BUCCS ARE CONNACHT U-19 CHAMPIONS

RUGBY with MICHAEL SILKE

BUCCANEERS 10  WESTPORT 3

BUCCANEERS captured the Connacht U-19 League title when they defeated Westport 10-3 in a hugely committed and exciting final at Galway Sportsground on Easter Saturday. An early piece of magical combination by Eoghan O’Reilly and Harry Hughes created the decisive score for Buccs in an immensely competitive but sporting decider where both teams went at it hammer and tongs from the off. Conditions were sunny and dry but the ubiquitous Sportsground breeze was an influence on the proceedings on a firm sod.

Buccs U19 350The Buccs squad was backboned by Marist College players who had recently completed the Connacht Senior Schools Cup and League double. Westport (runners-up last season) were boosted by their spirited semi-final victory over Sligo, which gave them a more searching workout than the Athlone club’s win over Galwegians. Nevertheless, the young Pirates were the slight favourites and, when they conjured a wonderful fifth minute try despite playing against the stiff breeze, it seemed that the bookies had got it spot on. But, as they did against Sligo, the westerners rolled up their collective sleeves to the very end to play their part in a compelling final.

Aided by the considerable breeze, Westport pinned Buccaneers back in the opening minutes. Then, after absorbing this pressure, fullback O’Reilly unleashed a tremendous counter-attack from deep in his own half to stretch the Bulls cover. Right wing Hughes did the rest, haring down the grandstand flank in typical will-o-the-wisp fashion to outpace exposed defenders for a sparkling tonic try after just five minutes. Ben Carty added a fine conversion in the testing conditions to put Buccs 7-0 ahead and settle any nerves.

With the wind at their backs, Westport continued to force the pace but, in the face of tigerish Buccs tackling, they coughed up possession too frequently. However, their endeavours were rewarded when wing Tom McHale landed a 15th minute penalty. Yet they rarely threatened the Athlone side’s goal line. Meanwhile Buccs, although understandably not getting inside the Westport 22 too often, looked the more likely to cross the whitewash and a try looked on after a good concerted spell of play in the second quarter. However, they too found the opposing defence in uncompromising mood and a tricky Carty penalty that went wide after 23 minutes was the nearest the midlanders came to scoring. With both defences holding firm, it remained 7-3 in favour of Buccaneers at half-time.

It seemed that Buccs would kick on after the change of ends and the early exchanges suggested this as they kept Westport on the backfoot despite losing Rob McMickan through injury five minutes into the second half, but Cormac Langdon proved a very able deputy coming in at centre with Sean Dempsey moving to the left wing. Hughes made another typical mazy run and the steady pressure yielded a 43rd minute penalty but Carty’s placekick was not struck with his usual precision.

Buccs became hurried and a little frustrated in their efforts as the anticipated scores did not accumulate. With more patience and composure that may not have been the case. Of course, Westport too made life difficult for the Athlone outfit and the workrate and ferocious tackling by both sides never relented. Dempsey made a couple of promising sallies as did O’Reilly while Carty’s line-kicking was terrific, making much better use of the elements than Westport had in the first half. The outhalf sealed the issue with a 60th minute penalty which he kicked straight and true.

The remaining ten minutes were tense and frantic as Westport threw everything at the Pirates to save the day. But Buccs were ceaseless in their tackling and covering while the support play was generally topclass in a fine all-round team performance. Buccs matched fire with fire in the unremitting duel among the forwards while their backs possessed a more cutting edge. Evan Galvin lorded the lineouts and was a dynamic force around the paddock while the front row trio of John Gormley, Scott Flanagan and John O’Meara beavered assiduously throughout. Carty played a captain’s role at standoff while O’Reilly, Hughes and Dempsey were a constant threat to Westport who, arguably, had the best player on view in effervescent scrumhalf Dylan Carpenter.

BUCCANEERS:-  E.O’Reilly; H.Hughes, S.Doyle, S.Dempsey, R.McMickan; B.Carty (captain), R.Ashe; J.Gormley, S.Flanagan, J.O’Meara; J.O’Rourke, N.Carr; C.Morrissey, B.Cooper and E.Galvin. Replacement used:- C.Langdon (for McMickan, inj.40 mins).

 

WESTPORT:- R.Ludden; P.Glavey, A.McAleer, B.Mullen, T.McHale; S.Tobin, D.Carpenter; T.Geraghty, P.O’Toole, C.Groden; F.Murphy, E.Dunning; K.Coughlan, M.Brady and M.O’Grady. Replacements used:- R.Murphy (for Dunning, 47 mins) and J.Cashman (for McHale, inj. 61 mins).

REFEREE:- Tom Horkan (Connacht).

 

THIRDS COME A CROPPER IN LEAGUE SEMI-FINAL

BUCCANEERS 8  TUAM 10

After a sterling Connacht Junior 2 League campaign in which they achieved a 100% success rate, Buccaneers Thirds imploded in their league semi-final at home to Tuam on Easter Monday when a converted try by the visitors, an astonishing 9 minutes into added time, gave the Co. Galway side a dramatic  10-8 victory.

This was a hugely disappointing outcome for this Buccs squad who had been consistently impressive in the league section. Whether it was semi-final nerves or not being used to the wide open spaces of the main pitch at Dubarry Park but this was a totally underwhelming performance by the midlanders in a dire contest played in bitterly cold conditions. Unforced errors abounded throughout with the homesters perhaps more guilty in this respect. They never settled into a rhythm, scrums were messy, lineouts a lottery in the breeze and tactical kicking was poor. Tuam were dogged and, aided by the elements in the opening half, they got a foothold on the proceedings although they missed two penalties before taking the lead towards the end of the opening quarter. Buccs eventually made some inroads but knock-ons spoiled two promising raids while Darren Costello was unable to gauge the breeze with two tricky penalties. Tuam too were off-target with a 55 metre kick just before halftime at which stage they led tenuously 3-0.

On the restart, the westerners battled doggedly while poor decision-making meant that Buccs found it difficult to get into the visitors’ 22 although Tuam escaped with blatant obstruction as Buccs chased a kick ahead early in the second half. The visitors’ placekicker was way off-target with a 62nd minute penalty and four minutes later Buccs eventually drew level when Costello drilled over a penalty following a high tackle. The Pirates grabbed the lead on 70 minutes when Nicky Purcell broke free at halfway and held his nerve to get over on the right for a magnificent try which Costello could not convert.

The outhalf was wayward with another penalty five minutes later but at last Buccs were ahead 8-3 and playing in the Tuam danger zone. However, they coughed up possession once too often and Tuam counter-attacked from their own 22 after 49 minutes of the second half to conjure up a wonderful try at the posts past despairing home efforts to cover. The conversion, with the last kick of the match, was a formality and Tuam inflicted a first competitive defeat of the season on this Buccs outfit. Few in their camp can look back with any satisfaction on their most disappointing endeavours on the day but, while there were some stoppages in the second half, the nine minutes added time played was utterly inexplicable. Buccs get a quick opportunity to redeem themselves when they again face Tuam on Sunday week in the quarter-final of the Ard-Na-Cregg Cup in Athlone.

BUCCANEERS:-  K.O’Neill; D.Smith, M.Tormey, S.Flynn, G.Fallon; D.Costello, N.Purcell; T.Thompson, K.Grehan, L.Doran; G.Glynn (captain), D.Dunning; N.Flynn, T.Couper and S.Byrne. Replacements:- G.Kenny (for Dunning, 43 mins), M.Turley (for Thompson, 43 mins) and C.Galvin (for Grehan, 58 mins).

 

BUCCS FACE QUINS IN RESCHEDULED FIXTURE

BUCCANEERS are home to Belfast Harlequins in their rescheduled Ulster Bank League Division 1B fixture at Dubarry Park on Saturday, kick off 2.30 p.m. The original fixture was postponed as Quins claimed inability to travel due to the severe weather up North. However, some of their supporters had no difficulties travelling and were somewhat aggrieved to learn on arrival in Athlone that the game was cancelled.

Buccs too were not happy at the hasty postponement as playing conditions were near perfect in the midlands while main roads from Belfast were very much passable. Quins were missing the spine of their team for one reason or another last month with Richard Lutton, Stuart Olding, Michael Heaney and Michael Allen all involved with Ulster while Rory Scholes, Gareth Rourke, Michael Ferguson and Neil McComb were other regulars not included in their squad for that game! Now it looks like the Pirates will be short key members of their crew as Connacht A have a game against Russian club Enisei STM organised for Saturday afternoon! Jack Carty, Conor Finn, David Heffernan, Eoghan Grace, Peter Reilly and Mata Fifita are all likely to be involved in that end of year friendly, which seems to be a bit meaningless at this stage of the season.

Buccaneers Womens team travel to Dublin on Sunday where they face Railway Union in the quarter-final of the Leinster Cup. This will be a real step up in class for the Buccettes but they have shown wonderful resolve, commitment and enterprise in advancing to this stage. While the more experienced Railway Union will be warm favourites, the Buccs ladies are well capable of claiming another scalp.

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