BUCCANEERS moved to the top of Division 1B in the All Ireland League when  a storming finish transformed an uncomfortable 16-10 advantage into a magnificent 45-15 victory at sun soaked Dubarry Park, Athlone. The midlanders were dominant throughout but the scoreboard did not reflect their superiority until that final quarter demolition of the students.
Buccs made five changes in personnel from the defeat at Clontarf. Jarrod Bennett, injured in that cynical late tackle at Castle Avenue, was ruled out through injury with exciting teenage prospect Jack Carty getting his first start in the pivotal outhalf berth and Brian Touhy came in for Shane Monahan who sustained an injury in training. Alex Hayman started in the centre with Aidan Wynne on the bench on this occasion. Meanwhile, David Connellan and Conor O’Loughlin switched positions.  In the pack, Padraig de Burca and Stephen Burke replaced James Tormey and Eoin Rooney respectively.
The centre pitch, which received an extensive and expensive overhaul during the summer, looked pristine for its first match of this season. A beautiful sunny day added to the occasion and, with little or no breeze, playing conditions were virtually flawless for this encounter, sponsored by Dubarry. Buccs forced the pace from the start and Connellan clearly had his shooting boots with him knocking over two penalties in the opening five minutes, the first kick from halfway. Connellan and Andrew Burke then traded penalties, Buccs third placekick was a super effort after Kevin O’Byrne cleaned home fullback John O’Brien out of it as he came to gather a Garryowen. The visiting prop was decidedly fortunate not to spend ten minutes in the sin bin as a result of this 11th minute clash but Buccs now led 9-3.
The midlanders were making virtually all the running and their opening try on 23 minutes was already well overdue. Colin Watters, as always in the thick of the action, barrelled through, taking a number of College players with him over the line to touchdown and when Connellan converted it seemed as if Buccaneers would progress with an anticipated comfortable victory but the score remained unchanged 16-3 at halftime, both sides having missed penalty attempts by that stage while Buccs had too often spoiled good ground gained through going through the phases by spilling too much ball. Buccs had also lost the inspiring Watters through injury by this stage but Marcus Madden quickly settled into the action.
UCC restarted in more organised and urgent manner while Buccs seemed to feel that scores would come inevitably for them. However, when Brian Derham sauntered in for a College try six minutes into the second half, the homesters simply had to step up their endeavours. With some fine-tuning and substitutions, the tries began to flow with Kolo Kiripati opening the floodgates in typical swash-buckling fashion after 55 minutes. Connellan, much more comfortable at scrumhalf, added a super conversion and suddenly Buccs found their groove with the vastly experienced Wynne in for Carty and Adam Kennedy for Connellan while Martin Staunton had come on for Dylan Rogers at the interval.
A super crossfield kick that Ronan O’Gara would have been proud of by sub Wynne set up Touhy for a try eight minutes later while further exciting play by Buccs set Touhy up for his second and the midlanders bonus try despite shades of a knock on in the finishing touch on 68 minutes. Buccs were picking and driving very effectively at this stage and Kiripati thundered through for his second on 75 minutes as UCC were now being punished ruthlessly for their growing number of errors. Paul Harte then grabbed another with an intercept try just three minutes later, Wynne adding the conversion. Gallant UCC enterprisingly ran a penalty from inside their own half four minutes into added time when many others would have simply kicked the ball into touch to end the agony and John Ryan finished off the move for a spirited try to complete the 45-15 scoreline in favour of Buccaneers.
The midlanders were a joy to behold in that final, exciting twenty-five minutes displaying the potential and cutting edge that is there in this crop of players. The support play was excellent and their focus and application remained solid until the final move. They corrected the handling errors of the first half and their only blip was the concession of that soft second try at the death when the game was done and dusted. A bonus point was gathered (after letting two slip by them in the past two matches) and the importance of bonus points is best evidenced by the one collected on Saturday which helped them edge to the top of the league standings on scoring difference.
Prop Conor Higgins was named the ‘Athlone Springs Hotel man of the match’ and his efforts richly merited this accolade. Kiripati, Watters and Burke were other stalwarts in the home pack while Wynne, Touhy and O’Loughlin excelled in the Buccs backline. UCC captain James Ryan did his utmost on their behalf.
BUCCANEERS:- J.O’Brien; B.Touhy, P.Harte, A.Hayman, C.O’Loughlin; J.Carty, D.Connellan; C.Higgins, G.Halligan (captain), D.Rogers; P. de Burca, D.Qualter; S.Burke, C.Watters and K.Kiripati. Replacements:- M.Madden (for Watters, inj. 38 mins), M.Staunton (for Rogers, h-t), A.Wynne (for Carty, 53 mins), A.Kennedy (for Connellan, inj. 61 mins) and J.Tormey (for de Burca, 70 mins).
U.C.C:- W.Walsh; B.Derham,J.Holland, D.Horgan, C.Crowley; A.Burke, B.Slater; G.Duffy, K.O’Byrne, John Ryan; B.Quill, P.Donnellan; W.Ryan, B.O’Callaghan and James Ryan (captain). Replacements:-  C.Nolan (for Slater, 65 mins)
Referee:- David Keane (Leinster).
U-21 National League:-
UL Bohemian 23 Buccaneers 3
BUCCANEERS put in an indifferent performance when going down 23-3 to UL Bohemian in their South-West Munster Conference of the U-21 National League at Annacotty, Limerick on Saturday.
Buccs trailed by just 0-3 at halftime but coughed up three tries thereafter. They squandered some placekicking opportunities but their main difficulties arose in the pack, especially the lineouts where they were well off the mark in an area that hitherto had been a good route to possession. The backs (who were forced to rejig when placekicker Stewart Flynn was injured in the warm up) did not play too badly but suffered from a lack of quality ball. Here, Callum Boland did well, despite being under pressure and he scored Buccs solitary penalty. John Hayes was immense in the forwards battle with best support from Enda O’Brien and sub Eoin de Burca. However, the lineouts were a disaster throughout, UL Bohs cottoning on quickly that it was one of those days for Buccs who won just two lineouts in all, an area that had given the midlanders a winning platform away to Shannon.
BUCCANEERS:- D.Fagan; K.Naughton, E.Keena, C.Gormley, C.Greene; C.Boland, P.Butler; D.Henshaw, E.O’Brien, T.Thompson; R.Byrne, J.Kenny; J.O’Carroll, J.Hayes (captain) and B.Fagan. Replacements:- E.de Burca, T.Nolan, L.Doran, N.Quigley, R.Reid and E.Doolan.
Connacht Junior League:-
Buccaneers 35 Ballina 12
An excellent first half display ensured Buccaneers Thirds got their Connacht Junior 2 League campaign off to the best possible start when they defeated Ballina 35-12 at Dubarry Park, Athlone, on Sunday.
On a fine afternoon that turned cold, Ballina found the going early on much too hot for their liking as Buccs built up a decisive 28-0 halftime advantage. Indeed, the Athlone club grabbed the lead after little more than one minute on the clock, prop Brian Moore rumbling over in his own inimitable style for a well-taken try at the posts, giving Michael Donohoe a very straight-forward conversion for a 7-0 lead. Sean Byrne repeated the dose twelve minutes later while Enda Haughey scored the try of the match after 18 minutes when he gathered possession following a lineout at halfway and careered through the visiting cover for a stunning try.
Just after the half-hour mark, Byrne and Karl Turley reversed roles with the big No. 8 popping the ball into a close in scrum and the scrumhalf transferred smart possession from the base of the scrum to Byrne who came thundering in for Buccs fourth try in the opening half. With Donohoe in impeccable kicking form, Buccs had 28 points on the scoreboard as well as a bonus try.
Soon after the restart, Keith O’Neill made a terrific break that led to Byrne (one of three brothers in action for Buccaneers) securing his hat-trick. Donohoe again converted and Buccs then emptied their bench which unsettled their endeavours. Battling Ballina made the most of this scoring two tries in the final quarter to reduce their final arrears to 35-12. But Buccs were full value for their victory with Byrne,Turley, Haughey, Donohoe and ‘Abba’ Moore in such rampant mood.
BUCCANEERS:- K.O’Neill; G.Fallon, C.Molloy, P.Byrne, R.Silke; M.Donohoe, K.Turley; B.Moore, K.Grehan, P.Doran; P.Hynes, M.O’Regan; T.Couper, E.Haughey and S.Byrne. Replacements:- D.Costello, C.Sheehy, S.Woods, L.Doran, G.O’Loughlin, S.Coyle and R.Byrne.
With Ireland in action this weekend against world champions South Africa in the first rugby international match at the Aviva Stadium, it is a relatively quiet weekend on the club scene. The Thirds are Buccs only team with a fixture at time of writing, away to Sligo in the Connacht Junior 2A League on Sunday, kick off 2.30 p.m. Buccaneers second string U-21 squad play Monivea next weekend in the South-West Conference Division 2 with time and day to be confirmed. 
At time of writing, match tickets for Ireland’s first two games at the Aviva Stadium are still available through the club. A limited number are available for the Springboks fixture including some child tickets while a more plentiful supply can be got for the Samoa game. Contact Dave Connolly or Geraldine Kenny for further details. I understand a free bus is being laid on for the Samoa game which may encourage better uptake on these tickets.
BUCCANEERS are hosting a FASHION SHOW with a difference at the Athlone Springs Hotel. Tickets cost €20 and can be purchased in advance from Geraldine at the club or at the hotel on the night. The event gets under way with a Champagne Reception. An exciting range of fashion will be on the catwalk with some of Buccaneers more image conscious players also taking to the catwalk — that should be worth the admission price alone! There are numerous raffle prizes and also a special hospitality star prize at the exclusive Wineport Lodge to be won by the best dressed lady attending the Fashion Show. So, as the song says, “here come the girls.”


U18 Girls team named to face Ulster