BUCCANEERS  36  UL BOHEMIAN  23

For the second successive Saturday, those who turned up at Dubarry Park, Athlone, witnessed another cracking encounter when Buccaneers and UL Bohemian served up a wonderful advertisement for club rugby before the Pirates prevailed 36-23 in this South-West Conference Section A of the AIL U-21 league.

On a fine sunny afternoon, Buccs fielded a quite young side with Mark Dolan the only home participant who also played when these clubs met in the Ulster Bank League recently with UL Bohs also lining out a solitary player from that game in centre Chris Nairn. Helped by the breeze, the midlanders opened briskly with Robert Henshaw and Dolan making early snipes before Stuart Flynn missed a kickable penalty after just 4 minutes. Buccs were rushing matters somewhat and, subsequently, making unnecessary errors before they opened their account with a 12th minute Flynn penalty. UL Bohs levelled in their first meaningful raid when Tim Rafferty kicked a penalty four minutes later and they came much more into the game thereafter. However, Flynn restored Buccs lead with a 27th minute penalty.

But then a couple of elementary handling errors in quick succession handed (if you’ll excuse the terminology) the initiative to the Limerick outfit. The first instance yielded UL Bohs a lineout from which they moved the ball from right to left for a try by T.J. Sullivan on the half hour and, then just three minutes later, possession was spilled on the right flank and Rory White accepted this gift-wrapped opportunity for a second UL Bohs try. Rafferty converted both to leave Buccs trailing 6-17 at the break, despite looking the better outfit for the majority of the half.

An early second half penalty by Rafferty extended the visitors’ lead to a comfortable looking 20-6 after 47 minutes and matters could have proved calamitous but, thereafter, Buccaneers staged a remarkable comeback. They stepped up their collective endeavour and piled forward, forcing UL Bohs to concede a succession of penalties and giving referee David Connolly little option but to wave his yellow card at Kevin Walsh for persistent infringing. Despite losing both Brendan Fagan and Conor FitzGibbon in quick succession to injuries at this juncture, the young Pirates maintained their pressure and were rewarded when Luke Satchwell grounded the ball for a pushover try on 51 minutes. Flynn converted and soon added a penalty to tighten the scores to 16-20 before UL Bohs replied with what proved to be their final score, a Rafferty penalty on the hour mark.

Buccs were now pick & going very effectively and the impressive Satchwell was denied a second try when he came in contact with the corner flag when attempting to squeeze in on 65 minutes. But their spirited and enterprising play proved too much for the visitors just two minutes later when, after another fine series of drives, fullback Henshaw angled in at power for a super try which Flynn converted to level the scores at 23-23.

Hooker Enda O’Brien disrupted UL Bohs possession just inside their half and thundered forward, sucking in the cover before showing great awareness and soft hands to offload to Aidan Connaughton who was steaming up in support and the flanker crashed over in “The Bounty” corner for a marvellous 73rd minute try. Flynn landed a sublime conversion and then added two late penalties as UL Bohs’ challenge fell apart in the face of relentless marauding by the Pirates.

Overall it was a smashing, lively contest that really got the crowd roaring. This was an absolutely stirring all-round performance by these young Buccaneers for whom Henshaw, Connaughton, Satchwell, Diarmuid Higgins, Fagan, Dolan and FitzGibbon were most prominent, allayed to the fine place-kicking by centre Flynn. Flynn, Rafferty and McManus were involved in much of UL Bohs best work. This win sees Buccs sitting top of a tough Section A and is an ideal confidence booster for next Saturday’s mighty duel away to Cork Constitution.

BUCCANEERS:-  R.Henshaw; C.Gormley, A.Douglas, S.Flynn, C.FitzGibbon; T.Clifford, M.Dolan; B.Teape, E.O’Brien, D.Higgins; B.Stewart (captain), C.Ryan; B.Fagan, A.Connaughton and L.Satchwell. Replacements:- D.Africano (for Douglas, h-t), S.Meehan (for Ryan, 48 mins), E.Keena (for Fagan, inj. 49 mins) and C.Greene (for FitzGibbon, inj. 50 mins).
UL BOHEMIAN:-  E.Dennehy; R.White, C.Nairn, A.Gibbons, T.Flynn; T.Rafferty, P.Bolger; K.Kennedy, T.Power, V.O’Regan; P.Quill, T.J.Sullivan; K.Walsh, K.McManus (captain) and L.Laheen. Replacements used:- C.McDowell (for Power) and R.Mullane.
REFEREE:-  D.Connolly (IRFU).

BUCCANEERS  27  BALLINASLOE  6

BUCCANEERS DEVELOPMENT SQUAD inflicted a first league defeat of the season on Ballinasloe when they defeated their neighbours 27-6 in a well-contested Connacht J1B League duel at sunny Dubarry Park, Athlone, on Sunday. Buccs had the luxury of fielding a near full-strength side for the first time in the league this season. They were particularly strong in the pack and they needed to be, for Ballinasloe (who were short John Hayes) battled to the bitter end and the margin perhaps flattered the winners.

On a lovely afternoon, Buccs had first advantage of the diagonal breeze but it was the visitors who made the better start. However, the usually reliable Rob O’Beirne was off-target with a fifth minute penalty and then did not connect properly with a drop goal effort shortly afterwards. They were to rue those misses as Buccs scored on their first raid of menace. Sean Stapleton made good ground for the hosts and the ball was then moved smartly crossfield to Adrian Hughes and the No. 8 bulldozed his way through for a ninth minute try. Buccs took too long to unearth their kicking tee and Deccie Byrne’s drop kick conversion attempt was short. Six minutes later, O’Beirne found his range to land a penalty for Ballinasloe.

But Buccs responded with a well-worked try on 23 minutes. Conor Lavelle’s weaving break stretched the Ballinasloe cover and he drew in their defence before delivering a sweet offload to Byrne who powered in for a try which Terry Hynes converted. Outhalf Hynes landed a penalty with the final kick of a well contested opening half to extend Buccs’ lead to 15-3.

O’Beirne added a 47th minute penalty for Ballinasloe, now aided by the elements, and the game was certainly in the melting pot but Buccs demonstrated their greater experience and strength just two minutes later. A penalty for a high tackle on Lavelle was punted into touch on the left. From the lineout, Buccs mauled impressively and after a few sallies at the visitors’ line, Martin Staunton had the power to get in for the touchdown. Despite a poor conversion attempt, Buccs now led 20-6. Ballinasloe then withstood some serious pressure as Buccs sought a bonus try before the Galwaymen applied some pressure of their own that led to the sin-binning of Lavelle for slowing possession with twelve minutes remaining.

Ballinasloe tried desperately to make their numerical superiority pay a dividend but, cruelly for them, Henry Reilly intercepted near halfway and he had both the guile and pace to go all the way for the killer fourth try which Hynes converted to complete the scoring. Ballinasloe, for whom O’Beirne, Rob Wakefield and J.J.Carey tried really hard, deserved more from this contest. Buccs, however, were stronger in the tight and sharper with the ball with Staunton, Rory Byrne, Lavelle and Stapleton to the fore in most of their better play. The bonus point secured by Buccs, who lost two of their early matches, tightens up the league table considerably with Ballinasloe now just four points ahead of the midlanders who have one game in hand with Creggs also very much in contention.

BUCCANEERS:- C.Lavelle; H.Reilly, S.Flynn, D.Byrne, B.Walsh; T.Hynes, G.Walsh; M.Staunton, S.Stapleton, B.Gilligan (captain); R.Byrne, J.Tormey; P.de Burca, P.Hynes and A.Hughes.  Replacements:- T.Couper (for P.Hynes, inj. 34 mins), D.Lennon (for Gilligan, inj. 68 mins) and L.Doran (for Staunton, 72 mins).
BALLINASLOE:-  D.Burke; C.Loughrey, L.Feerey, C.Brophy, J.Dunne; R.O’Beirne, R.Sheppard; J.J.Carey, A.O’Hara, T.Dolan; D.Fenton, N.Staunton; H.Reynolds, R.Wakefield and M.Harrigan.  Replacements:- A.Doorley (for Fenton, 51 mins), J.Kelly (for Sheppard, 51 mins), O.Courtney (for Dolan, 70 mins), A.Wade (for O’Hara, 70 mins) and M.Gibbons (for Loughrey, 76 mins).  
Referee:- D.Collins (Connacht).

SLIGO  13  BUCCANEERS  12

For the second week in a row, Buccaneers U-19s went down to an away defeat by a solitary point, losing on this occasion to Sligo by 13-12 in a Connacht League game that had kick off delayed by an hour at Hamilton Park on Sunday. Buccs spent this hour on the nearby Strandhill beach! Nevertheless, they made a promising start to the game when Sabu Meunargia got in for an 11th minute try that was not converted.

Sligo responded with a penalty and then scored a try just before halftime to lead 8-5. They added a second try in the third quarter before Buccs rallied with a Ross Enraght-Moony try on 73 minutes. Ben Carty converted to set up a gripping finish but Sligo were that bit more organised and Buccs again came up agonisingly short despite the best efforts of Conor Hanniffy, John Dooley and John Gormley in the pack with lively showings from backs Robert McMickan, Rob Corcoran and Enraght-Moony.

Buccs missed their Athlone Minors contingent and they will be missing again next weekend due to the replay of the County Final when Galwegians visit Dubarry Park. More importantly, greater attendance by everyone is now more important than ever at training!
BUCCANEERS:-  C.Seery; R.Corcoran, R.McMickan, R.Enraght-Moony, R.Browne; B.Carty, B.Digby; B.Teape, C.Hanniffy, J.Gormley; M.Curley, E.Donnelly; J.Donoghue (captain), J.Dooley and S.Meunargia. Replacements:- A.Connaughton (for Curley) and I.Quain.

SLIGO  55  BUCCANEERS  5

Completing a miserable day in the north-west, Buccaneers ladies came a real cropper against a strong and much more experienced Sligo who comfortably won this Connacht Womens League fixture 55-5. The Sligo girls have been playing for a number of years and this was clearly evident, being much faster, fitter and more cohesive. Buccs were blown away in the first half but, to their eternal credit, they battled gamely to the bitter end. The girls have only a handful of matches under their collective belt and faced a steep learning curve in this encounter. Catherine Moore scored Buccaneers try.

U-21s AWAY TO CORK CON

BUCCANEERS U-21s face an acid test with a daunting trip to face Cork Constitution in the South-West Conference Section A of the National League at Temple Hill, Cork, on Saturday, kick off 2.30 p.m.

Cork Con are hot on Buccs heels after three series of fixtures and will be a tough nut to crack on their own ground. They have shown mixed form to date, beating Galwegians (who drew with UL Bohemian) narrowly in Cork, losing away to Garryowen but then overwhelming whipping boys N.U.I.G. 75-9 in Galway last weekend.
Nevertheless, Buccaneers can go with self belief despite having a quite young squad. They accounted for Thomond in their opening game before digging deep to already have a win in Cork where they outfought Highfield. But last Saturday’s display, particularly a brilliant comeback, against UL Bohs topped that. They displayed some exhilarating rugby, splendid teamwork and sheer will to win. If they can reproduce that for the full 80 minutes down south (and eliminate elementary errors that could have cost them dearly against UL), then Buccs will surely give a very good account of themselves. They have a wonderful mix in their squad with real corkers in Robert Henshaw, Conor FitzGibbon (who hopefully will have recovered from the eye injury sustained last Saturday), Luke Satchwell, Aidan Connaughton and Mark Dolan. If they maintain their focus and don’t let the occasion get to them, then they are capable of matching the best.

Senior Cup on Saturday?

BUCCANEERS have been drawn away to Sligo in the Connacht Senior Cup with this semi-final scheduled for Hamilton Park on Saturday next at 2 p.m. With most of the province’s focus on the visit of mighty Stade Toulasain for the first ever home fixture in the Heineken Cup, it doesn’t say much for the Branch’s expectations of a crowd at the north-west venue on the same afternoon! Buccaneers will surely be very light too if the game goes ahead for no less than 8 of the club’s players are likely to be in the Connacht A squad who travel to face a Saracens side in the UK on Monday next! Shane Layden, Callum Boland, Daniel Qualter, David Heffernan, Eoghan Grace, Michael Kearney, Mark McCrea and Jack Carty were all involved in last week’s win over Reggio in Italy and should be on the plane too to Saracens.

With our U-21s and Reserves both involved in key fixtures this weekend, coach Hendre Marnitz certainly has a problem or two to unearth a panel for this Cup match. He will be aware too not to unnecessarily Cup tie our Development players so, if the Branch insist on this Cup game going ahead, the Pirates team will surely be a considerably weakened outfit, which would demean the tradition associated with this magnificent and venerable Cup competition. Hopefully, reason will prevail.      

Buccs Development Squad welcome Loughrea to Dubarry Park for a Connacht J1B League match on Sunday when Buccs will be razor keen to atone for their woeful opening day surprise loss away to the Galway side. On that occasion, Buccs fielded a very weak, ill-prepared panel and duly paid the price. But now that they are very much back in the promotion hunt, the current squad should pack too much power and pace for the visitors. Kick off is surely 2.30 p.m. (although the Connacht Branch website states 3 p.m.)

Buccaneers Thirds travel to Galway on Sunday to tackle Our Ladys Boys Club in the Connacht  J2 League, kick off 2.30 p.m. If this Buccs outfit can muster close to full strength, then they will give OLBC a right good tussle.

PITCH USAGE

Dubarry Park was an absolute hive of activity last weekend, especially on Saturday, and it is marvellous to witness that. However, with no less than 19 Buccaneers teams fielding this season, huge demands are placed on the club’s pitches. Factor in the local schools, both national and secondary, as well as Athlone Institute of Technology, and you can see the pressure all that activity brings. And that’s not mentioning the various Connacht matches and blitzes staged regularly in Athlone. With just 3 pitches, it needs co-operation all round so that all teams can get adequate time on these pitches.
 
Consequently, a ‘Pitch Booking’ plan has been set up to cover all matches, training sessions and so on. The booking sheet for pitches is on display in the club’s office at The Bounty. All requests for pitches for matches and/or training must be submitted by 3 p.m. on  Tuesdays to our Administrator Geraldine who will help log the relevant details in the ‘Pitch Booking’ map and also note same in the club Diary. No late applications or changes will be considered, so it is only good manners for all teams to get their requests in in good time. The club’s Executive Committee, in consultation with our Football Sub-Committee, will then endeavour to facilitate all teams requests re pitches at our weekly meetings which take place on Tuesday nights. We trust all managers/coaches/mentors will assist so that there can be (1) orderly usage of our pitches and (2) that all teams are facilitated as much as possible.

BUS TO BELFAST

BUCCANEERS next Ulster Bank League match is away to Belfast Harlequins on Saturday, November 26th. A Supporters Bus will be organised if there is sufficient advance demand. Those interested in travelling on this bus should contact Geraldine at 086-1732711 as early as possible, and deposits will be required.

GO FOR IT, CONNACHT

CONNACHT surprised most observers (and this one was no exception!) with their wonderful performances away to Harlequins in their Heineken Cup debut. They certainly deserved at the very least a Bonus point from a pulsating contest. However, their display will surely ensure that the remaining tickets are sold and that The Sportsground is ‘bursting’ come 6 p.m. on Saturday when the mighty Stade Toulasain come into the West.

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Applications open for IRFU Club Continuity Fund