HISTORIC VICTORY FOR BUCCS

RUGBY with MICHAEL SILKE

BUCCANEERS 25  SHANNON 22

BUCCANEERS maintained their 100% winning start to the Ulster Bank League when they recorded a dramatic and thrilling victory over Shannon, winning this Division 1B clash 25-22 at Dubarry Park, Athlone, on Saturday.  Weather conditions did their utmost to impact negatively on this match with showers and, more crucially, a strong blustery breeze disrupting the proceedings. However, Buccs will not care one whit as they earned a historic first ever AIL victory over the nine times champions with a blistering finish that keeps the Athlone club in second place in the league table.

The Athlone side welcomed Shane Layden and Conor Finn back to action after prolonged injury absences while Ben Carty again deputised ably for elder brother Jack, who was called up to the Connacht squad. Diarmuid Higgins was preferred to Peter Reilly on this occasion and the flame-haired tighthead prop put in a storming effort to be a worthy winner of the ‘AUDI ATHLONE Man of the Match’ accolade. Shannon too had changes with Luke O’Dea ruled out through injury and hooker Duncan Casey included in the Munster panel.

Shannon skipper for the day Tadhg Bennett opened the scoring with a fifth minute penalty after Buccs were guilty of not binding at scrum-time. Carty made a wonderful snipe within two minutes that outwitted the visitors and he set up Martin Staunton for a try which the teenage outhalf converted. Bennett then missed a 10th minute penalty after the homesters were caught offside while the Pirates dithered too long with a promising close-in lineout shortly afterwards and Shannon cleared the danger with the free kick. Bennett curled over a penalty at the end of the opening quarter after a handling infringement by the midlanders, whose penalty count was a growing concern.  

Shannon had a decent slice of good fortune in their opening try when a fairly clearcut knock-on was not spotted by the match officials and the Munster outfit made good ground down the right where Alex Hayman had little choice but to punt into touch. From the lineout the visitors moved the ball right to left and Richie Mullane provided the overlap after 23 minutes to get in for an unconverted try that put the Limerick side 11-7 ahead. Layden, who saw little possession on the left flank due to the breeze, was unlucky not to hold on to the ball as he endeavoured to intercept on 28 minutes but a Carty penalty five minutes later after Niall Horan was yellow-carded for slowing possession left the minimum between the sides. Shannon, despite their temporary numerical discrepancy, finished the half stronger but Staunton put in a try-saving tackle on David O’Donovan to leave the game finely balanced with Buccs trailing by the minimum 10-11 at the interval.

Buccaneers, unusually, headed for the dressing-rooms at the break and they returned in more urgent humour. Layden and Rory Moloney soon threatened along the left flank but the latter’s attempted chip was blocked down by fullback Mullane. Eoghan O’Reilly replaced the injured Callum Boland with Layden switching to fullback just before Carty nosed the Pirates back into the lead with a 50th minute penalty after home pressure forced Shannon to ‘kill’ the ball. Kolo Kiripati entered the fray on 53 minutes following an injury to Danny Qualter while Billy Henshaw replaced Steve Macauley.

Luke Satchwell made a splendid 57th minute break from the ten-metre line that caused mayhem in the Shannon defence but he lacked swift support to offload the scoring pass. Macauley was soon back in the fray, coming in at fullback for the injured Layden while Reilly joined the front row in place of Higgins. Following a quick throw-in, Macauley ran into trouble and was caught in possession with Bennett just squeezing over the resultant penalty to edge Shannon ahead again as the game entered the final quarter. Reilly incurred the wrath of inconsistent referee Shane Kierans five minutes later but Bennett was off-target with the resultant penalty. At the next scrum, Higgins was brought on with Kiripati withdrawn. The rain had now passed but the diagonal wind was more influential in favour of the visitors and Buccs looked in dire trouble when Bennett landed his fourth penalty for a 17-13 advantage to Shannon with just 12 minutes remaining.

Yet the indomitable midlanders continued to take the game to Shannon and fervent pressure was rewarded when Higgins powered through for a try five minutes from time after several assaults on the visitors’ line. Three minutes later, Macauley made a magnificent angled raid from his own half and Henshaw was up in support to receive a deft offload to surge in for a try on the right which Carty converted to finally put Buccs in command, 25-17 to the good. There was still time in a thrilling finale for Shannon to rescue a losing bonus point when Keith White rumbled in for his side’s second try but Buccs were in celebratory mood following this fourth straight win and a first ever league victory over Shannon on a 25-22 scoreline.

The sometimes near-tempest weather ensured that this much-anticipated encounter was not going to be a game for the purists but, nevertheless, both teams put in huge industry, albeit the application did not always match the intention in the testing conditions. Buccs coughed up too many penalties for their own good but their indefatigable spirit meant that Shannon, despite the strong wind, never managed to quell the home desire. Bennett was the visitors’ main threat with Mullane looking dangerous on occasion. Higgins was Buccaneers standout performer, carrying and tackling like a man possessed. Satchwell continues to blossom at No.8 and teenage flanker Moloney was prominent throughout. Hayman steered the Pirates backline from the centre with the consistent Mark Dolan making a key contribution at scrumhalf.      

BUCCANEERS:-  C.Boland; S.Macauley, C.Finn, A.Hayman (captain), S.Layden; B.Carty, M.Dolan; M.Staunton, G.Halligan, D.Higgins; J.Tormey, D.Qualter; C.Kindregan, R.Moloney and L.Satchwell. Replacements:- E.O’Reilly (for Boland, inj. 49 mins), K.Kiripati (for Qualter, inj. 54 mins), B.Henshaw (for Macauley, 54 mins), P.Reilly (for Higgins, 58 mins), S.Macauley (for Layden, inj. 58 mins), D.Higgins (for Kiripati,  66 mins), P.Reilly (for Higgins, 76 mins), K.Kiripati (for Moloney, 76 mins) and R.Grenham.

SHANNON:-  R.Mullane; G.O’Shea, T.Leader, T.Bennett (captain), D.O’Donovan; G.Lyons, R.Guerin; N.Horan, J.Cronin, G.McNamara; K.White, P.Kerins; E.McLoughlin, J.Murphy and J.Shine. Replacements:- A.O’Brien (for Murphy, 35 mins), N.Horan (for G.McNamara, 47 mins), L.Nicholas (for McLoughlin, 47 mins), W.O’Connor (for Guerin, 62 mins) and G.McNamara (for Horan, 73 mins).

Referee:-  Shane Kierans (IRFU).      

BUCCANEERS 13  GALWEGIANS 20

Galwegians Reserves took top spot in the Connacht Junior 1B League when they defeated Buccaneers Seconds 20-13 at bright and calm Dubarry Park, Athlone, on Sunday. However, despite a raft of experienced players on both sides, this match did not quite live up to expectations. Wegians were more cohesive and workmanlike, and just about merited their win over a Buccs squad that promised much but again did not jell as a unit.

Both sides took time to settle and missed an early penalty apiece before Peter O’Neill opened the scoring for Buccs with a penalty to which Wegians soon levelled when Dave Clark was on target. It remained 3-3 until the final move of the half when indiscipline cost the homesters’ dearly. The light blues opted for touch in the left corner and, winning lineout possession, the ball found it’s way to Dave Symes and the wing scythed in for a try which Eoin O’Mahony converted to give Galwegians some breathing space at halftime, 10-3 ahead.

O’Neill reduced the arrears shortly after the restart but a needless tackle off the ball soon gave Wegians the chance to restore their seven points advantage with O’Mahony slotting over the penalty. O’Neill then missed a straight-forward penalty before Conor O’Rourke notched an opportunist try for the westerners when he caught the home defence off-guard following a lineout. O’Mahony added a fine conversion to stretch the lead to 20-6. Buccs were stung by this setback and finally got some urgency in their play. An impressive maul was brought down by Wegians, resulting in a yellow card for their prop Paul Griffin. The Pirates punted the penalty to touch in the left corner and, following the lineout, the homesters drove over the line for Kolo Kiripati to touch down. Sean Doyle, now entrusted with the place-kicking duties, added a splendid conversion to set up the prospect of a gripping finale but Galwegians managed to control the closing exchanges for a 20-13 victory.

Buccaneers promised more than they delivered and, on this occasion, it was their pack that too often looked listless, with the lineouts going awry far too often in the opening period. It was a frustrating performance by Buccs who are certainly capable of better but just have not clicked in a consistent manner to date.     

BUCCANEERS:-  S.Doyle; K.Naughton, P.Harte, D.Griffiths (captain), D.Fagan; P.O’Neill, R.O’Reilly; L.Doran, R.Grenham, T.Thompson; R.Byrne, S.Byrne; N.Flynn, L.Walsh and K.Kiripati. Replacements:- R.Enraght-Moony (for Walsh, inj.), S.Flynn (for Griffiths), C.O’Shea (for Thompson) and G.Fallon (for Fagan).

GALWEGIANS:-  E.O’Mahony; R.Burke, S.Madden, D.Clark, D.Symes; G.Tynan, C.O’Rourke; S.McGrath, R.Brennan, P.Griffin; D.Deegan, J.Healy; N.Dillon, M.Towey and S.Perkins. Replacements:- P.O’Donnell, D.Foley and D.Butler.

REFEREE:- James Langan (Connacht).

SOUTH SLIGO 5  BUCCANEERS 44

Buccaneers maintained their winning start to their season with an outstanding Connacht U-13 League performance, overcoming a fledgling South Sligo team 44-5, in a lively and entertaining if somewhat one-sided affair. While it would be unfair to say that the scoreline flattered Buccs, South Sligo certainly made life tough for large tracks of the game. On a bright and slightly breezy day in Ballymote, Buccs began where they left off the week previous taking the game to the opposition with purpose and structure.

Conor Larkin continued his tremendous start to the season, getting Buccs off to a tonic start with a try wide on the left after five minutes. This was the result of relentless pressure from Buccs, moving the ball smartly and recycling effectively. This was followed in quick succession by a fine try by outhalf Darragh Murray who backed up last week’s display with another splendid performance. Evan Gallagher proved to be a wrecking ball of fury throughout, the hooker’s direct and aggressive running doing untold damage to the Sligo’s defensive line. Gallagher’s hard work laid the platform for a number of the scores that followed. The quiet assassin Martin Fallon got just reward for his toil and effort, the powerful No. 8 blasting his way for a barnstorming try. Fallon formed part of a hugely impressive backrow trio, all of whom scored. Openside Michael Lynch was the personification of perpetual motion, tackling like a man possessed and clearing rucks like his life depended on it, capping off a fine display with a wonderfully taken try and chipping in with two conversions. Blindside Jack Scouler went one better dotting down for tries either side of the half. Scouler is revelling in his new position in the back row, allowing this powerful and strong running flanker the opportunity to rampage around the park. Billy Dalton, Julian Devaney, Vinny Gaetani and Chaz Alozie did the grunt work in the tight five, allowing their loose forwards to roam with impunity.

The backline sparkled thanks to the excellent service from scrumhalf Michael Byrne who showed his class in skipping in for a superb try. He demonstrated an uncanny ability to make the right decision to either have a go himself or release this pedigree backline. Murray, Shane Cunnane and Larkin were in top form, ably assisted by Dean Buckley, the latter giving a master class in winning turnover ruck ball.  Jack Martin ran beautiful from fullback and Dairmuid McLoughlin was relishing the challenge until injury forced his early retirement which allowed Daniel Westman to join the fray. He rounded off a great performance with a super solo try running through the heart of Sligo’s defence to score by the posts to round off matters.

Yet again this was a terrific all-round effort by Buccs. Every player played their part in this satisfying victory, all substitutes made decent contributions on their introductions and ultimately this was a highly promising display by these young Pirates.

BUCCANEERS:- Jack Martin, Conor Larkin, Dean Buckley Dairmuid McLoughlin, , Shane Cunnane, Darragh Murray, Michael Byrne, Chiazokam Alozie, Evan Gallagher, Vicente Gaetani, Billy Dalton, Julian Devaney, Jack Scouler, Michael Lynch (captain) and Martin Fallon. Replacements used:- Shane Greene, Kevin Horan,  Jesse Middleton, Eabhan Sleatory, Daniel Westman, Fergus O’Sullivan and Ruaidhri Campion.

FRIDAY NIGHT SHOWDOWN FOR BUCCS AT CORINTHIANS

BUCCANEERS go head to head with Corinthians in the Ulster Bank League at Corinthian Park, Galway, on Friday night, kick off 7.30 p.m. This Division 1B battle between the Connacht rivals, both of whom have won their opening four matches, should be a right cracker and the Tuam Road venue will surely be bursting at the seams.

Corinthians have made a splendid start following promotion to Division 1B, winning their opening four games, three of which were away from home. They boast the best scoring record to date and will be razor keen to get bragging rights in the province. They accounted for Buccs 36-20 when the sides met in the Connacht League early in the season, but both teams will be greatly changed from that outing. The Pirates were particularly depleted on that occasion so Friday night’s outcome can hardly be judged on that result.

Both squads will draw greatly from Connacht Academy players with Corinthians looking to back-rowers Aaron Conneely, James Connolly and Eoghan Masterson with lock Ultan Dillane and prop Finlay Bealham also likely to feature. Fullback David Panther and scrumhalf Marcus Walsh will surely start in the backline but here it is their U-18 starlet Sean O’Hagan who has really caught the eye. The vastly-promising outhalf is a splendid place-kicker who also has an eye for an opening as is evidenced by a batch of tries scored to date. His influence on the proceedings must simply be curtailed while the South African wings Darin Claasen and Ivan Venter too must be curbed. Denis Buckley could start in the front row against his former club while Aurelien Casanova adds another cosmopolitan option in the home pack. A third Springbok Phil Pretorious coaches Corinthians and his ethos is to spread the ball so an expansive encounter is anticipated.

This would suit Buccaneers too for they have a young and adventurous squad also. Backs Jack Carty, Shane Layden, Conor Finn and Steve Macauley are all involved with Connacht as are young forwards Danny Qualter, David Heffernan, Conor Kindregan, Peter Reilly and Rory Moloney. Add Martin Staunton, Luke Satchwell, Mark Dolan, Callum Boland, Diarmuid Higgins, Billy Henshaw, Shane Casey and Eoghan O’Reilly into the mix and Buccs have a hugely promising and mobile outfit that can capitalise on the leadership of Alex Hayman, Garreth Halligan, James Tormey and Kolo Kiripati.

It should be a fast-moving and competitive affair. Hopefully, weather conditions will be kind for two teams that love to play attacking rugby. With a bumper crowd urging the combatants on, the supporters and occasion should draw the best from both sides. Scores aplenty are in prospect. Buccs to prevail ….. just!

Other Fixtures

There is a plethora of fixtures this weekend with Buccaneers U-20s making the long haul south to Cork where they face Highfield in the U-20 South-West Conference League Division 1 on Saturday. This refixed match kicks off at 2.30 p.m. at Woodleigh Park, Model Farm Road. (Supporters should go via the Jack Lynch tunnel and head west on the motorway, taking the roundabout exit off for Cork University Hospital, which is close to the club). Buccs have made a bright start to this league and, if all players are available to them and fit, then they can give it a right good shot in real capital.

Buccaneers Seconds are home to Loughrea in the Connacht Junior 1B League on Sunday, kick off 2.30 p.m. On paper, this is a fairly decent squad that with a little fine tuning can make a good impression in this league. With home advantage, they can account for Loughrea but they will need to put in a sustained and disciplined effort to kick start the title challenge they are capable of.

Making it a double-header at Dubarry Park on Sunday, Buccaneers Thirds tackle their Corinthians counterparts in the Connacht J2 League. Buccs have made a strong start to their campaign and have a score or two to settle with the visitors, who defeated them with the last kick of the match in last year’s league final! This sterling bunch have the wherewithal to avenge that setback.

Meanwhile, Buccaneers Womens team travel to Co. Wicklow where they face Rathdrum in the first game of the second half of their Womens All-Ireland League on Sunday afternoon, kick off 1 p.m. Rathdrum were fortunate to win in Buccs’ very first AIL match when the visitors scored a late, late try after a somewhat extended second half. Defections have not helped Buccs cause to date but, if they can muster close to full strength, they can atone for their opening day defeat.

Finally, Connacht play Leinster in a Womens friendly at Dubarry Park, Athlone, on Wednesday next, November 13th. Kick off is 8 p.m.

CONGRATULATIONS

Congratulations to Athlone on a memorable Westmeath U-21 Football Championship triumph when Conal Sheeran’s last gasp goal proved decisive. Conal, son of Buccaneers President Frank, saw red in last year’s final but he made a telling impact when introduced as a late substitute to down St. Loman’s. Glen Costello, Ray Connellan, Charlie McMickan and Dylan Lynch are some of this youthful Athlone squad who have also played with Buccaneers. Well done, guys.

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