RUGBY  with   MICHAEL  SILKE

BALLYNAHINCH  17   (M.Kirkwood, M.Graham & A.Ferris try each; H.McAleese con).          

BUCCANEERS  22  (G.Halligan, B.Touhy & A.Hayman try each; A.Kennedy 2 cons; J.H.Potgeiter pen)

BuccsVBHinchBUCCANEERS made it two vital wins in succession with a nail-biting 22-17 AIB League Division 1B victory over Ballynahinch at Ballymacarn Park in the foothills of the snow-capped Mourne mountains on Saturday. A more than good start proved half the battle for the midlanders in a rip-roaring contest played in decent conditions on a nippy but gloriously sunny Co. Down afternoon.

Buccaneers made two changes, one enforced, from their recent home win over Dungannon. Captain Colm Rigney was ruled out with a hamstring injury and he was replaced at lock by Padraig Burke who was returning after a longish injury lay-off. In the backline, Billy Henshaw was preferred to Sean Stapleton on the left wing in a youthful Buccs squad. Kolo Kiripati operated at No. 8 with Stephen Burke switching to flanker. Ballynahinch fielded along expected lines although Jonny Cullen and Harry McAleese were restored to fullback and scrumhalf respectively.

With so much at stake for both clubs, the teams went at each other hammer and tongs from the kick off. It was often frantic and mistakes were a regular feature as both sides strove to impose themselves on the proceedings in front of a large and vocal attendance, boosted by a considerable number of Pirates at this elevated scenic ground. Hinch had the first scoring opportunity after just two minutes when referee John Carvill penalised Buccs for not releasing the ball although when he whistled the ball was already long in the arms of Brian Touhy but justice was done when Ryan Bambry’s kick was off-target. Four minutes later, Alex Hayman and Conor Lavelle combined down the left flank but the northerners defence scampered back in time to curtail the danger. Buccs had an even better chance on eight minutes but Adam Kennedy’s straight-forward penalty rebounded off an upright and David McGregor tidied up for the homesters.

However, Buccaneers were soon to grab a lead they would never relinquish. Following a Hinch lineout on halfway, Garreth Halligan blocked McAleese’s attempted kick and the hooker reacted quickest to seize possession. He hared down the left flank leaving Michael Kirkwood flailing and then comfortably withstood Cullen’s tackle before grounding the ball between the uprights for a superb try, giving Kennedy a handy conversion to restore his confidence. Four minutes later, further disaster almost befell the Ulster side when Cullen’s attempted clearance was charged down by Hayman but the supporting Padraig Burke knocked on in the tackle when another Buccs try looked imminent. Next it was Ballynahinch’s time to go close, Stuart Morrow’s counter attack brought to a halt by a shuddering Padraig Burke tackle on 20 minutes while two minutes later the home centre intercepted a telegraphed Kiripati lay-off intended for Touhy but this time the Athlone side turned over possession to alleviate the danger.The big Samoan, however, was hugely influential throughout and he soon made amends when making good yardage before off-loading to Kennedy and the scrumhalf sent Touhy careering down the right touchline where he stretched to ground the ball at the corner flag for a wonderfully-taken 26th minute try. Kennedy was unable to add the difficult conversion but Buccaneers now had a hugely promising 12-0 advantage. 

With resonances of Twickenham the previous weekend, Ballynahinch had the greater share of possession without making the most of it while Buccaneers defensive work was committed and sustained for the greater part while the Pirates looked the more likely to score with ball in hand. They also regularly turned over possession and this was to prove instrumental in the lead-up to Buccs timely third try just before halftime. Hayman put in a terrific punt towards the left corner and the chasing Lavelle gave Cullen little option but to kick to touch. James Tormey claimed a splendid lineout catch and the ball was moved smartly left to right to Hayman who exquisitely dummied as if to continue the move and, with the home defence suddenly wrong-footed, the centre marked his captaincy on the day with a deft change of angle to dive in for a try near the posts. Kennedy duly added the conversion and Buccs really had their tails up, 19-0 to the good after a smashing first half display in which they stood up to the challenge and were far more clinical in taking their chances than heretofore.

Hayman put in another splendid kick to touch soon after the restart to signal Buccs intent and, shortly afterwards, had Henshaw been more direct he may have grabbed a bonus try wide on the right. But Ballynahinch had upped their tempo following the change of ends and had simply to go for broke and they were rewarded after some patient play on 49 minutes when Kirkwood got in for a try wide on the right. Seven minutes later they were very much back in the game. Stuart Lamb got by a rare missed tackle in midfield and he thundered towards the visitors’ 22 where J.H.Potgeiter put in a crunching tackle to stop the home captain but Michael Graham was on his shoulder to pick up possession and get in for Hinch’s second try. However, Bambry and McAleese respectively missed the conversion attempts and Buccs still had some leeway on the scoreboard, stretched to 22-10 just before the hour mark when impressive fullback Potgeiter drilled over a tricky 28 metre penalty after the homesters were guilty of a handling offence.

Although Kiripati and Henshaw brought possession close to the home try line soon afterwards, Buccaneers forays were now less frequent as the midlanders tired noticeably in the final quarter. Ballynahinch were now spending more time than was comfortable in the visitors’ half, yet the tackles continued to be put in as Buccs struggled to stem the fightback. But stem it they did until the 79th minute when Aaron Ferris got by three tacklers to somehow conjure up a try on the left which McAleese did particularly well to convert. Now Hinch threw everything at Buccs in a protracted six minutes of added time but, although the Pirates were clearly wilting at this stage and Paul Harte was sin-binned, they never shirked from their endeavours and responsibilities as they held on for a crucial win in a terrificly exciting finish while their hosts had to settle for a losing bonus point that keeps matters exceedingly tight at the bottom of the league table.

Nevertheless, this victory has leap-frogged Buccaneers over both Ballynahinch and Dungannon in the standings, and the midlanders have given themselves a more than fighting chance of avoiding the sceptre of relegation. Their destiny is now not dependant on other results whilst confidence, self-belief and pride is again flowing through their veins. This was a very honest collective effort with a superb effort by the pack in which Kiripati was outstanding. Colin Watters, despite suffering from a virus, was also magnificent while young Padraig Burke made light of his recent lack of matchtime as he more than ably returned to action. Hayman revelled in his role at standoff, Touhy put in an adroit and assured shift in the centre, and Potgeiter was tremendous at fullback, confidently clearing his lines and also showing the steelier side to his game with a number of wonderful tackles.

BUCCANEERS:-  J.H.Potgeiter; B.Henshaw, P.Harte, B.Touhy, C.Lavelle; A.Hayman (captain), A.Kennedy; M.Staunton, G.Halligan, C.Higgins; P.Burke, J.Tormey; S.Burke, C.Watters and K.Kiripati. Replacements used:- B.Gilligan (for Staunton, 74 mins) and G.Kelly (for S.Burke, 75 mins).

BALLYNAHINCH:-  J.Cullen; M.Kirkwood, D.Nicholson, S.Morrow, A.Ferris; R.Bambry, H.McAleese; C.Stevenson, D.McGregor, L.Johnston; R.Greer, J.Graham; M.Graham, J.McCall and S.Lamb (captain). Replacements used:- J.Napier (for M.Graham), D.Harris (for Nicholson) and G.Taylor (for ? )

REFEREE:-  John Carvill. (Leinster). 

GALWEGIANS      12  BUCCANEERS  12

BUCCANEERS RESERVES and their Galwegians counterparts shared the spoils 12-12 in their Connacht Junior League game played at Crowley Park, Galway, on Sunday. This was a very open, free-flowing encounter with very little kicking as both squads tried to run the ball. Buccs, having been unable to field in their rescheduled game away to Westport the previous week, are now relegated despite their best endeavours after a torrid season.

This was truly a game of two halves. The midlanders were utterly dominant in the opening period and built up a 12-0 lead. David Dunning got them off to a flying start, his barn-storming run down the right yielding an early try. As the game edged into the second quarter, Adrian Hughes trampled through from 30 metres following a pop pass from David Egan to touchdown, Michael Donohoe converting this try. However, Wegians grabbed a lifeline with a converted try just before the break to trail 12-7 at a stage Buccs should have been more comfortably ahead.

On the resumption, it was now Galwegians turn to force the pace but solid defensive work meant that Buccs kept their noses in front until midway when the westerners finally breached the cover for a try to level. Although Wegians were now in the ascendancy, Buccs continued to defend resiliently with Kevin Creaven and Gavin Kelly to the fore and the sides remained deadlocked to the finish. Cormac Sheehy was another Buccs back to acquit himself well while Paul Robinson, Paul Galvin and man of the match Dunning fared best in the pack for a youthful Athlone outfit whose season is now at an end.

BUCCANEERS:-  C.Sheehy; K.McIntyre, G.Kelly, K.Creaven, C.Draper; M.Donohoe, C.O’Keeffe; L.Doran, D.Egan, G.McGill; S.O’Neill, P.Robinson; D.Dunning, P.Galvin and A.Hughes (captain). Replacements used:- D.Henshaw (for Doran) and M.Coleman (for O’Neill).

GALWEGIANS  13  BUCCANEERS  3

BUCCANEERS THIRDS and their Galwegians counterparts battled it out mainly through the forwards in their Connacht J2 League meeting at Glenina, Galway, where the home side proved stronger on a 13-3 margin. This was a much-changed midlanders outfit that never really got going despite the endeavours of Rory Byrne, Ger Fallon, Ger Walsh and Robert Reid. Fallon, with a penalty, was the Pirates sole scorer.

BUCCANEERS:-  R.Silke; R.Purtill, K.McIntyre, G.O’Loughlin, S.Flynn; G.Fallon, G.Walsh; R.Curley, D.Burns, T.Thompson; P.Hynes, M.Coleman; G.Duffy, R.Reid and R.Byrne.

CORINTHIANS  42  BUCCANEERS  15

After a run of good results recently, Buccaneers Thirds came a cropper away to Corinthians in their Connacht J2 League meeting under the Clounacauneen floodlights last Thursday night where the Galway club won on a 42-15 scoreline. Centre Aidan Quinn did most of the damage for the homesters, helping himself to a haul of five tries.

Terry Hynes, returning after injury, was best of the backs with notable support from Emmet Egan. Richie Johnstone and Darragh Lennon proved best in the pack for Buccs for whom Keith O’Neill was sent off for dissent. Ger Fallon kicked a penalty and one conversion while Johnstone and John Shaughnessy got a try apiece.

BUCCANEERS:-  O.McIntyre; G.O’Loughlin, J.Shaughnessy, E.Egan, K.O’Neill; T.Hynes, G.Fallon; R.Curley, K.Grehan, R.Johnstone; G.Duffy, M.Coleman; D.Lennon, R.Wakefield and R.Byrne. Replacements used:- L.Doran (for Curley), D.Dunning (for Hynes) and P.Hynes (for Duffy).

MONIVEA  6  BUCCANEERS  6

BUCCANEERS and Monivea served up a typically full-blooded Cup encounter when they met in the semi-final of the Connacht U-19 Cup at the Castle Grounds, Monivea, where it ended all square 6-6 on Sunday.

This was another compelling battle between two evenly matched and well drilled squads. Most of the action was fought out through the forwards with the midlanders pack up for the duel. An early Jack Carty drop goal settled visiting nerves and Buccs had the better of the opening half with Carty landing a penalty to put Buccs 6-0 ahead at halftime. There were incidents aplenty throughout and Buccs can feel aggrieved that Liam Claffey was not awarded a try in the second period. Monivea lived to joust another day, restricted to a brace of second half penalties through the excellent defensive work put in by Buccs.

Stephen Dowling, Neil Quigley, Paul Hewitt and Brendan Fagan were to the fore in the forwards exchanges for Buccaneers while Carty, Conor Keogh, John Maguire and Claffey were pick of a decent backline. With school exams looming, it is hoped that the replay will be fixed sooner rather than later while Buccs will be looking for a first competitive home fixture of the season for it. The Athlone side will also be hoping to be strengthened by returns of internationals Daniel Qualter and Callum Boland for the replay against Monivea, whom they are also due to meet in the U-19 league final shortly.

BUCCANEERS:-  J.Maguire; C.Keogh, E.Keena, L.Claffey, C.Greene; J.Carty, W.Walesch; E.O’Brien, P.Hewitt, S.Dowling; N.Quigley, E.Casey; S.Feary (captain), K.Donnelly and B.Fagan. Replacements used:- J.Crompton (for Donnelly) and G.Duignan (for Casey).

CAR DRAW WINNER!

The Draw for the Renault Megane Coupe took place in The Bounty following the televised England v Ireland match last weekend and the lucky winner is NIALL DALY, with a Dublin address but I understand originally from the Ferbane area. Niall will be presented with his star prize at Buccaneers next home game against U.C.C. on Saturday, March 27th.

Buccaneers RFC gratefully acknowledge the support of all who purchased tickets in our Car Draw, the proceeds of which will greatly help the club operate at all levels from senior down to mini grades. A sincere thanks too to all the organisers and volunteers who put their collective shoulders to the wheel in ensuring the success of this key fund-raiser.

IRELAND v WALES U-20 INTERNATIONAL ON FRIDAY

IRELAND face Wales in a top of the table ESB International U-20 Six Nations Championship match at Dubarry Park on this Friday night, March 12th, kick off 7.30 p.m. Although cash will be taken at the turnstiles on the night, tickets can be purchased in advance at The Bounty, Musicworld, Keenan Sports or Harten’s of Moate.  This promises to be a cracking game between the top two teams in the tournament. Both are scoring aplenty with Ireland enjoying a slim scoring advantage that has them on top. Ireland will be hoping to extend their wonderful winning sequence in Athlone where they have lost just once in five seasons, interestingly to Wales two years ago! With everything to play for, the winner of Friday’s match will take a giant step towards claiming this season’s championship title, so lets see a bumper crowd cheering on Ireland.

CHARLIE COUPER COACHING APPOINTMENT

BUCCANEERS have added Charlie Couper as coaching partner with new Senior coach David Henshaw. Couper, a wily backrow forward in his prime during his playing days with Athlone and Old Wesley, brings a wealth of coaching experience at many levels to this role. He is particularly skilled at bringing the best out of developing players and is highly respected especially in third and second level college grades. Charlie is known far and wide through his work as a Development Officer in Connacht rugby and has also coached and tutored many a team over a long involvement in rugby union.

Couper coached Ireland Colleges for seven seasons and coached both Connacht Schools and Connacht Colleges squads this term. He previously coached Buccaneers in 1994/95 and also teamed up with Kenny Tarrant and Jacques Hanekom at the helm. A former Connacht player, Charlie also guided Athlone to an All-Ireland U-20 final.

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