RUGBY with MICHAEL SILKE

UCC  19  BUCCANEERS  13

BUCCANEERS came a cropper in their Ulster Bank League Division 1B game away to University College, Cork, at The Mardyke where they lost 19-13 in a fast-paced encounter on a dull and breezy Saturday. The battling Students taught the midlanders a key lesson in that you must make territory and possession pay, otherwise you run the risk of being hit by a sucker punch. 

The midlanders were forced to make two changes from the side that impressed when defeating Clontarf, Shane Monahan and Clifford Richardson both being unavailable. This resulted in some tweaking in the backs and forwards with Alex Hayman coming in at centre and Paul Harte moving to the left wing while Marcus Madden started at wing forward with Stephen Burke switching to the second row.

Buccs came flying out of the traps and pinned UCC back from the start, despite playing against the diagonal, blustery breeze on a heavy pitch. John O’Brien made a terrific break down the left flank after just three minutes but was tackled after chipping the defender and the students escaped from the resultant penalty to touch. However, five minutes later, fullback O’Brien was diving over the home line in the left corner for the opening try of the game which had been coming on the back of the strong start. Jack Carty, entrusted with place-kicking duties, was unable to convert from out wide.

College were unfazed by this early burst by the visitors and they showed they were up for this contest with some good interplay leading to a 13th minute try by William Walsh with Andrew Burke adding the conversion to take a lead they would not surrender. Buccs were soon back inside the home 22 and created a number of very promising situations but Aidan Wynne was indecisive when he had an overlap to his right and he lost possession from which Buccs hit an angled kick to the left. Here Hayman came steaming through but the ball bounced unkindly back over his head where Burke was in support and he headed for the try line. However, the centre was penalised for blocking a UCC defender and thus a relieving penalty ensued for College. Still Buccs piled forward and John Holland cleared his line under pressure from Martin Staunton while, almost immediately, the Pirates seemed certain to score when Kolo Kiripati drove forward only to be stopped two metres short and his attempted offload was gladly intercepted by Andrew Cudmore just as Staunton was about to pounce so Buccs trailed 5-8 after 25 minutes.

Just like last season, the visitors were to rue not converting early territory and pressure on to the scoreboard as UCC soon stretched their advantage in impressive fashion. A superb maul set them up in a good position and Buccs were forced to concede a close in penalty but, such was the Students’ belief, that they opted for a scrum from which they drove over Buccs line for a 30th minute John Ryan try with Burke adding his second conversion. UCC now gathered momentum and Harte had to put in a telling tackle on Colin Crowley to prevent a try while Kiripati soon knocked on inside his 22 and compounded this by not releasing the ball but Burke missed the kickable penalty just before halftime which arrived with College 14-5 ahead.

It took Buccaneers some time to get a foothold in home territory after the resumption with Callum Boland, O’Brien and Harte involved in a good raid after 48 minutes but they spurned a scoring chance when Carty’s 51st minute penalty was off-target after Gavin Duffy was penalised for coming in from the side. Two minutes later Buccs came close again but the ball was passed just behind Madden whose surge forward was then deemed ‘crossing’ as Buccs looked like breaking through. They did that on 54 minutes when, after a searing Harte break had made huge ground, Colin Watters carried good ball forward despite an infringement but just as Kiripati strode over the home line, referee John Lacey (who had been playing advantage) whistled to award Buccaneers a penalty! This was a real let-off for the Students and, although Carty found his range to reduce the arrears to 14-8, UCC caught Buccs off-guard from the restart and Walsh was soon waltzing in for his second try wide on the left after 56 minutes. Although Burke’s conversion attempt on this occasion was poor, the Students now had a buffer to spur them on in their keen search for much needed league points.

Buccs were not playing up to the impressive standard of their recent two victories, yet they were still creating chances but just lacked the cutting edge and application necessary to unlock a very well-drilled defensive effort by UCC whose tidy pack made life difficult for the visitors all afternoon. Harte was becoming more prominent at this stage and he was unlucky not to link up with Boland before O’Brien and Garreth Halligan created an opportunity for Madden but five UCC defenders converged on him as he endeavoured to ground the ball and he knocked on under such extreme pressure. College were now coming under growing scrutiny and James Ryan was yellow carded on 70 minutes just after Harte was tackled into touch at the left corner flag. It was now Buccs turn to opt for a series of scrums at penalty time and they eventually made the breakthrough on 74 minutes with O’Brien getting in for his second try. Unfortunately, young Carty’s kicking was untypically wayward and he was unable to add the conversion. Buccs strove desperately to snatch a late try but, in the end, they had to settle for a losing bonus point and indeed they could have lost that too when Adam Kennedy was sin-binned in added time for not releasing in the tackle but UCC, surprisingly, opted for touch from a kickable position.

So Buccs again found UCC a ‘banana skin’ as the eager students got another precious home victory that gives them some breathing space. Their pack was more cohesive and better organised on the day and they were tremendously disciplined whilst refusing to wilt although under pressure at several stages in an engrossing battle. The two Ryans, James and John, were immense for UCC and their lively backline always threatened. Yet, Buccaneers will be very disappointed for they lacked the balance and sharpness of recent outings. Nevertheless, they created no less than ten try chances although converting only two. Perhaps they may have underestimated College but Buccs focus and precision was just not what it needed to be on this occasion.  However, the losing bonus point could yet prove priceless.

BUCCANEERS:-  J.O’Brien; C.Boland, A.Wynne, A.Hayman, P.Harte; J.Carty, A.Kennedy; M.Staunton, G.Halligan (captain), C.Higgins; S. Burke, P. de Burca; M.Madden, C.Watters and K.Kiripati. Replacements used:-  C.Lavelle (for Harte, inj. 70 mins) and A.Hughes (for Burke, inj. 78 mins).

U.C.C:- W.Walsh; C.Crowley, A.Burke, B.Derham, A.O’Leary; J.Holland, B.Slater; G.Duffy, A.Cudmore, John Ryan; M.Kenefick, P.Donnellan; B.Quill, J.McCarthy and James Ryan (captain). Replacements used:-  M.Linehan (for Kenefick, 67 mins) and K.O’Byrne (for Cudmore, 78 mins).

REFEREE:- John Lacey. (IRFU).  

BUCCANEERS  34  GARRYOWEN  24

BUCCANEERS U-21s recorded a magnificent and crucial 34-24 South-West Conference National League victory over Garryowen in a pulsating encounter at Dubarry Park, Athlone, on Saturday. Played on the main pitch, this was an absolutely cracking contest between two smashing sides both keen to play expansive rugby despite the “must win” nature of this vital tie.

Buccs are still missing a number of key personnel, yet in ideal ground and weather (apart from a diagonal breeze) conditions they were not found wanting against a fine Garryowen outfit. Robert Henshaw opened the scoring when taking a lovely line to grab an early try and settle home nerves but Garryowen replied with a brace of penalties. Jarrod Bennett nosed Buccs back in front with a penalty and they then turned over possession from the visitors to recycle the ball smartly setting up Conor Gormley for a good try at the posts which Bennett converted to put Buccs 15-6 ahead at halftime.

Buccaneers played towards the clubhouse end for the second period when Garryowen seemed to have regained the initiative with a pair of tries, one converted, but some excellent ball retention and off-loading led to a fine team try finished off by Ethan Keena which Bennett converted to edge the midlanders back in front at 22-18. Bennett then spliced a couple of Garryowen penalties that tightened the margin to the minimum but Buccaneers had the final say on the scoreboard with further good ball carrying particularly by John Hayes to forge a near replica try of the previous score with Jack O’Carroll applying the finishing touch and Bennett again adding the spoils. The Athlone side then battened down the hatches in the closing stages as Garryowen threw everything at them in a bid to salvage something from this exhilarating contest that was as polished and exciting as any game this season.

All home forwards impressed in this outing with Brendan Fagan giving an accomplished display ably supported by David Henshaw and the ubiquitous Hayes while substitute O’Carroll made an impact on his introduction. In the backline, Robert Henshaw seamlessly stepped up to this level and Philip Butler, more comfortable back in his regular scrumhalf role, whipped good ball away from the rucks at ease enabling Buccs relish their more expansive play. This style suited Bennett to a T and the outhalf gave his best performance to date.

One minute’s silence was respectfully observed before this match to commemorate the late Denis Connolly, who refereed Buccaneers previous U-21 home match a fortnight ago.

BUCCANEERS:-  K.Naughton; C.Greene, R.Henshaw, C.Gormley, E.Keena; J.Bennett, P.Butler; D.Henshaw, E.O’Brien, D.Higgins; R.Byrne, B.Stewart; R.Reid, J.Hayes (captain) and B.Fagan. Replacements:- R.Grenham (for O’Brien), J.O’Carroll (for Reid), E.Doolan (for Keena), M.Corbett (for Greene), J.Clarke (for Byrne), E. de Burca (for Fagan) and L.Doran.

CARRICK-ON-SHANNON  10  BUCCANEERS  56

BUCCANEERS DEVELOPMENT SQUAD and Carrick-on-Shannon were involved in something of a mismatch in this Connacht Junior League Division 1B game played at the Community Grounds, Leitrim Village, on Sunday when Buccs romped to a 56-10 winning margin.

With their pack utterly dominant, Buccs reeled in eight tries all converted by Colin Draper who scored two of the tries. Lachlan Mitchell was the top back on view, linking up well with the also impressive Draper in the halfback partnership and he too scored a brace of tries. Benny Gilligan marked his return to competitive fare with a try and there were touchdowns also by Gary Duffy, Henry Reilly and Adrian Hughes. Gilligan and Darragh Lennon were pick of the forwards but one area this Buccaneers outfit must address is the heavy number of penalties they conceded, something that would rue against stronger opposition. Carrick-on-Shannon were limited but they battled valiantly to the bitter end and salvaged some pride with two tries, their second one being the final score of this fixture.

BUCCANEERS:-  C.Lavelle; G.Fallon, D.Byrne, A.Downey, G.Walsh; L.Mitchell, C.Draper; E.Bracken, D.Lennon, B.Gilligan; G.Duffy, M.Coleman; D.Dunning, H.Reilly and A.Hughes (captain).

BUCCS MUST BOUNCE BACK AGAINST UL BOHS

Following last week’s results, Buccaneers face a quick test of their character with the visit of UL Bohemian in an Ulster Bank League Division 1B of increased importance at Dubarry Park, Athlone, on Saturday, kick off 2.30 p.m. Buccs suffered only their second defeat in thirteen league matches when slipping up away to UCC last weekend while UL Bohs continued their climb up the league table where they now lie fourth.

UL Bohs really have to go for broke if they wish to grab one of the two automatic promotion spots, one of which Buccaneers currently hold. They were well beaten in the end by the midlanders when the sides met at Annacotty but the contest was fairly even up to halftime. Thereafter, the Pirates stepped up while the Limerick club’s challenge went awry and it is likely to be a much keener contest on Saturday. They have some upcoming Munster players in their squad and, if the likes of Tommy O’Donnell, Kieran Essex, Dave Foley and Barry Murphy are available, then they will make it very difficult for Buccaneers. Ed Torrie, Martin McPhail and young J.J.Hanrahan are exciting backs and Sean Rennison is a dynamic backrower where he links up with ex-Bucc Kieran O’Gorman.

Buccaneers were a bit off-colour away to UCC, yet they created ten good try opportunities so there was still much to enthuse about in their performance. Clifford Richardson will, hopefully, be available on Saturday which would significantly improve the balance of the forwards unit especially at lineout time. Focus and cohesion were not perhaps what they needed to be in Cork but Buccs now have a prompt opportunity to get that blip out of their collective system. Saturday’s battle with UL Bohs is the proverbial eight pointer as a home win would keep a decent gap between the two clubs in the league table where Buccaneers currently lie second with a game in hand.
Consequently, home supporters can anticipate a repeat of the sustained and intelligent endeavours shown against Clontarf.

Buccaneers U-21 side are away to Young Munster in the South-West Conference of the National League with this crunch clash kicking off in Tom Clifford Park at 2.30 p.m. This young Buccs squad, despite being regularly short of some key individuals, relish nothing better than a challenge and that is certainly what they will get against The Cookies. However, stakes are high for the Pirates as an away victory will ensure their passage into the knockout stages of the National League. Nothing less than 110% ever suffices against Young Munster but this Buccs side can be counted on to give it their best.

It’s Cup time for Buccaneers Development Squad when they square up to Galwegians Seconds in the opening round of this season’s Heineken Connacht Junior Cup campaign which gets under way at Dubarry Park, Athlone, on Sunday, kick off 3 p.m. This Buccs outfit are flying high in their division of the league but the Cup is a different kettle of fish, especially when Wegians are the opposition. It may not be one for the faint hearted and should draw a decent attendance on Sunday afternoon. Extra time will be played if necessary.

The Thirds return to action with a tough Connacht Junior League Division 2A match away to Monivea on Sunday, kick off 3 p.m.

CONGRATULATIONS

Club stalwart Patrick Cooney has at least one good reason to celebrate at the moment — he reaches a landmark 80th birthday one of these days. Congratulations too to Fiona Henshaw who quietly celebrated her 50th last weekend! Happy birthdays, folks. Well done too to Fergus McFadden, nephew of club Trustee Tony Lowry, on his selection on the Ireland Senior XV. 

CONDOLENCES

Deepest sympathy is extended to the Meagher family on the death of Tom’s mother Kathleen. Condolences also to the family of referee Denis Connolly, who died tragically last week.

EASTER DRAW

Tickets are now on sale from team mentors and committee members for Buccaneers Easter Draw. Tickets are priced at €20 each or a book of three for just €50 for a range of ‘eggs-citing’ Cash Prizes! Your continued good support is urged as fund-raising is an on-going necessity of a club regularly fielding up to 17 teams.

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