Buccaneers defeated Old Wesley at Dubarry Park as Galwegians suffered a narrow defeat away to Ballymena in Division 1B of the Ulster Bank League at the weekend.
Buccaneers 36 - 14 Old Wesley, Dubarry Park
Scorers: Buccaneers: Tries: Jordan Conroy 3, John Sutton, Callum Boland; Cons: Alan Gaughan 4; Pen: Alan Gaughan
Old Wesley: Tries: Darren Horan, Iain McGann; Cons: Tim Clifford 2
HT: Buccaneers 22 Old Wesley 7
Jordan Conroy helped himself to a hat-trick of tries as Buccaneers swept Old Wesley aside at a bitterly cold Dubarry Park to improve their standing at the top of Division 1B.
Despite a growing list of absentees, Buccs set the tempo from the start and utterly dominated the opening half although playing against the biting breeze.
With closest challengers UL Bohemian and Ballynahinch both suffering surprise defeats, the Pirates extended their lead at the top of the table to 11 points with just six matches remaining.
Apart from the cold wind, conditions were near perfect as the Athlone outfit took the game to their opponents from the kick-off and enjoyed such huge amounts of possession and territory that it was a surprise they took 16 minutes to open their account.
A terrific maul by the Pirates pack was finished off by hooker John Sutton with Alan Gaughan adding the conversion from the right. As the home pressure continued, Wesley's Iain McGann was sin-binned for deliberately knocking the ball on in front of his own posts and Gaughan added further punishment with the 21st-minute penalty kick.
Another penalty after 25 minutes was punted to touch on the left and, after good possession was claimed from the lineout, the Buccs pack drove forward impressively before electric winger Conroy was unleashed and he scooted in for a try near the uprights. Three minutes later, he was dotting down on the left for his second try after taking a pass from Shane Layden and chipping Rory Stynes while also not losing any momentum from the full-back's attempted block.
Buccaneers, however, were sloppy at the restart and - just like what happened against Galwegians last week - they let a ball bounce and Darren Horan swooped for an opportunist 30th-minute try which Tim Clifford converted.
In the final move of the first half, the midlanders put some splendid phases together only to knock on at the Old Wesley line but were good value for their 22-7 half-time advantage.
It took Brett Wilkinson's side less than two minutes following the change of ends to stretch their lead and secure the bonus point, with Callum Boland fastening onto Gaughan's deft grubber for their fourth try with the out-half tapping over the conversion.
Five minutes later, further enterprising play looked like being finished by Simon Meagher but the young lock was stopped just short. However, Buccs kept the move going and the ball was shifted smartly to the left where Conroy completed his hat-trick to make it 13 tries in all for the campaign. Gaughan added a terrific conversion to put the Shannonsiders 36-7 to the good.
With the outcome now not in any doubt, both sides utilised their benches and play became somewhat disjointed and scrappy. Old Wesley's Will Potterton saw yellow for coming in from the side.
Nevertheless, it was the Dubliners who scored while temporarily depleted with McGann diving over spectacularly for a 65th minute try converted by former Bucc Clifford. Surprisingly, this proved the final score of the contest with home replacement Ryan O'Meara being a late visitor to the sin-bin.
Buccaneers: Callum Boland; Rory O'Connor, Alex Hayman, Shane Layden, Jordan Conroy; Alan Gaughan, Frankie Hopkins; Rory Grenham, John Sutton, Martin Staunton, Daniel Qualter, Simon Meagher, Stephen McVeigh, Rory Moloney, Kolo Kiripati (capt).
Replacements: Eoin Maher, Ryan O'Meara, Evan Galvin, Dan Keane, Harry Hughes.
Ballymena 14 - 13 Galwegians
Scorers: Ballymena: Try: Adam McBurney; Pens: Ritchie McMaster 3
Galwegians: Try: Ciaran Gaffney; Con: Morgan Codyre; Pens: Morgan Codyre 2
HT: Ballymena 9 Galwegians 0
Galwegians failed to capitalise on the sin-binning of former Ireland international Bryan Young as Ballymena prevailed 14-13 in a tense finish at Eaton Park.
Veteran prop Young saw yellow for an illegal tackle midway through the final quarter, however 'Wegians were unable to force a winning score and they had to be content with a losing bonus point.
Three well-struck penalties from Ritchie McMaster gave Ballymena the early advantage, the hosts using a strong wind to good effect as they looked to end their three-match winless run.
The visitors, whose pack was book-ended by Connacht's Dominic Robertson-McCoy and Eoghan Masterson, dominated possession and territory in the second half despite the best efforts of Ulster's Clive Ross. He was the pick of the back rowers on show and the obvious choice as man-of-the-match.
November's meeting had gone right down to the wire with the Braidmen winning 35-34 out west, and young hooker Adam McBurney's unconverted try from a rare breakout proved to be just enough this time around.
A neatly-finished seven-pointer by recent Connacht debutant Ciaran Gaffney, who covered a lot of ground from full-back, supplemented two earlier penalties from Morgan Codyre to set up a grandstand finish.
However, just when the Galway outfit seemed set to pinch the points from Ballymena's grasp, their familiar failings from a frustrating 2016/17 campaign saw them miss out on a first victory in three rounds.
Galwegians: Ciaran Gaffney; Matthew Byrne, Rory Parata, Brian Murphy (capt), Ed O'Keeffe; Morgan Codyre, Barry Lee; Dominic Robertston-McCoy, John Moloney, Conor Kyne, Eoin Tarmey, Peter Claffey, Marc Kelly, Josh Pim, Eoghan Masterson.
Replacements: Martin Fox, Paddy Curran, Matt Towey, Conor Lowndes, Aidan Moynihan.