Rugby with Michael Silke

BUCCANEERS 9 BALLYNAHINCH 14

Adam Kennedy (3 pens). Ryan Bambry (2 pens & 1 con) & Jonny Cullen (try)

The old adage “A good start is half the battle” was well and truly copper fastened at Dubarry Park on Saturday when Ballynahinch laid down a match-winning platform on the base of ten points scored in eleven minutes at the start of this crunch AIB League Division 1B encounter. Hinch grew noticeably in confidence and, more crucially, resolve on the back of securing a lead they never surrendered, despite Buccs having possibly 70% of possession in an absorbing (if often frustrating for the home supporters) duel played in windy and wet conditions in front of a disappointing and disappointed attendance for this Tubbercurry Engineering sponsored match. Thus Ballynahinch made a happy return to the scene of their greatest triumph when winning the AIB Cup crown in Athlone last season.

The home side were again forced to field a quite depleted backline with J.H.Potgeiter, Paul Harte, John O’Brien and Billy Henshaw all ruled out through injury while no Connacht frontliners were available due to the province’s Magners League game in Wales on the following afternoon. However, Buccs cannot on this occasion use these absences as an excuse for Ballynahinch too are enduring a torrid time in respect of injuries and results. Thus it was two understrength sides that battled courageously and with no little commitment to the bitter end in testing conditions. The midlanders had enough possession and territory to win but primarily lacked the necessary guile and pace to outwit or outmanoeuvre a dogged, mainly rearguard display by the northerners.

Buccaneers fielded an unchanged pack but only Conor Lavelle, Alex Hayman and Adam Kennedy retained their starting berths from the previous outing at Dungannon. Sean Stapleton and Gavin Kelly formed a new centre pairing while Marcus Madden and James O’Connell came in on the wings, giving the home side no less than three hookers in their three-quarters line! Hinch too were forced to ring the changes with scrumhalf Harry McAleese lining out at fullback with Jonny Cullen switching to centre, and Mark Scott and David Drake starting in the backline. Stuart Lamb led his pack by example ably assisted by wily prop Chris Stevenson.

Buccs had first benefit of the elements but Ballynahinch drew first blood, Ryan Bambry slotting over a cheap 5th minute penalty after a home player did not roll away after tackling.The home side got a prompt opportunity to respond when a fine Stephen Burke foray forced a penalty but Kennedy’s placekick lacked conviction. He then made a poor clearance that gave Hinch a foothold near the home 22 on 10 minutes and worse was to follow when poor defending allowed the visitors get the ball acrossfield much too easily to Cullen who skinned O’Connell wide on the left for a very soft try. Bambry, whose placekicking is often inconsistent, drilled over an excellent conversion from near the touchline to give his side their early 10-0 cushion.

But Robert Greer did not deal with authority on the restart and Stapleton chasing up forced a penalty which Kennedy converted from the left. Six minutes later the young scrumhalf knocked over another penalty after Hinch were guilty of coming in from the side and the margin was now reduced to 10-6 before the end of the opening quarter. The Co. Down side had a couple of try chances but the Buccs defence was not found wanting after their early lapse and — with Stapleton, Stephen Burke and Lavelle all making big hits – the midlanders were now forcing the pace but they were to rue a real try opportunity in the final move of the half when Padraig Burke cut back infield when his side had an overlap to his right and so the scoreline remained unchanged at halftime.

On the resumption after the break, Kelly lofted an ill-judged garryowen that tempted one of his teammates offside in the opening moments and New Zealander Bambry did not squander this gilt-edged penalty to give the Ulstermen more breathing space. But Buccs were now picking and driving to improving effect and purpose and Ballynahinch were coming under growing pressure. The visitors conceded a number of penalties in quick succession, forcing referee Brian MacNeice to have a brief chat with the Hinch captain Stuart Lamb. Buccs opted to work the touchline to gain a serious foothold inside the northerners 22 but, although they came tantalisingly close on a number of occasions, they just could not forage the try that would surely have turned this game. The fierce pressure seemed sure to be rewarded, especially when Haymen got possession eight metres out on 55 minutes but the strong centre opted to offload when his strength may have carried him through and Stapleton was nailed in possession by a steadfast Hinch defence.

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However, Buccs sustained endeavours finally gained some recompense when Kennedy coolly converted a 62nd minute penalty. Buccs now piled forward relentlessly but handling errors proved costly and a needless over the top dive coughed up another foothold before Ballynahinch finally got their hands on the ball to force a vital turnover to lift the siege two minutes from time.

So, try as they might, Buccs fell short at the bitter end. But, in reality, this game was won and lost in the opening half when Buccs (not for the first time this season) conceded crucial early scores while Ballynahinch were boosted by their quickfire scoring spurt. Buccs had plenty of time and a vast amount of possession thereafter but their lineout work was disappointing on the day, they spilled possession far too readily, and their ploy in booming kicks backfired with too many going dead or straight into touch, frequently keeping Hinch out of their danger zone. To Buccaneers enduring credit, their spirit or commitment never wavered and their second half effort against the elements was much more pragmatic and cohesive, but they just could not fashion a try that would surely have ensured that Buccs would have had more than a Bonus point to show for their endeavours. Stephen Burke, Stapleton, Madden and Martin Staunton all toiled ceaselessly for Buccaneers but Hinch took the spoils that lifts them over now bottom-placed Buccs and in Lamb they had a worthy ‘Athlone Springs Hotel man of the match’ winner. The skipper was the dominant force on the day and he received tremendous support from Stevenson, Michael Graham, McAleese and the judicious boot of Bambry as they leap-frogged Buccs in the league table.

BUCCANEERS:- C.Lavelle; M.Madden, G.Kelly, S.Stapleton, J.O’Connell; A.Hayman, A.Kennedy; M.Staunton, G.Halligan, C.Higgins; P.Burke, J.Tormey; S.Burke, C.Watters and C.Rigney (captain). Replacements used:- D.Byrne (for O’Connell, 62 mins), B.Gilligan (for Staunton, 68 mins), A.Hughes (for P.Burke, 68 mins) and B.O’Carroll (for Kelly, 71 mins).

BALLYNAHINCH:- H.McAleese; M.Scott, J.Cullen, S.Morrow, K.Corrigan; R.Bambry, D.Drake; C.Stevenson, D.McGregor, P.McAllister; J.Graham, R.Greer; M.Graham, J.Donaldson and S.Lamb (captain). Replacements used:- L.Johnston (for McAllister, 55 mins), J.Simpson (for Donalson, 66 mins) and M.Kirkwood (for Drake, 68 mins).

REFEREE:- Brian MacNeice (Leinster).

WATERPARK 11 BUCCANEERS 3

BUCCANEERS U-21’s tale of woe continues when they suffered another defeat in the South-West Conference of the National League, going down 11-3 to Waterpark in Waterford on Saturday. Conditions were abysmal for this game; wind driven rain and stamina-sapping underfoot conditions that thoroughly tested the mettle and willpower of both outfits.

Although again fielding below full strength with outhalf David Fagan the latest casualty, Buccaneers were nevertheless well placed at halftime. They trailed narrowly 6-3 at the break having played into the gale in the first half but then conceded a dreadfully soft try within minutes of the restart. Buccs seemed to have dealt ably with a five-metre scrum but then dropped the ball giving a Waterpark flanker an early Christmas gift that he simply could not refuse. This was a killer blow to the midlanders whilst also giving the home side a serious uplift and, despite a gutsy performance by Buccs, they never really looked like hauling in their hosts in miserable conditions.

Gaelic and soccer starlet Ian Coffey marked his return to rugby with a promising contribution on the wing including kicking Buccaneers’ penalty. Jack Byrne showed potential when in possession that was, unfortunately, limited while Colin Draper displayed leadership although out of position in the key standoff role. John Hayes resumed hooker duties to good effect and skipper Paul Robinson was another forward to put himself about to good effect.

BUCCANEERS:- O.McCarthy; G.Fallon, J.Byrne, E.Doolan, I.Coffey; C.Draper, C.Molloy; T.Nolan, J.Hayes, T.Thompson; K.Headd, R.Byrne; S.O’Neill, J.O’Carroll and P.Robinson (captain). Replacements used:- Liam Doran, Robert Reid and J.J.Carey.

UCG 14 (7) Buccaneers 10 (7)

Buccaneers have been knocked out of the Heineken Connacht Junior Cup at the first hurdle after a heart breaking extra time 14-10 defeat to University College, Galway, at Dangan on Sunday.

Buccaneers had the better of the early exchanges with their bigger and more physical pack making the difference. Only handling errors were keeping the students in the game at this stage. As the game progressed and Buccs were not able to score, the home side grew in confidence and started to use their talented back line to good effect. They crossed late in the first half after some shocking missed tackles for a converted try to lead 7 nil at the interval.

The second half started where the first half ended with the students throwing the ball around in difficult conditions and were unlucky not to extend their advantage while Buccs were reduced to 14 men with an inspired yellow card.

15 minutes into the second half Buccaneers took control of the game. A series of 5 metre scrums looked certain to yield a levelling score but a combination of the home side’s front rows’ refusal to stay down and poor refereeing decisions helped to frustrate Buccs. With only seconds left in the game Buccaneers looked certain to score but the home side killed the ball and Buccs opted for the scrum. Adrian Hughes crashed over in the corner to set up the conversion attempt to level the match. Darren Costello stepped up knowing it was the last kick of the game (the ref reminded him at length) but he slotted over to send the game into extra time.

The first half of extra time was dominated by Buccaneers with Darren Costello dropping a goal from 40 metres to send Buccs into the lead for the first time. Cormac O’Keefee made a great break, drew the last defender and passed to Declan Byrne with a 20 metre run in for a score that would have finished the game but the ref ruled the pass forward from 15 metres behind play after a shout from the home supporters!

The second half of extra time saw Buccs tire badly and the students take control of the game. From a scrum on the Buccaneers 22, the UCG outhalf spotted no defender deep and chipped ahead and won the race for the touchdown. The try was converted and the game was over.

Buccaneers travelled to Dangan with only 16 players and had to use their only replacement when Darragh Lennon was introduced midway through the first half for the injured Anthony Hughes. UCG had a full compliment of 20 and were able to freshen their team late on and this made a telling difference. Disappointingly too many players were unable to travel for various reasons with one player crying off 50 minutes before the team were due to travel.

The best players for Buccaneers on the day were Kevin Creavin (returning after a long injury break), Paul Galvin and Adrian Hughes in the pack with the half back pairing of O’Keefee and Costello the pick of the backs.

Buccaneers:- Cormac Sheehy; Ger Walsh, Michael Donohoe, Declan Byrne, Ian Kilbride; Darren Costello, Cormac O’Keeffe; Liam Doran, Stephen Woods, Greg McGill; Anthony Hughes, Paul Galvin; David Dunning, Kevin Creavin and Adrian Hughes (captain). Replacement:- Darragh Lennon (for Anthony Hughes, inj.)

BUCCANEERS 19 MONIVEA 52

COMPLETING an utterly miserable weekend results-wise for Buccaneers, their Thirds went down 52-19 to Monivea’s Seconds in the Connacht J2 League at showery Dubarry Park, Athlone, on Sunday.

Here the consistent lack of playing numbers at adult level proved costly for Buccs were very much in this contest at halftime, trailing 26-19 after a lively opening period. Tries by Odran McIntyre and a brace from Keith O’Neill helped Buccs to their tally, Gerry Fallon landing a pair of conversions. But the midlanders sustained three injuries and, with no replacements available although playing at home, they could not add to their tally while Monivea now aided by the elements doubled their scoreline in a fairly open encounter.

Centres John Seery and Nigel So were most effective of the home backs while Gary O’Loughlin and especially Mark Coleman were to the fore of Buccaneers best endeavours in the pack.

BUCCANEERS:- O.McIntyre; K.O’Neill, J.Seery, N.So, M.McNeill; E.Egan, G.Fallon; R.Curley, K.Grehan, A.Daly; P.Hynes, M.Coleman; G.Glynn (captain), G.O’Loughlin and K.Sloyan.

BUCCS AWAY TO UCC

BUCCANEERS head south to the Mardyke in Cork where they tackle University College, Cork, in the AIB League Division 1B on Saturday, kick off 2.30 p.m. UCC are in the top half of the division but a Buccs victory could put them level on points with the Students, so tight is this division apart from the top two pacesetters.

College made a poor start to the campaign but then won three matches on the trot to lift them up the table. They are a developing side but lost some key players last summer, notably Gavin Dunne to St. Mary’s College and Stephen Archer to Cork Constitution. They will surely endeavour to play an expansive type game although their grounds was recently seriously flooded (with even one notable photo in “the paper” of a student removing a bream from the rugby pitch!). Outhalf Andrew Burke (ex-Garryowen) and fullback Sean Scanlon both featured in Ireland’s U-20 side at Dubarry Park last season while wing Brian Dennehy and centre Ivan Dineen (who captains the side) are two other danger men in the southerners backs division.

Buccs must plan without J.H.Potgeiter who sustained a fresh injury in training last week but Paul Harte should be fit to return after his injury although this fixture may come too early for John O’Brien. In their current injury plight, Buccs could really do with a Connacht regular or two in the backline while the pack will have to work as hard as they did in the second half against Ballynahinch when their efforts will, hopefully, be more fruitful. The Athlone side simply must not come back empty-handed from this tie that could have a sizeable bearing on both clubs’ seasons.

Buccaneers U-21’s will also be hoping for better fortune in their final South-West Conference National League encounter at home to Bruff on Saturday. This game kicks off at 2.30 p.m. in Dubarry Park. The Reserves too need to gain something from their home Connacht Junior League match against Corrib on Sunday following their disastrous exit from the Junior Cup. The Thirds make the short hop across the border to square up to rivals West Offaly Lions in the Connacht J2 League also on Sunday. Kick off time for both games on Sunday is 2.30 p.m.

IRELAND MATCHES LIVE ON TV!

IRELAND’S three ESB International home U-20 Six Nations Championship games are again being staged in Dubarry Park this season and the host club Buccaneers has been informed that all three matches will be transmitted live on RTE2 TV, which is a great boost for these prestigious fixtures.

WIN A 2010 CAR FOR ONLY €10!

BUCCANEERS RFC is undertaking a once-off CAR RAFFLE with a super prize of a brand new 2010 RENAULT MEGANE COUPE going to the winner. Tickets are enticingly priced at just €10 each or, better value still, only €20 for three! Indeed, a book of three tickets could make the perfect Christmas gift! Sean White of Athlone Renault is supplying the car and you can see this exciting motor on display in Athlone Towncentre from now until the New Year.

Club finances need your support and the club is also looking for volunteers to fill the daily rota at the tickets desk in Athlone Towncentre. Ideally two hour stints are being sought, primarily Thursdays to Sundays. But if sufficient willing volunteers are unearthed, we would love to have members/players/parents putting in an hour or two in support of the club. It is not, perhaps, the ideal time of the year to be looking for help, but if all who are involved in the club at various levels from adult rugby down to the beginners in Minis each put in a little time, then the workload will be spread more evenly. The ticket desks were manned last week and support from the general public (despite these difficult financial times all-round) has been most encouraging. The club is grateful to the organisers and to those who have been on the rota already. Anyone else willing and able to lend a hand should contact our Administrator Geraldine at 086-1732711 or any committee member. Of course, tickets are also on sale at the Bounty or from any club member.

CHRISTMAS PARTY

The club’s Christmas Party takes place in The Bounty on Monday, December 21st. Good music, craic and banter assured by Tony Henshaw and his organising crew.Tickets now available at the club or from any member of the organising sub-committee. Meanwhile, the Fabulous Bonker Boys plus DJ will be playing in the Bounty on St. Stephen’s Night with a late bar and nominal cover charge.

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