FIRST HOME DEFEAT FOR BUCCS

RUGBY with MICHAEL SILKE

BUCCANEERS  11  UL BOHEMIAN  18

BUCCANEERS suffered their first home defeat of the season when their somewhat flat performance was duly punished by UL Bohemian on a 18-11 scoreline in their Ulster Bank League Division 1B encounter played in ideal sunny conditions at Dubarry Park, Athlone. Both Shane Monahan and Clifford Richardson were available for the hosts but Paul Harte was out due to the hip injury aggravated away to UCC. Meanwhile, UL Bohs continued to juggle their resources and fielded a much-changed team for this ‘Hugh Campbell & Co’ sponsored match to the side defeated at Annacotty when the clubs met earlier in the season.  

Buccs opened the scoring with a 4th minute Adam Kennedy penalty but UL Bohs had no kicking tee when they got a penalty chance just two minutes later and Ed Torrie was unable to convert. However, quick moving of the ball by the visitors yielded a Sean Rennison try at the posts converted by fullback Torrie after just 12 minutes in a lively start by both sides. The midlanders had the better of the exchanges at this stage and Monahan thundered forward at the end of the opening quarter to suck in a lot of defenders but the home support was much too slow in arriving. However, some tidy interplay by centres Aidan Wynne and Alex Hayman looked like unlocking the UL Bohs cover just three minutes later but a thumping covering tackle by Darren Moroney forced Hayman to knock on a couple of metres short of the visitors’ line. Buccs continued to press and forced a penalty near the 22 when their maul discomforted the visitors but Kennedy was off-target on 25 minutes. Buccaneers finally added to their tally when Kolo Kiripati initiated the 31st minute move that was finished off in the right corner by Callum Boland for a well taken try that Kennedy was unable to convert from the touchline. This gave the midlanders a single point lead that was to last a mere two minutes as UL Bohs promptly responded with Cathal Sheridan’s cute angled kick catching the Pirates asleep and winger Moroney got in for a cheap try wide on the left. Although Torrie missed the conversion, this was a bad score to concede and gave UL Bohs a 12-8 halftime lead.

A freshening breeze assisted the visitors in the second period which they dominated territorially but had to work hard for a pair of Torrie penalties. The first arrived on 51 minutes when Richardson dissented to being penalised which cost Buccs an extra ten metres, making the penalty a kickable one. Thirteen minutes later, home supporters could rightly feel aggrieved when a UL Bohs player clearly knocked on following a shuddering tackle by ‘Athlone Springs Hotel Man of the Match’ Monahan but referee David Wilkinson (whose officiating was inconsistent) penalised the home winger for the second offence in not releasing after the tackle and Torrie gratefully accepted this gift. This gave UL Bohs a 18-8 advantage as the Limerick side neutralised their hosts to good effect (especially the homesters’ influential backrow), spoiling cleverly and getting away with lineout throws that were regularly not down the channel.

However, the Athlone team lacked the spark and imagination of earlier in the season with only Monahan, Conor Higgins and substitute Conor Lavelle making inroads. Kiripati, Richardson and John O’Brien showed slick handling in one promising raid but Buccs just could not conjure the magic to recover their earlier momentum. Nevertheless, their battling qualities earned a 74th minute David Connellan penalty that salvaged what yet could be a crucial losing bonus point while UL Bohemian’s fourth successive victory means that they too are now very much in the promotion hunt.

One minute’s silence was observed prior to the game in memory of referee Denis Connolly, who died recently.

BUCCANEERS:-  J.O’Brien; C.Boland, A.Hayman, A.Wynne, S.Monahan; J.Carty, A.Kennedy; M.Staunton, G.Halligan (captain), C.Higgins; C.Richardson, P. de Burca; S.Burke, C.Watters and K.Kiripati. Replacements:- D.Rogers (for Staunton, 47 mins), C.Lavelle (for Hayman, 69 mins), D.Connellan (for Kennedy, 69 mins), E.Rooney (for Burke, 75 mins) and M.Madden (for Watters, 78 mins).

UL BOHEMIAN:-  E.Torrie; F.Ryan, M.McPhail (captain), D.Moloney, D.Moroney; A.McNulty, C.Sheridan; K.Flanagan, E.Rossiter, P.O’Regan; K.Bracken, E.Kelly; K.O’Gorman, I.Condell and S.Rennison. Replacements used:- C.Delooze (for Sheridan, 44 mins), K.Essex (for Rennison, 52 mins) and M.Kinsella (for Moloney, 75 mins).

REFEREE:- David Wilkinson. (IRFU).

YOUNG MUNSTER  3  BUCCANEERS  54

There was much better news from Limerick where Buccaneers U-21 side went on a scoring spree at Tom Clifford Park where their 54-3 South-West Conference League victory earned them a home play-off against UCC, most likely on March 5th.

Buccs ran out unexpectedly comfortable winners in the end, helping themselves to a magnificent seven tries. Yet it was nip and tuck in the early skirmishes and Young Munster enjoyed decent possession and territory at stages but Buccs generally looked the more likely to score. And in the returning Stuart Flynn they had the man of the match. He scored three superb penalties in the first half, the opening score kicked from well inside his own half! The Cookies levelled soon after this but the Mullingar lad added two further massive placekicks to put Buccs 9-3 ahead before Conal Gormley made a terrific break, brushing off several tacklers enroute to the opening try. Further sustained pressure before the interval was rewarded with a typical John Hayes try and Flynn converted both to give Buccs a decent 23-3 platform to build on.

Very soon after the restart, Buccs demonstrated some smart off-loading and retention to set up Gormley’s second try and, although the conversion attempt from straight in front of the posts was blocked down, this effectively killed off Young Munster’s wilting challenge. Flynn then intercepted for a breakaway try which he also converted for a 35-3 lead before he was rested. The fifth try emanated when the ball was moved wide and Conor FitzGibbon dotted down for his first competitive try at this level. About this stage, Munsters lost their influential tighthead prop and thereafter the wheels really came off their wagon and constant pressure by the Pirates yielded Hayes’ second try which Jarrod Bennett converted. More pace and power led to FitzGibbon’s second and Buccs seventh try with Bennett’s conversion completing the rout.

Buccaneers built on from last week’s impressive showing when winning against Garryowen. Their wide, expansive style suits the players and the backs played particularly well especially the returning Flynn with Gormley and Bennett also impressing. In the forwards battle, the Buccs front row trio steadily got the better of their opposite numbers, Brendan Fagan carried the ball well and skipper Hayes put in another tireless shift.  

BUCCANEERS:-  K.Naughton; C.FitzGibbon, S.Flynn, C.Gormley, E.Keena; J.Bennett, B.Digby; D.Henshaw, E.O’Brien, D.Higgins; R.Byrne, B.Stewart; R.Reid, J.Hayes (captain) and B.Fagan. Substitutes:- R.Grenham (for O’Brien), L.Doran (for Henshaw), J.O’Carroll (for Fagan), N.Quigley (for Stewart), M.Corbett (for Flynn) and C.Greene (for Keena).  

BUCCANEERS  15  GALWEGIANS  12

BUCCANEERS DEVELOPMENT SQUAD and Galwegians Reserves served up an engrossing Heineken Connacht Junior Cup contest under the Dubarry Park floodlights on Saturday when the Pirates progressed to the next round by virtue of a hard-earned 15-12 victory.

This was a generally open and entertaining affair and Galwegians looked the better outfit early on. However, Buccs grabbed the opening score when Conor Lavelle finished off a smashing counter attack with a 35 metre dash for a smartly-taken try which Colin Draper converted. Wegians levelled matters before the break with a converted try of their own to leave it 7-7.

That man Lavelle scooted in for his and Buccaneers second try near the right corner in the third quarter following good movement in the build-up. Although both touch-judges indicated that Draper had again converted, the referee apparently judged that the conversion was not successful and, when Galwegians got through for an unconverted try, home supporters believed their team was two points to the good. However, Draper avoided any possible dispute at the finish when he landed a fine penalty six minutes from time to seal a well-merited 15-12 victory. Buccs were generally the dominant force in an entertaining duel and Eamonn Bracken was outstanding in the forwards battle where he received best support from Benny Gilligan. Lavelle excelled in the backline where Lachlan Mitchell also impressed.

BUCCANEERS:-  C.Lavelle; J.Connellan, D.Byrne, A.Downey, G.Walsh; L.Mitchell, C.Draper; B.Gilligan, D.Lennon, E.Bracken; D.Dunning, G.Duffy; S.Bianco, H.Reilly and Adrian Hughes (captain). Replacement used:- M.Coleman (for Duffy).

MONIVEA  5  BUCCANEERS  3

MONIVEA SECONDS got the better of Buccaneers Thirds in a dogged Connacht Junior 2A League tie at their Castle Grounds on Sunday winning a low-scoring contest 5-3. In testing weather conditions, Monivea got in for an early try and they enjoyed much the better territory, profiting from a greater number of recent games. Buccs, meanwhile, have been inactive which has not helped at training but the players knuckled down to the challenge and they defended resolutely throughout with their pack dominating the scrums and their lineouts gradually improving as the game progressed.

Sean Byrne carried a lot of good ball in the forwards where Eddie Brady did a lot of solid grafting. Although Michael Donohoe was playing out of position at scrumhalf, he fared well and landed Buccs second half penalty to tighten the arrears while Simon Coyle also did well in the backline.

BUCCANEERS:-  K.O’Neill; R.Silke, A.Roche, P.Byrne, S.Coyle; D.Costello, M.Donohoe; B.Moore, E.Brady, Alan Hughes; P.Hynes, M.Coleman; R.Grenham, S.Woods and S.Byrne. Replacements used:- R.Byrne (for Hynes, inj.), K.Grehan (for Roche, inj.) and R.O’Brien (for Hughes). 

MONIVEA  40  BUCCANEERS  14

MONIVEA defeated a younger Buccaneers U-21B side 40-14 in their game at the Castle Grounds on Saturday. The hosts led 20-7 at halftime and were the better outfit overall, although Buccs rallied in the third quarter to tighten their arrears to 27-20 before Monivea upped the tempo to win. Joe Kenny and Aidan Connaughton were Buccs try scorers with Ger Fallon landing both conversions. Ian Farrell and Dermot Tierney were pick of the pack with Eoin Doolan and Alex McArdle to the fore in the backline. 

BUCCS AWAY TO GALWEGIANS IN PIVOTAL TEST

BUCCANEERS face a real test of character when they travel west for a Connacht showdown with Galwegians in the Ulster Bank League Division 1B at Crowley Park, Glenina, on Saturday, kick off 2.30 p.m. This is a “must win” match for both clubs, albeit for differing reasons. Buccs really need to regain their momentum at the top end of the table while Wegians are battling for Division 1B survival so a full-blooded encounter is in prospect.

Buccs have faltered in their two recent defeats. They did create many try opportunities away to UCC but were strangely uninspiring at home to UL Bohemian last Saturday. The creativity and sharpness of earlier in the season was missing and, too often, they went across the pitch when more direct play was necessary. But they must now respond positively and bounce back, although you can be certain that Wegians will not make it easy. The leaders in the Pirates squad must stand up and bring the best out of what is generally a quite youthful panel. The more experienced players need to show the pragmatic and focussed play that served the team so well, particularly in recent wins over Bruff and especially Clontarf. Coach Hendrik Marnitz is unlikely to panic with sweeping changes and, overall, the players have served him very well to date. But they need to play with the conviction and tempo that has got the team into such a promising position. The sight of the light blue opposition jerseys will surely focus Buccs and, if they can reproduce the skills, workrate and support play that they are well capable of, then the midlanders can return to winning ways.

They will have to be clinical, disciplined and utterly focussed for Galwegians are fighting for their lives and the Tribesmen will be buoyed by their long overdue win away to Bruff last weekend that has thrown them a lifeline. Buccs did not have it all their own way when the clubs last met at Dubarry Park but that’s the nature of derby games when form can go out the window. Wegians have a hard-working pack with Ivan Muldoon and Brian McClearn the driving forces and they refused to give up at Bruff where two late tries proved decisive. The influence of backs like John Cleary, Tadhg Leader and Rob O’Beirn must be curbed but, if Buccaneers mix patience and directness, they can forge what may be a tight, hard-earned victory. With Lansdowne and UL Bohemian now breathing down their necks, the midlanders simply must prevail.

Other Fixtures

Buccaneers Development Squad complete their Connacht Junior 1B League fixture list away to Dunmore on Sunday, early kick off 1.30 p.m. Led by captain Adrian Hughes, Buccs have captured this division title and they will be presented with the league trophy after the match. They will undoubtedly wish to round off an excellent campaign with another win and will surely be organised and up for it.

Buccaneers Thirds and their Tuam counterparts have a busy week ahead of them. They play each other twice in the Connacht Junior 2A League with Buccs at home on Wednesday night while the sides meet again in Tuam on the following  Monday night, both games kicking off at 8 p.m. 

EASTER DRAW

Tickets are now on sale for Buccaneers EASTER DRAW at €20 each or book of three tickets for €50 for a range of Cash prizes. All support needed and welcome!   

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