By John O’Sullivan

 

Connemara completed the Connacht Junior League and Cup double after a 34-24 Bank of Ireland Connacht Junior Cup final win over Buccaneers at the Sportsground today. 

 

The Blacks ran in three tries via Ethan Griffiths(x2) and TJ Berry, two of which were converted by tight-head Ian Staunton, who tacked on two penalties, while Henry O’Toole also added two penalties to the scoreboard to seal a deserved win after a highly entertaining game at the home of Connacht Rugby. 

 

Buccaneers, meanwhile, scored four tries with Ryan O’Meara, Fergus Galvin(2) and Eoin O’Carroll crossing for five pointers, with Colin Daly and Gerard Fallon adding a conversion each.

 

From the beginning of the game, both teams tried to impose their style of play on each other, with Connemara looking to run the ball at every opportunity and the Buccaneers using their pack to eke out yards with hard carries. 

 

Connemara struck first blood when O’Toole slotted a penalty after some hard carries in the Buccaneers’ 22 by the Blacks’ pack. 

 

The Athlone-based team responded well to the concession of the try and dominated the next ten minutes – where their pack was in the box seat – and it culminated in a try for number eight O’Meara. Turning down a shot at goal, Buccaneers opted for a line out and, after a series of phases close to the line, scrum-half Graham Lynch’s pass found the back row to power over the line. Hopkins added the extras and yellow-clad Bucs lead 7-3. 

 

Connemara, however, responded instantaneously in what was proving to be a hugely entertaining opening twenty minutes. Retrieving the ball deep in their own half, the Blacks opted to run the ball and a beautifully constructed move saw Griffiths fed the ball on the left-wing and the winger sped in for the Galway team’s first try. Tighthead Staunton slotted the conversion and Connemara found themselves 10-7 ahead. 

 

The Blacks muscled their way into the ascendancy as the half went on, with half-backs Michael O’Toole and Ian Heanue setting a quick tempo, and they made it count on the scoreboard through another O’Toole penalty and then, on the stroke of half time, a try from Berry. 

 

A clever line-out routine saw hooker Hendrick Prinsloo come close to barging over the line, but Connemara reloaded and the ball was eventually spread to number 8 Berry, and he crashed over the line from a short distance. O’Toole kicked the conversion and Connemara went into the interval 20-7 up. 

 

Buccaneers began the second half with a renewed vigor and they were rewarded for it five minutes after the restart when second-row Galvin muscled over the line from close range. The conversion was wide, but the midland’s men would have been pleased with their start. 

 

Following the pattern of the first half, Connemara immediately replied to the concession of a score and, after dissent made a penalty be moved ten metres forward, tighthead prop Staunton landed a penalty from close to the touchline to stretch the Blacks’ lead to 23-12 with ten minutes gone in the second period. 

 

Staunton, whose right foot meant he was chosen for kicking duties from the left-hand side, further stretched the Blacks’ lead with an accurate penalty that saw them move into a 26-12 lead after earning a penalty from a powerful counter ruck. 

 

Emptying their bench re-energized Buccaneers and they were the next to strike when replacement O’Carroll was on the receiving end of a beautiful offload to touch down. The conversion was wide, but the try nevertheless set up an interesting final twenty minutes with the scoreline at 26-17 in favour of Connemara. 

 

Buccaneers needed to chase the game, but the Blacks were lying in wait and an excellent Eugene Conroy jackal earned them a penalty that Staunton caressed between the posts to expand their lead to 29-17.

 

Despite losing Staunton to a yellow card, Connemara sealed their win when Griffiths added his second try of the game after opportunistically catching an overthrown Buccaneers line out. The conversion was wide, but at 34-17, the contest was over. 

 

Buccaneers had the final say, however, and added the final score when Galvin went in for his second try of the afternoon, but it wasn’t enough as the Blacks held on for a deserved win, much to the delight of their large traveling contingent. 

 

 

 

 

 

BUCCANEERS RFC 2NDS CONNEMARA RFC
Cedric FOKAM 1 Eugene CONROY
Rory GRENHAM 2 Hendrik PRINSLOO
Sean O’CONNELL 3 Ian STAUNTON
Sam KROUPA 4 David O’REILLY
Fergus GALVIN 5 Niall STAUNTON
Cathal O’GRADY 6 Tommy MULLIN
Brian MCDONNELL 7 Paul LEE
Ryan O’MEARA 8 TJ BERRY
Graham LYNCH 9 Mike O’TOOLE (C)
Frank HOPKINS 10 Ian HEANUE
Harry HUGHES 11 Ethan GRIFFITHS
Colin DALY (C) 12 Eoin BOURKE
Harry BALSIGER 13 John O’BRIEN
Ross MURPHY-SWEENEY 14 Marty CONNELLY
Jenson NAGLE 15 Henry O’TOOLE
Trevor THOMPSON 16 Fionn HEFFERNAN
Cian DALY 17 Ronan CONNELLY
Mark TALLON 18 Enda CONNOLLY
Cian MCCANN 19 Mark JOYCE
Robert TEAPE 20 Dave MCDONAGH
Eoin O’CARROLL 21 Calum HIGGINS
Saul O’CARROLL 22 Shane SWEENEY
Gerald FALLON

 

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