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All Ireland League Result: UL Bohemian 27-39 Buccaneers (View full round-up here)
Buccaneers are on the cusp of promotion following this bonus point 39-27 Ulster Bank League Division 1B victory over nearest challengers UL Bohemian on the 4G pitch in the University of Limerick campus on Saturday. On a bright afternoon, conditions were near ideal for the fast-moving styles favoured by both teams and a highly entertaining contest unfolded in which Buccs also took the lion’s share of tries as they stretched their magnificent unbeaten sequence to 12 matches.
With Shane Layden and Jordan Conroy both in Portugal with the Ireland Sevens squad, the Pirates’ growing strength in depth was signalled by their replacements in fit again Shane O’Leary and the availability of Luke Carty. Meanwhile Saba Meunargia also returned to front row duty with Rory Grenham on the bench. UL Bohs had a quartet of changes from their defeat at Shannon with Darragh Frawley coming in for Ed Kelly in the second row. In the hosts’ backline, Joe Murray, Jamie McNamara and James Lennon were replaced by Rory White, Robbie Bourke and Angus Lloyd. The latter pair linked up at halfback with Rick McKenna switching to fullback.
The Red Robins, aided by the breeze, were swiftly on the offensive and Kiwi McKenna’s fifth minute penalty opened the scoring. However, Buccs quickly struck back and punished a McKenna clearance that curled back into play when smart interplay got the ball to Alex Hayman and strong-running by the centre earned him a 12th minute try near the posts with Alan Gaughan adding the conversion. Seven minutes later Gaughan landed a penalty to which McKenna replied with a 24th minute placekick. UL Bohs regained the lead on the half hour mark with Harry Fleming getting through a Carty tackle.
Buccs retorted with a tremendous rampage by Meunargia in which he could have scored had he backed himself but the move was carried on by Kolo Kiripati before Frankie Hopkins was held up just short. However, the Pirates arrived in numbers and the powerful Kiripati was not to be stopped, burrowing in between the posts for a 35th minute try converted by Gaughan to give Buccaneers a 17-13 half-time lead.
Buccaneers made two changes at the interval with Shane Delahunt making a rare appearance in place of John Sutton and Evan Galvin coming on for Stephen McVeigh. Just three minutes into the second half, UL Bohs again retook the lead when Hopkins juggled to try to control a high pass but McKenna swooped to steal possession on his own ten metre line. With the visitors all pressing forward, the New Zealander had a clear run for an opportunist try which he converted. Buccs then made a further three changes in quick succession, all enforced, with Dan Keane coming in on the left wing for Callum Boland, McVeigh retuning to the back row for Rory Moloney and Dean McMahon slotting in for Hopkins at scrumhalf. Nevertheless, they continued to dominate territory and possession without breaching the Limerick side’s defence. Gaughan gained some reward for this pressure with a 58th minute penalty to tie the scores 20-20.
The final quarter provided thrills and scores aplenty. McVeigh did well to break a promising UL Bohs attack and Galvin’s chase earned the Midlanders valuable yards before a terrific Carty clearance then pegged the Munster side back. With both sides gambling on long passes, it was inevitable that further intercept scores would occur and the alert Keane was next to profit as the Red Robins chased the game when he fastened on to a skipped pass to race in from the 22 for a 69th minute try converted by Gaughan. Sutton now rejoined the fray in place of McVeigh.
Four minutes later, the Athlone side forced a scrum near halfway and the ball was flashed left to right to Rory O’Connor who hared down the flank to secure the bonus point try. Gaughan’s conversion was his only miss of the game, rebounding off the near upright but Buccs now looked home and dry, 32-20 to the good. But the hosts continued to battle and Rory White finished off decent play for a 77th minute try which McKenna converted to set up a dramatic finish. With just five points separating the scores, UL Bohs chased a converted try needed to win but again the swift harrying and eagle-eyed covering by Buccaneers was rewarded when O’Leary smartly read an intended pass near halfway and he surged forward to touchdown between the posts for the Midlanders' fifth try. Gaughan’s conversion to make it 39-27 was the final action of a lively and effervescent affair.
This was a zestful and invigorating display by Buccaneers who now enjoy a 16 points lead at the top of the league table with just 5 matches remaining. Brett Wilkinson’s charges (which included three U-20 players in the starting XV and another duo off-loaded from the bench) displayed tremendous energy and flair as they put a mortal dent in the home side’s ambitions. Danny Qualter and Simon Meagher dominated in the engine room and the Pirates back row is surely the best in this division. Gaughan is enjoying an excellent campaign and Hopkins is proving a quick learner while Hayman proved once again what a wonderful servant he has been to Buccs. McKenna, Fleming and Lloyd did well in the home backline. Ian Condell led his pack with typical fire until injured at the three-quarters stage and James Ryan also put in a tireless shift for UL Bohs.
Footnote:- One interested spectator at the match (and proudly wearing an original Athlone RFC tie) was Jim Doyle. He played at lock on Athlone’s first Connacht Senior Cup winning side in 1955, but he had divided loyalties on Saturday as his grandson James Ryan was playing at blindside flanker for UL Bohemian.
UL BOHEMIAN:- R.McKenna; F.Ahern, H.Fleming, R.White, C.Ahern; R.Bourke, A.Lloyd; P.Nesbitt, P.Dowling, M.Lynch; D.Frawley, N.Kinane; J.Ryan, I.Condell (captain) and B.Walsh. Replacements:- C.Trimble (for Condell, inj. 58 mins), P.Kelleher (for Nesbitt, 50 mins), J.Murray (for Ryan, inj. 61 mins), J.Lennon (for Lloyd, 73 mins) and J.Moloney.
BUCCANEERS:- L.Carty; R.O’Connor, S.O’Leary, A.Hayman, C.Boland; A.Gaughan, F.Hopkins; M.Staunton, J.Sutton, S.Meunargia; S.Meagher, D.Qualter; S.McVeigh, R.Moloney and K.Kiripati (captain). Replacements:- S.Delahunt (for Sutton, h/t), E.Galvin (for McVeigh, h/t), D.Keane (for Boland, inj. 46 mins), S.McVeigh (for Moloney, inj. 48 mins), D.McMahon (for Hopkins, inj. 53 mins), J.Sutton (for McVeigh, 70 mins) and R.Grenham (for Staunton, 73 mins).
Referee:- George Clancy (IRFU).
J1A League Result: Buccaneers 22-3 Galwegians
BUCCANEERS SECONDS maintained their winning ways against their Galwegians counterparts when they came out on top 22-3 in this crunch Connacht Junior 1A League game at Dubarry Park, Athlone, on Sunday. With both teams desperately striving to climb away from the spectre of relegation, this encounter was contested with passion and fervour from start to finish.
Wegians had first advantage of the breeze and opened the scoring with a Killian McHugh penalty after ten minutes. It took Buccs some time to grow into the game but they steadily began to make inroads through fine pick and goes. Buccs' improving endeavours were duly rewarded when Keith Grehan finished off some sustained and patient play with a 33rd minute try. Ger Fallon’s conversion gave the Athlone side a 7-3 half-time advantage.
Buccs went on the offensive immediately after the change of ends with Evan Galvin making some notable carries. When Ben Kennedy smartly changed the point of attack on 43 minutes, James O’Connell powered through for a try wide on the left. Enda O’Brien was unfortunate to be sin-binned just minutes after his introduction due to an accumulation of infringements by the hosts but, nevertheless, their continued pressure yielded a fine Harry Hughes try in the left corner midway through the half. Buccs then secured a late bonus point try when O’Brien surged over in the right corner to complete the 22-3 winning margin.
This was a crucial win for Buccaneers who are now six points ahead of second from bottom Galwegians with just three rounds of fixtures remaining. Ryan O’Meara, Sean Byrne and Galvin excelled in the forwards’ trenches with Sean Flynn and Hughes catching the eye in the backline. Matthew Towey and McHugh were best for the losers.
BUCCANEERS:- H.Hughes; B.Walsh, S.Flynn, J.O’Connell, B.Kennedy; G.Fallon, N.Purcell; K.Grehan, R.Grenham (captain), R.O’Meara; R.Byrne, T.Couper; N.Flynn, E.Galvin and S.Byrne. Replacements:- E.O’Brien (for Grehan), M.Lyons (for Couper), D.Costello (for Kennedy), G.Halligan (for Galvin) and T.Couper (for S.Byrne).
U20s Result: Buccaneers 41-10 NUIG
BUCCANEERS U-20’s maintained their pursuit of leaders MU/Barnhall in the J.P.Fanagan Leinster League Premier 2 division with a bonus point 41-10 win over N.U.I.Galway at Dubarry Park, Athlone, on Sunday. Although missing some front-liners, Buccs dominated this clash of two Connacht clubs playing in the Leinster League!
Playing against the breeze, Buccs opened the scoring in the first minute with Corey Reid showing his quality in notching a try which Ryan Convey converted. However, it took them some time to add to their tally and NUIG got a foothold in the game. The midlanders eventually realised the potential through getting the ball wide and Thomas McGann darted down the left for their second try after 33 minutes. Moments later he popped up on the right flank to send Jamie O’Keeffe in for a home try before centre Thomas Donovan finished off good NUIG play for a try. However, Buccaneers made it three tries in seven minutes when McGann grubbered ahead to speed in for a bonus point try that gave the Pirates a 22-5 lead at the interval.
As they had done in the first half, Buccs grabbed an early second half try with O’Keeffe finishing off a smart attack. Reid soon added his second touchdown but was injured in the process. Convey’s conversion stretched the Shannonsiders' lead to 34-5. McGann then completed his hat-trick of tries in controversial circumstances as he was in touch while darting down the stand side (where the touch-judge’s view was obstructed due to mentors from both sides). The referee allowed the score to stand and Convey duly converted. NUIG had the better of the exchanges in the final quarter but had only a David Ashton try to show for their endeavours. In fairness, they deserved more but, overall, Buccs were the stronger, slicker outfit particularly their sharp backs unit.
BUCCANEERS:- R.Convey; T.McGann, C.Reid, E.O’Reilly, J.O’Keeffe; D.Keane, D.McMahon; N.Farrelly, E.Maher, D.Buckley; H.Ronaldson, N.Murray; B.Collins, O.Rowe and J.Delahunt. Replacements:- C.Cleary (for Buckley), P.Browne (for Reid, inj.), K.Jocher (for O’Keeffe), C.Daly (for Keane), C.Harewood (for Rowe), D.Buckley (for Collins) and D.Farrelly.
Women's League: Castlebar 7-0 Buccaneers
For the second match in succession Buccaneers Womens team were defeated 7-0 with Castlebar edging this Connacht Women's League contest at Cloondeash on Sunday. This was a well-contested encounter with possession and territory even. The Mayo girls got the only try of the match after 24 minutes with the conversion completing the scoring.
The Buccs ladies upped their efforts in the second half and thought they had touched down but the try was ruled out. Nevertheless, the Athlone girls battled on and finished very strongly but were unable to score the all-important try.
This was hugely frustrating for Buccaneers but they can reflect on a good collective performance ahead of Sunday week’s Cup final against Tuam.
BUCCANEERS:- L.Flynn; S.Ni Saoraigh, S.Hennessy, H.Kilduff, S.Egan; E.O’Brien, N.Gough (captain); K.Ryan, S.Kelly, C.Malone; G.Kostanyan, A.Antonissen; L.Stuart-Trainor, H.Sheridan and A.Hennessy. Replacements:- A.Hynes, J.Dowling and A.Kemmy.
Seconds Away To Westport
It is a relatively quiet weekend for fixtures but Buccaneers Seconds face a difficult assignment away to Westport in the Connacht Junior 1A League at Carrowholly on Sunday, kick off 2.30 p.m. Buccs will be striving for vital league points but there is good spirit in the squad and they can be counted on to give it their best shot.
Buccaneers v Dolphin Pre-Match
Buccaneers' next home game in the Ulster Bank League takes place on Saturday week, March 4th, at 2.30 p.m. Buccs could clinch promotion in this match so come along and cheer the Pirates on! There will be a pre-match function for this fixture. Cover charge is €30 per person which includes 3-course meal with wine, souvenir matchday programme and free admission to the stand for this exciting match. Groups and individuals can be catered for. Contact Geraldine 0861732711 or Pat Hynes 0876883833 to book.
‘Lip Sync’ Thank You
‘Lip Sync Buccs Fizz Style’ proved hugely successful on all fronts last Friday night and the club is indebted to all involved with the show, especially the 16 super acts.
In association with the Athlone Drugs Awareness Group, supported by Athlone Gardai, Buccaneers is holding a supervised Youth Disco in The Bounty on this Wednesday night from 9 p.m. to 12 midnight. Admission is reserved.
Deepest sympathy is extended to Saba Meunargia and family on the untimely death of his uncle Vaxo Abramidze.