BUCCS TOPS IN DERBY

 

GALWAY CORINTHIANS 14 BUCCANEERS 17

 

BUCCANEERS gained ground on a top four spot whilst consigning Corinthians to bottom place in Division 1B after a hard-fought Ulster Bank League encounter under the Clounacauneen floodlights on Friday night when the Pirates shaded the 17-14 verdict.  A decent attendance braved a nippy night laced with showers for this Connacht derby and, while it lacked fluency, it was always committed and close.

 

Buccs made five changes from the sides’ meeting earlier in the season and also their most recent loss to Galwegians. Eoghan O’Reilly returned to the backline with David Heffernan, Daniel Qualter, Mata Fifita and Stephen McVeigh beefing up the pack where Luke Satchwell was unavailable due to his sister’s wedding. Corinthians were also missing their regular No.8 Eoghan Masterson and fielded a complete new front row trio from their narrow win in Athlone.

The hosts had first benefit of the elements but Buccs had the opening two opportunities, particularly a strong break and chip ahead by Shane Layden that almost unlocked the home cover. Corinthians settled into the contest in which tackling was keen throughout and a lazy effort by Fifita earned them advantage in a dangerous position but, following a subsequent schmozzle, referee David Wilkinson reversed the award to the relief of the visitors. Buccs worked the line shortly afterwards with a penalty that was out of range before Callum Boland had to put in a telling tackle as Pat O’Toole tried to squeeze through a gap.

But when the westerners went offside early in the second quarter, Alan Gaughan judged his placekick to perfection to open the scoring with a 22nd minute Buccs penalty from the left. Home supporters thought Joey Merrigan was through ten minutes later but the hooker had knocked on in gathering possession. However, they had plenty to cheer about in the closing stages as Corinthians made ground through a series of pick and goes until James Connolly carved a gap in the Buccs defence to score a try near the posts. Conor Murphy’s conversion with the final kick of the half put the host 7-3 ahead at the break.

Buccs were the brighter outfit on the restart and McVeigh made splendid ground down the left. Heffernan and Layden also made progress through the centre and a score for the Athlone side looked imminent but they lost possession on 47 minutes and Miah Nikora almost caught them out when he hared away from his own 22. However, fullback Layden was equal to challenge and his tremendous chase overhauled the Connacht fly-half with Billy Henshaw winning a clearing penalty in the follow-up play.

Buccs scrum looked the stronger and, as the Pirates mauled menacingly into Corinthians territory, Merrigan infringed to incur a 50th minute yellow card. Boland punted a pin-point penalty to the right corner with the resultant penalty and, while it took some time, there was only going to be one outcome in this phase. The Shannonsides piled on the pressure, opting for scrums from a series of penalties and, eventually, the referee lost patience with transgressions by the depleted home pack to award a 55th minute penalty try which Gaughan converted.  10-7 to Buccaneers who now looked like they would kick on with further scores.

But Corinthians had other ideas and a Nikora dummy was bought hook, line and sinker by the visitors’ defence just four minutes later as the South Sea Islander darted in for a try, with Murphy’s conversion (going over via an upright) restoring the homesters’ narrow advantage. This really stung Buccs and they set about redressing the situation as they now surged forward. The midlanders seemed to have missed a really good chance on 68 minutes when they switched direction back infield although they had numbers wide on the right. However, they patiently went through the phases and recycled possession well to eventually stretch the home defence to breaking point and Cian Romaine powered over for a try wide on the left. Gaughan added a splendid conversion to edge Buccaneers back in front.

Job done? Not quite yet. Kolo Kiripati went off his feet and slowed the ball, incurring a trip to the sin bin with eight minutes remaining. Corinthians, desperately in need of points in their relegation battle, sensed a real opportunity and threw everything at the depleted visitors in the closing stages. However, this Pirates crew came to battle and defended with equal commitment, Henshaw making one shuddering tackle that sent the ball back forty metres but also resulted in the game being stopped for some time as the brave back received on-field attention before being stretchered off. Corinthians finished the game tantalisingly close to the opposition line but, unlike last year, Buccaneers held on to the spoils.

This was an absorbing derby, where league position does not always count, but clearcut scoring chances were scarce. Corinthians battled to the bitter end, with their shorter passing game being more effective at times. Nikora and particularly Connolly were a constant threat but they needed more than a losing bonus point. However, Buccaneers greater strength in depth on this occasion proved crucial, and they maintained a solid work ethic from start to finish. Their more adventurous passing style was not always prudent in the conditions but their commitment and industry could not be faulted. Jacob Walshe, Heffernan, Qualter and replacement Romaine made impacts in the forwards contest while Layden and Alex Hayman regularly tested the home defence.

GALWAY CORINTHIANS:- C.Murphy; C.Ryan, J.Buckley (captain), D.Panther, D.Griffin; M.Nikora, M.Murphy; M.Byrne, J.Merrigan, C.Hansbury; G.Warde, U.Dillane; P.O’Toole, M.Kelly and J.Connolly. Replacements:- D.Phelan (for O’Toole, h/t), C.Begley (for Buckley, 57 mins), M.O’Connell (for Phelan, temp.), A.Bane and D.Classen.

 

BUCCANEERS:-  S.Layden; B.Henshaw, A.Gaughan, A.Hayman (captain), E.O’Reilly; C.Boland, M.Dolan; J.Walshe, D.Heffernan, D.Higgins; D.Qualter, K.Kiripati; M.Fifita, R.Farrell and S.McVeigh. Replacements:- C.Romaine (for Farrell, 43 mins), M.Staunton (for Higgins, 57 mins),  R.Farrell (for McVeigh, 73 mins), C.FitzGibbon (for Henshaw, inj. 74 mins), D.Butler (for O’Reilly) and S.Flanagan.

 

REFEREE:- David Wilkinson (IRFU).

 

CLONAKILTY/KINSALE 0 BUCCANEERS 95

 

YES, the scoreline above is absolutely accurate as Buccaneers U-20s romped to a facile 95-0 victory away to Clonakilty/Kinsale in their Donal Walsh Trophy Division One play-off game at Shannonvale, Clonakilty, on Saturday. Buccs showed no ill effects from the long journey to the charming West Cork town and they hit the ground running to blitz their opponents, reeling in 15 tries in the process.

 

Those tries began to accrue as early as the second minute when Brian Gilligan started the avalanche. Charlie McMickan dotted down for the second just two minutes later. Evan Galvin and Ricky Dixon touched down on seven and eleven minutes respectively to secure a rapid fire bonus point. Conor Morrissey helped himself to the next try and, with McMickan converting all five, Buccs led by an amazing 35-0 after a mere thirteen minutes! Incredible stuff! McMickan and Gilligan scored their second tries on 26 and 38 minutes respectively for a handsome half-time lead of 45-0.

Even though the game was now already secure, Buccs never relented in their enterprise and endeavour. Harry Hughes opened the second half scoring with a 47th minute try followed by a penalty try which was converted by McMickan eight minutes later. Tom Finucane got in on the try scoring on the hour mark to stretch the Pirates advantage to 62-0. McMickan completed his hat-trick of tries on 65 minutes and Hughes grabbed his second three minutes later, with both scorers converting their own tries. Finucane nailed his second try on 71 minutes before completing his hat-trick just two minutes later, McMickan’s conversion bringing the fullback’s tally to a whopping 33 points. Conor McGrath completed the rout with a try two minutes before the end.

On a cold but dry afternoon, Buccaneers simply had too much pace, power and organisation on a sticky pitch. The amalgamation outfit, who finished fourth in their sector that included Cork Constitution and UCC, never recovered from the visitors’ lightning opening and just could not deal with the Pirates swift brand of rugby. All Buccs players contributed to this magnificent result (very likely the highest ever by any Buccaneers adult team) with most playing to their potential in a superb all-round squad performance.

BUCCANEERS:-  C.McMickan; T.Finucane, B.Gilligan, S.Dempsey, H.Hughes; G.Lynch, R.Dixon; C.Walsh, C.McGrath, N.Farrelly; R.O’Meara, J.Foley; R.Flanagan, C.Morrissey and E.Galvin (captain).  Replacements:- C.Kenny, C.Turley, D.Blackweir, P.Browne, N.Conway and C.Irwin (all used).

CASTLEBAR 10 BUCCANEERS 7

 

BUCCANEERS SECONDS completed their Connacht Junior 1B League campaign at Cloondeash where runners-up Castlebar edged a tight contest 10-7 in testing weather and playing conditions.

 

Buccs were already champions, assured of promotion, but Castlebar needed to win to be absolutely certain of a promotion/relegation match and, consequently, the Mayo side had much more to play for as they got the necessary result following an earnest duel between the teams. The Mayo side began at a high intensity and opened the scoring with an unconverted try.  However, Buccs finished the half stronger to reply with a Brian Walsh try in the corner. David Fagan’s fine conversion gave the Athlone team a 7-5 lead at half-time. 

Both outfits had scoring opportunities in the second period but only one was availed of when Castlebar got in for a second unconverted try midway through the half that earned them a narrow but priceless victory. Although defeated on this occasion, Buccs had achieved their primary goal and were presented with the division trophy after the match.

BUCCANEERS:- R.O’Connor; J.Lopez, D.Griffiths, S.Flynn, B.Walsh; D.Fagan, N.Purcell; K.Grehan, S.Flanagan, B.Campbell; R.Byrne, J.O’Rourke; S.McCormack, M.Lyons and S.Byrne (captain). Replacements:- K.Langdon, R.Grenham, D.Lennon and G.Fallon.

 

KEY FIXTURES FOR BUCCS ON SATURDAY

 

BUCCANEERS SENIORS take on Belfast Harlequins in the Ulster Bank League Division 1B at Dubarry Park whilst the U-20s host University College Cork at the same venue in the Donal Walsh Trophy Division One play-offs. Although it is a Six Nations weekend, both games are scheduled for Saturday with 2.30 p.m. kick offs at time of writing!

 

Buccs came out on top at Quins, winning 20-7 with Jacob Walshe scoring the Athlone side’s only try and Alan Gaughan contributing the remainder of the points from placekicks. The Pirates will have lineout changes from that encounter as Rory Moloney, Cian Romaine and Stephen McVeigh are involved with the Ireland U-20 squad. Quins had a crucial win last weekend, disposing of Shannon 31-13 to move up to sixth place in the league table. Neil McComb, Junior Bulumakau and Mark Glover were their try scorers with decent contributions from Michael Heaney and Frankie Taggart. The midlanders lie one berth but ten points above the northerners, who are not entirely clear from relegation fears, so a competitive encounter is very much in prospect. Billy Henshaw is an injury doubt for the hosts who will be without Garreth Halligan but, if they are more precise and prudent in their game management, then Buccs can prevail.

Buccs U-20s could also do with our trio of Ireland U-20 forwards but they should be in confident mood following two recent impressive wins over Cork opposition. They face Cork opponents again this weekend when UCC are the visitors. The Students are just behind the Pirates but have a game in hand so Buccaneers must make home advantage pay to keep in the business end of the play-offs. Evan Galvin, Cillian Walsh, James Foley, Graham Lynch and Harry Hughes can be key contributors for the home side.

 

CELEBRITY DUNK

Thank you to everyone involved in the fun and frolics in Sean’s Bar last Friday when the ‘Celebrity Dunk’ provided a good night out as well as generating funds for both St. Hilda’s School and the club.

 

HENSHAW AGAIN ‘WESTMEATH INDEPENDENT’ SPORTSTAR OF YEAR

 

Congratulations to Robbie Henshaw on winning the ‘Westmeath Independent Sports Star of 2014’ award to follow the award he won in 2013. Best of luck, Robbie, for Sunday’s massive RBS 6 Nations joust against England. Good luck too to Rory Moloney, Cian Romaine and Stephen McVeigh with the Ireland U-20 squad who also face a crunch tie against the ‘auld enemy’. Meanwhile, congratulations to Luke Carty who played for Ireland U-18s Club side last week. Although Italy outmuscled Ireland, Luke was one of the home nation’s better performers and can take pride in his contribution.

 

TABLE QUIZ

 

Buccaneers Womens team are holding a Table Quiz in The Bounty on Friday, March 13th at 8.30 p.m. Entry per team of four is €40. Make a note of the date. All support welcome.

 

CONDOLENCES

 

Heartfelt condolences to Mele and Kolo Kiripati on the unexpected death in New Zealand of Mele’s mother who passed away after a short illness.    

 

 

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