Buccaneers 21-26 Ballinasloe

There is nothing like a local cup derby to get the intensity up and the action back on track after the Christmas festivities. To this end both Buccaneers and Ballinasloe served up an exciting and closely fought second round Connacht Heineken Junior Cup match at Dubarry Park on Sunday. Although Ballinasloe had been drawn at home for this fixture, the game was switched to Athlone as the pitch at Graigueawoneen was unplayable.

Ballinasloe won mainly because of their greater resolve and their taking of chances when on top early on. They were 15pts to the good before Buccs registered their first score and though the locals worked their way back into the game, they never got their noses in front.

Ballinasloe were like whippets out of the traps in getting into the action and the game was only a few minutes old when John Hayes, who gave a tour-de- force performance, was already sneaking away from a ruck to cross for a try. Ruaidhri Doolan landed the difficult conversion from the touchline and the visitors were up and running. When Buccs were penalised for boring in at a scrum Doolan punished them to the maximum when putting over the resultant kick. Ballinasloe were playing the game on their terms at this stage while Buccs were struggling to put any structure to their game. A promising break by the local’s Cian O’Reilly into Ballinasloe’s half ended in frustration for them when they were pinged for hands in the ruck. Then in the 16th minute another Hayes break up the left channel saw the ball fed to Conal Gormley to score try number two with the conversion being missed.

Buccs eventually got their act together after 22 minutes and a  good passing movement by the backs, heck, it even carried a Brian O’Driscoll style pass between the legs, ended with Sean Byrne, touching down in the corner for their first try with the conversion missing the target. They were now on the scoreboard and their confidence soared. They took the fight to the visitors who were glad to get some more breathing space as Doolan slotted his second penalty from around 35 metres to bring the score to 18-5. But the hosts were not to be outdone and hit back for a well worked try on the half hour mark. They took a lineout on the Ballinasloe twenty two and moved forward in a menacing maul that was inevitably brought down. They took a quickly tapped penalty and seconds later were over for a try close to the posts thanks to their No.8, Brendan Fagan. David Fagan added the conversion to leave only 6pts between the sides.

The visitors, noting their dwindling lead, finished the half strongly forcing Buccs to display their defensive capabilities. Doolan kicked his third penalty on the stroke of half time to leave the score 21-12.

Only 9pts in arrears, Buccs started the second period in determined fashion and David Fagan quickly reduced the arrears with a penalty kick from out on the left and when he landed a second in the 50th minute Ballinasloe looked to be in trouble.

Buccs were dominating the exchanges and the visitors were under real pressure for the first time in the game.  With the local’s back row players, Niall Flynn and Brendan Fagan, driving their forces forward Ballinasloe had to remain focused and disciplined which they duly did. They sent for reinforcement to freshen their pack with Harry Reynolds and Kevin Gavin entering the fray.

The winners weathered the storm and slowly played their way deep into enemy territory. They now got their second wind and began to put the Shannonsiders under the cosh at the end of the third quarter as they bombarded their line. There were any number of scrums and charges for a try that would give Ballinasloe some space again. It arrived in the 67th minute when the Buccs defence finally cracked and Stanley Hayes, who had only been on the field a few minutes, forced his way over for the winner’s third try of the afternoon. The conversion went askew but Ballinasloe were now 8pts ahead. With about 6 mins. remaining Buccs kicked a penalty into the corner but Ballinaslo stole their throw with a fine take by Niall Staunton and with it went, one felt, their final chance of pulling the game out of the fire. They did land a late penalty courtesy of the boot of David Fagan but Ballinasloe then shut the game out and made their way into the next round of the cup.

BALLINASLOE: D.Burke, J.Dillon, R.Cullinan, D.Freeman, C.Gormley, R.Doolan, Conor Loughrey,J.J.Carey, AO’Hara(capt), T.Dolan, N.Staunton, K.Headd, A.Loughrey, J.Hayes, R,Wakefield.Replacements:(all used) K.Gavin, S.Hayes, H,Reynolds, J.Kelly, Cian Loughrey.

ATHLONE: B.Carty, D.Byrne, H.Hughes, B.Walshe, S.Doyle, D.Fagan, C.O’Reilly, L.Doran, R.Grenham, S. Meunaryia, R.Byrne,  S.Byrne, N.Flynn, B.Fagan, R.Mooney. Replacements: T.Thompson, S.Flynn,  J.Donoghue.

REFEREE: Emmet Dormer.

Ballinasloe’s Development Squad’s fixture at Castlebar was postponed due to an unplayable pitch.

LADIES!   LADIES!   LADIES!

Following the very encouraging performances by Ballinasloe’s U15 ladies side the club now hopes to field an U18 side as well. Training commences  on Saturday next, Jan. 11th, at 12 o’clock and will continue each Saturday from there on. All interested ladies are welcome to come along and try out the game.                                

Liam Courtney, Club PRO.

 

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