sunday in Dubarry Park. Meanwhile, the Development Squad travel to Gort for a Connacht Junior 1B League joust. Buccs should have the wherewithal to win there and maintain their push for promotion.

This is Buccaneers final league fixture of 2011. It presents an ideal opportunity for supporters to come along to the “pre-match function” as perhaps a Christmas get-together or simply just to show their support of the team. The cost is only €30 per person and that good value price covers a four-course lunch plus wine, a seat in the stand is reserved and a complimentary 100-page souvenir matchday programme. And if the game is on a par with the last outing against Ballynahinch, then it surely is solid value all round. So why not get a group together, either socially or from work?

Incidentally, Buccaneers first home game in the New Year will be a “Friday Night Live” fixture when Buccs and Galwegians renew rivalry under the Dubarry Park floodlights. That Connacht derby takes place on Friday, January 13th at 7.30pm. Contact Geraldine at 086-1732711 to book pre-match tables for either match.

LOTTO The first draw in the club’s LOTTO has taken place with the numbers drawn as follows: 1, 11, 13 and 23. The Jackpot was not won. The LOTTO draw will continue on Tuesday nights. Again, the support of all members, players and supporters is urged for this LOTTO as it is a key and necessary means of fund-raising if the club is to continue providing facilities for and fielding no less than 19 teams. Thank you to all who have already joined.

TABLE QUIZ THIS THURSDAY BUCCANEERS Underage section is holding a table quiz in The Bounty on this Thursday night, December 1st. Entry fee is €40 per team of four. There will be spots and a raffle as well as complimentary finger food. Pre-booking can be made by phoning Geraldine at 086-1732711 or Paddy Kenny at 086-6067630 or just come along on the night in time for the 8.30pm start. All support welcome.

LADIES CHRISTMAS PARTY The traditional Buccaneers Ladies Christmas Party takes place in The Bounty on Friday week, December 9th. There will be a Mulled Wine Reception at 8 p.m. with Dinner scheduled for 8.30pm. Live entertainment will be provided by the legendary Terry Benson. Santa will also be making an appearance! Subscription is €25 (plus bring a small ‘Santa’ present, costing no more than €10). Friends are welcome too. RSVP to our busy Administrator Geraldine at 086-1732711.

INTERNATIONAL TICKETS THE IRFU have recently issued new procedures regarding the payment for International Match Tickets commencing with the forthcoming RBS Six Nations Championship. In effect, following the debacle of over-pricing and packaging of tickets for last year’s Autumn Internationals, the IRFU have priced tickets more realistically but they also do not want to be left with unsold tickets as occurred back then. Consequently, tickets should be available to club members earlier than heretofore but, of course, that means clubs must also pay for them well in advance! Also, while there is no guarantee that the number of tickets ordered by a club will equate with the number supplied by the IRFU, the LOWEST number ordered by a club for any fixture will be the MAXIMUM number that the club can expect in the future. (eg. If a club orders a small number say for the least attractive match, then that is the maximum they can expect for one of the more attractive fixtures in the future). Prices this season will range from €30 up to €75 for Stand, depending on both quality of seat and opposition. The same applies for Family (one adult + one child) tickets which range from €45 to €82.50. There is likely to be an Administrative charge per ticket also. Payment for the Wales game on February 5th is due from the club by December 9th. Payment for the Italy game on February 25th is due from the club by January 13th. Payment for the Scotland game on March 10th is due from the club by January 27th. Thus, requests for International Tickets should be submitted in writing to the club, along with the relevant payment, as soon as possible. Applicants must be fully paid up members of Buccaneers RFC.

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