300BUCCS COMPLETE DOUBLE OVER SHANNON

BUCCANEERS recorded a first ever away Ulster Bank League win over Shannon when defeating the nine times champions 29-10 at Coonagh, Limerick, on Saturday. Buccs were full value for this vital and historic victory that nudges them back up to third place in Division 1B.

 

Buccs had four changes to their starting line-up with Mata Fifita coming in at wing forward as Conor Kindregan switched to lock for the injured Danny Qualter. Meanwhile, coach Tony Dolan continued his rotation policy with Diarmuid Higgins returning at tighthead instead of Peter Reilly while Steve Macauley and Eoghan O’Reilly started on the wings in place of Billy Henshaw and Shane Layden respectively. Shannon following last week’s late, late win in their replayed fixture with Blackrock College were further buoyed by the availability of Luke O’Dea at full back and Paddy Butler in the backrow.

Conditions were dry for this encounter on a decent surface and Buccs had first use of a breeze that blew from goal to goal. Although they did not use this element perhaps as much as they should have in the opening half, they got a near immediate benefit from it when Jack Carty drilled a penalty from his own half with precision to the right hand corner inside the opening minute. The Pirates claimed secure possession from the lineout and drove emphatically over the home line where Fifita grounded the ball for a Buccs try after just ninety seconds. Although Carty was unable to convert from the touchline, the midlanders continued to force the pace with some enterprising running rugby. Ten minutes later, they went through the phases to force a penalty which Carty thumped over for an 8-0 lead.

It got even better for the Athlone side from the restart when, after winning possession, the ball was moved swiftly to the left near halfway from where Macauley bedazzled the home cover as he out-manoeuvred and out-paced several defenders for a terrific 13th minute try matched by a fine Carty conversion to increase Buccs advantage to an encouraging 15-0 margin..

Five minutes later, Tadhg Leader’s penalty after Buccs were deemed offside went well off-target. Buccs pressure then forced a penalty on their own ten metre line from where Carty’s lengthy kick at the posts dropped just under the crossbar. On the half-hour mark, flame-haired centre Leader pulled a second penalty to the right and wide as the homesters began to enjoy a better share of territory. Macauley seemed to have too much time to deal with an O’Dea kick ahead shortly afterwards and the winger knocked on to give the hosts a first foothold in a dangerous position but he promptly made amends when diving to deny Shannon a try from the ensuing play. However, an infringement gave Shannon another penalty attempt and it proved third time lucky with Rob Guerin on kicking duties this time to open the home side’s scoring on 31 minutes.

Sam McCormack replaced the injured James Tormey and Buccs had a number of opportunities before the interval including a Carty chip over the cover that was not sufficiently accurate when perhaps he should have off-loaded to the supporting Kolo Kiripati. Garreth Halligan made a clever snipe but lacked support before, with the final kick of the half, Carty’s penalty from the right went the wrong side of the upright.

Considering their dominance and having to face the elements in the second period, Buccs 15-3 half-time lead looked precarious but they were quickly on the offensive after the restart too as they signalled their intent. Decent approach play teased Shannon to come in from the side and Carty punted the penalty to touch on the right. From the lineout, the Pirates piled ferocious pressure on the home line for some time but a knock-on occurred just when it seemed that the Athlone standard bearers were about to apply the finishing touch.

In the face of committed and disciplined Buccs tackling, Shannon found it hard to make inroads but a sweeping 56th minute move following a tapped penalty really stretched the visitors before the Limerick men too were guilty of a knock-on in a promising position. A fine Callum Boland clearance relieved this bout of pressure. Richie Mullane threatened danger nine minutes later when his mazy run eluded four Buccaneers tacklers before Kindregan put a halt to his gallop while Kolo Kiripati also made a rousing drive forward from his own danger area to ease the pressure.

Twelve minutes from time, Shannon finally breached the Buccs goalline following growing pressure that forced a close-in free. This was initially tapped from the incorrect position and the referee whistled back Shannon but, as he was admonishing Buccs, Butler quickly tapped and this time was allowed carry on and, with the midlanders’ momentarily offguard, the Munster man burst in for a try which Guerin converted to tighten the scoreline to 15-10.

This set up the possibility of a grandstand climax but, virtually from the restart, as Shannon tried to spread the ball Buccs were switched on again and Layden read a home pass to intercept just inside the Limerick side’s half. No one was going to stop the imposing winger as he charged through for an opportunist 72nd minute try at the posts and Carty’s conversion restored Buccs 12 points lead.

Buccaneers regained their grip on the proceedings following this score and kept Shannon on the back foot for the remainder of the game. Two minutes from time, Henshaw collected a Shannon clearance and ran back strongly to link up with Luke Satchwell who made further good ground. Just when it seemed that the young No.8 would be stopped, he showed terrific desire and strength in wriggling free to storm over the line to seal the issue and secure a bonus point try. This typified the resolve and will to win shown by the Pirates on the day and Carty’s fine conversion completed the 29-10 scoreline in favour of Buccaneers.

This was Buccs best display for some time, starting brightly and finishing strongly. They rediscovered the swagger and intensity of the early third of the season in a spirited and composed all-round team effort. Kindregan had his best outing to date and he looked more comfortable in the second row while Satchwell and Staunton were as consistent as ever and Fifita put in a serious shift. Carty improved as the game progressed with Mark Dolan providing a fine service and Conor Finn prominent throughout. But, in truth, every player looked more purposeful and committed from start to finish as Buccs enjoyed a memorable victory that keeps them very much in the play-off frame.

BUCCANEERS:-  C.Boland; S.Macauley, C.Finn, A.Hayman (captain), E.O’Reilly; J.Carty, M.Dolan; M.Staunton, G.Halligan, D.Higgins; J.Tormey, C.Kindregan; K.Kiripati, M.Fifita and L.Satchwell. Replacements:- S.McCormack (for Tormey, inj. 28 mins), S.Layden (for O’Reilly, 51 mins), B.Henshaw (for Macauley, 51 mins), P.Reilly (for Higgins, 55 mins) and J.Walshe (for Staunton, 60 mins).

SHANNON:- L.O’Dea; R.Mullane, A.Finn, T.Leader, D.O’Donovan (captain); R.Guerin, D.Evans; M.O’Sullivan, B.McNamara, A.O’Brien; L.Nicholas, P.Kearns; P.Butler, J.Shine and D.Quinlan. Replacements:- D.O’Connell (for O’Brien, h/t), J.Murphy (for Nicholas, 51 mins), and A.O’Brien (for O’Connell).

Referee:- Michael Black (IRFU).

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BUCCANEERS 19  CILL DARA 3

BUCCANEERS WOMENS team got back to winning ways with an impressive 19-3 All-Ireland League Division 2 Central victory over Cill Dara at Dubarry Park, Athlone, on Sunday. Underfoot conditions were testing for both sets of players who both gave it their all before the home ladies proved the stronger force.

Backed by the breeze, Cill Dara applied the early pressure and took a 6th minute lead with a penalty but then missed a second kickable effort. Buccs were resolute in their defending and gradually began to secure better ball and gain territory. They finished the half laying assault to the visitors’ line but could not breach it and thus trailed 0-3 at half-time.

Five minutes into the second half, Niamh Ni Dhroma made a smashing break and she out-foxed the cover to score a splendid try which Colette McSpadden converted. Just before the hour mark, Emer Phelan and Aislinn Kelleher carried well in a move that was finished off on the left by McSpadden for a try. The outhalf’s conversion attempt rebounded off the woodwork.

Shortly afterwards, the Cill Dara stand-off was yellow-carded for deliberate obstruction as Buccs tapped a close-in penalty in a promising position. The Pirates failed to capitalise during their ten minutes’ numerical superiority before Ni Dhroma took the scenic route to round the Kildare side’s defence in setting up a 71st minute Kelleher try which McSpadden converted to complete the 19-3 winning margin.

This was a most encouraging display by Buccaneers, particularly as they have not had a match since before Christmas. There was a willingness to work and keep the ball moving, although some more direct running might profit them better on occasion. They tackled with wonderful aggression and fought tooth and polished fingernail for every ball. Tina Kiernan was fiercely determined as was Anne Marie Sleator in her final match before she sets off to Australia. Katie Bradley was another forward to put herself about with abandon. Ni Dhroma was peerless in the backline where Sandra Griffin, McSpadden and Aoife Corry had good moments. This display will give the squad confidence before their final league fixture, a midland derby home to Edenderry.

BUCCANEERS:-  D.Coghill; A.Corry, N.Ni Dhroma (captain), E.Connellan, N.Gough; C.McSpadden, S.Griffin; S.Kelly, C.Mannion, A.M.Sleator; A.Kelleher, K.Bradley; T.Kiernan, A.Kemmy and E.Phelan. Replacements used:- H.Kilduff, E.O’Neill, C.Downey, B.Walsh and T.Frampton. 

CONNEMARA 13  BUCCANEERS 3

BUCCANEERS THIRDS came acropper when going down 13-3 to Connemara Seconds in this Connacht J2 League clash at the Monastery Field, Clifden, on Sunday. The Blacks had first advantage of the breeze and they forged a 10-0 halftime lead. Buccs dominated possession and territory following the restart and they applied growing pressure as the second half progressed. They came tantalisingly close on several occasions to scoring tries but just could not fashion a try against stubborn and steadfast opponents. Both sides scored one penalty apiece in this period, Darren Costello getting Buccs solitary score. Wrong options, ill luck and errors allayed to committed Connemara heroics meant that the Pirates made the long journey home empty-handed despite the best efforts of Nick Purcell, Vinny McGrath and John Shaughnessy.

BUCCANEERS:-  M.Tormey; J.Lopez, J.Shaughnessy, K.Turley, G.Fallon; D.Costello, N.Purcell; K.Langdon, K.Grehan, C.Hennessy; V.McGrath, C.Shanley; N.Hyland, C.Morrissey and C.Galvin. Replacements used:- G.Costello, R.Sweeney and T.Hynes. 

FIXTURES

BUCCANEERS THIRDS complete their Connacht J2 League fixtures with a home game against Claremorris at Dubarry Park on Sunday, kick off 2.30 p.m. Following their unexpected defeat away to Connemara, Buccs simply must overcome Claremorris to be assured of a place in the league play-offs. Consequently, an improved and sharper performance is anticipated from the Athlone outfit and, if they play to potential, then a league semi-final berth is well within their grasp.

BUCCANEERS SECONDS face a short trip west to Loughrea to tackle the homesters in the Connacht Junior 1B League on Sunday, kick off 2.30 p.m. It is anticipated that Buccs will give youth its fling in this outing.

BUCCANEERS WOMENS team are also due to complete their Womens All-Ireland League Division 2 Central fixtures this week when they host Edenderry at Dubarry Park. At time of writing, the day and kick off time could not be confirmed. Edenderry will be a tough nut to crack. Hopefully, it will be a less fractious affair than when the sides met in Co. Offaly last November. While the results for Buccs were disappointing in the league, the girls have remained hugely enthusiastic and last Sunday’s win over Cill Dara will have restored some confidence that will surely result in a tighter contest this time round.

BUCCS TRIO WIN AWARDS

Congratulations to a trio of Buccaneers Robert Ashe, Niamh Ni Dhroma and Robert Henshaw who were presented with their monthly awards at a smoothly run and well attended ‘Westmeath Independent Sports Awards 2013’ event at the Shamrock Lodge Hotel on Friday night. The highlight of the occasion was the naming of the 2013 Overall Winner and this accolade went to Robbie Henshaw, who has again been named in the Ireland Senior squad for next Saturday’s Six Nations fixture against Italy.

BON VOYAGE

Best wishes to two Buccaneers stalwarts Anne Marie Sleator and Liam Doran who are emigrating to Australia shortly.

 

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