Buccaneers stayed atop the Energia All-Ireland League Division 1B this past weekend, putting in a controlling performance in their 9-23 victory over St Mary’s College.

Although making four enforced changes from the win over UCC, including a totally new front row, the Pirates were again relentless from start to finish in a fast-moving and highly entertaining contest.

Tries from Steveni Lombard, Shane Jennings and Harry West helped send the Midlands’ side on their way to another victory.

Meanwhile in Division 2B, Galway Corinthians RFC earned a hard-fought 20-26 victory over Malahide. This leaves the Corinthians second, five points adrift from unbeaten leaders Greystones.

Galwegians came close to ending Greystones’ winning streak at the weekend, as they were unfortunate to come out on the wrong end of a 12-14 scoreline.

The other Connacht club in action in Division 2B was Sligo, who put in a strong performance to get the better of Enniscorthy. Tries from both Daire Byrne and Cal Goddard sent them on their way on Saturday afternoon.

In Division 2C, Ballina were much improved in their 13-13 draw with Midleton. Ronan Molloy got the Mayo club’s sole try on their visit to County Cork. They will be hoping to build on that performance in their next fixture against Omagh.

BUCCANEERS are the new Energia All-Ireland League Division 1B leaders following an impressive 35-18 victory away to Malone at Gibson Park, Belfast, on Saturday. The Pirates set the tempo from the off and were full value for their bonus point win that edges the Midlanders to top spot on the league table.

Tries from Saul O’Carroll, Shane Layden and a brace from Shane Delahunt saw Buccs claim the bonus point win.

It was a mixed weekend for the Connacht sides in Division 2B this week, with Corinthians coming out on top against Enniscorthy, but both Sligo and Galwegians failing to pick up any points.

Rainey Old Boys got the better of Galwegians on a scoreline of 26-15. Tries from Ben McGuinness and Darragh Kennedy weren’t enough for ‘Wegians on the day.

Elsewhere, Sligo had a tough day against league leaders, Greystones, losing 15-35. Andrew Ward, Cathal Finneran and Darragh Feehily all crossed the whitewash for the side from the West.

Galway Corinthians follow Greystones, sitting 2nd in Division 2B. They further cemented their place towards the top of the table with a strong 43-10 victory over Enniscorthy this weekend. In Division 2C, Ballina came out the wrong side of a 43-12 scoreline against a strong Bruff side.

In the Women AIL Division 1, Galwegians lost a tight away game against Wicklow RFC 16-14. They now sit in fifth position in the league, but will be disappointed not to have built on a strong first half where they led 9-14 at the interval. Elizabeth McNicholas and Mairéad Coyne were ‘Wegians’ try scorers.

BUCCANEERS 21 SLIGO 19

10 points down with 4 minutes to play, Buccaneers executed a ‘smash and grab’ to snatch Connacht Senior League glory when defeating Sligo 21-19 at well-attended Dubarry Park on Saturday.

The visitors led from the 7th minute until Danny Qualter’s final move of the game try wrestled their dreams of adding to their solitary Senior League title from them in a thrilling climax to an absorbing duel worthy of the occasion.

Buccaneers made three changes from the side whose win at Corinthians ensured that this contest would be a winner takes all affair. Qualter’s availability, in place of Ryan O’Meara whose injury in that win ruled him out, was a big lift to the home pack. Shane Layden returned too in the centre with Eoin O’Reilly starting at scrumhalf. Playing conditions on a warm, bright afternoon were ideal for this much-anticipated joust.

The north-westerners were not phased by the occasion and, with their bigger pack imposing themselves on the proceedings, they worked their way into the home half where Darragh Feehily finished off this fine build-up play for a 7th minute try on the right with Euan Brown adding the conversion.

Ten minutes later it got even better for Sligo, who won this title for the first time just two seasons ago. Not for the first time in the contest, the Pirates had made promising headway but were turned over by aggressive Sligo defending. This forced a hurried Buccs pass which Calum Goddard intercepted and he hared along the stand side and seemed certain to score until Saul O’Carroll somehow made up considerable ground to halt his progress. However, the supporting Brown picked out Daire Byrne with a pinpoint crossfield kick and the outhalf’s conversion of Byrne’s try gave the hoops a 14-0 advantage before the end of the opening quarter.

It looked like getting even worse for the midlanders when Finn Bamber raced through to touchdown on 23 minutes but a touch-judge flagged an off the ball incident and a Buccaneers penalty was the outcome, with Michael Hanley opening the home side’s account with the resultant placekick.

End to end rugby continued to the interval with Hanley slotting over his second penalty with the final kick to reduce the Shannonsiders arrears to 14-6.

Matters became much brighter for the hosts following the change of ends. Sligo’s hooker Shane O’Hehir was sin-binned for cumulative penalties by his side and dissent then brought the resultant penalty ten metres forward with Hanley drilling over the placekick just three minutes into the second period.

Buccs were now making better inroads through their backline and Orrin Burgess made a splendid charge upfield where Bamber was guilty of slowing possession illegally and incurring a yellow card for his efforts. Buccs now with a 2-player advantage camped in the Sligo 22 for a spell but errors hampered their endeavours, letting the visitors off the hook.

It was depleted Sligo who scored next. Brown thumped a long ball downfield to ease the mounting pressure on his side but Burgess was too leisurely clearing his lines. The young back was blocked down and Brown was swiftest to react and notch an opportunist unconverted try. This gave Sligo a 19-9 advantage with the game now in the final quarter.

Both sides were ringing the changes at this stage and the Athlone outfit bench made the difference.

With the stadium clock ticking towards 80 minutes (but several minutes still to be played due to stoppages) Buccaneers won a Sligo lineout throw on the right.

The ball was moved crisply to Layden who charged forward, making big yardage before he sent O’Carroll scampering away for a splendid try on the left. Hanley matched the score with a fine penalty and now the arrears was down to 2 points.

Buccs now threw everything at the north-westerners who were wilting in the face of the sustained defensive work they had put in and the Pirates increased intensity. Composed and tidy interplay by the Athlonians eventually stretched Sligo to breaking point and a smashing pass to the left found Qualter in acres of space and the powerful No.8 romped through for the winning try.

Hanley was unable to add this conversion but it mattered not, as Buccaneers claimed their 13th Senior League title with their stirring climax.

It was tough to take for the visitors who led for so long. However, they can be proud of their contribution to a thrilling decider and if they maintain this form they can anticipate a good season in the AIL. Brown and Kuba Wojtkowicz were their standout contributors.

BUCCANEERS:- R.Fallon; O.Burgess, S.Layden, S.Mannion, S.O’Carroll; M.Hanley, E.O’Reilly; M.Staunton (captain), D.Browne, S.O’Connell; R.Byrne, F.Galvin; C.McCann, G.Daly and D.Qualter. Replacements:- F.McDonnell (for McCann, inj. 27 mins), J.Kelly (for O’Connell, 47 mins), C.Daly (for Browne, 60 mins), T.Shine (for Fallon, 60 mins), A.Flanagan (for O’Reilly, 60 mins) and S.O’Connell (for Staunton, 70 mins).

SLIGO:- E.Gavin; C.Goddard, F.Bamber, D.Byrne, D.Feehily; E.Brown, B.Cunningham; M.Earley, S.O’Hehir, T.Gormley; E.Ryan, C.Trimble; K.Wojtkowicz, J.O’Hehir and J.East (captain). Replacements:- B.West (for T.Gormley, inj. 29 mins), J.Gormley (for Trimble, h/t), M.Rooney (for Goddard, 44 mins), C.Trimble (for J.Gormley, 58 mins), B.Hynes (for S.O’Hehir, 70 mins) and A.Ward (for Cunningham, 70 mins).

There were two games played in the Bank of Ireland Connacht Senior League last weekend, with Ballina hosting Buccaneers and Galwegians travelling to Sligo.

Up until these fixtures, both Sligo and Galwegians were undefeated in this year’s tournament.

Something had to give, and it was the team from Yeats County who got the better on the day via a scoreline of 16-7. They were worthy of their win, with Shane O’Hehir and Rob Holian both crossing the line for the home side.

The other game saw Buccaneers inspired by a quartet of tries from Saul O’Carroll in their 51-14 victory over Ballina.

In the Bank of Ireland Cawley Cup, Creggs bounced back from an opening day defeat to get the better of Dunmore.

An early red card left the County Galway side with a mountain to climb, and Creggs took full advantage, coming away with the 10-20 win.

There was also action in the Bank of Ireland Curley Cup, with Carrick On Shannon impressing on their way to a 41-17 victory against Sligo 2nd XV, and Loughrea getting the better of OLBC on a scoreline of 26-0.

Claremorris Colts got over the line against Ballina in their Curley Cup game this weekend. That game finished 31-26.

And although Galwegians came out the wrong side of the scoreline in the Connacht Senior League, their Curley Cup side did manage to get the better of Oughterard. That game finished 26-14.

This weekend’s Bank of Ireland Connacht Senior League sees Ballina welcome Buccaneers, while Sligo host Galwegians in a top of the table clash.

Mayo side, Ballina, go into this weekend’s fixture on the back of an opening game defeat against Sligo. Although they lost that game 26-45, they did show plenty of attacking prowess, touching down for four tries.

However, they will also be weary of a Buccaneers side who will be eager to bounce back after losing their first game of the season against Galwegians. The Midlands side led for much of that game against ‘Wegians and looked like they were on their way to victory, only for a late rally from the Galway side pushing them aside.

This game is also a repeat of last year’s Connacht Senior Cup final, which Buccaneers won on a scoreline of 25-5.

In the weekend’s other game, Sligo and Galwegians will both be aiming to add to the two wins they already have on the board.

Sligo were awarded a 20-0 victory over Corinthians on their first outing, while they overcame Ballina in their second game. Meanwhile, Galwegians showed excellent character to leave Athlone with a victory over Buccaneers in their opener, before coming out on top against local rivals, Corinthians, in their second game.

Whoever comes out on top will become the clear leader at the top of this year’s Connacht Senior League.

The Senior League is returning after a week off, in which Bank of Ireland Cawley Cup games were played. There is only one game in that tournament this week, with Dunmore and Creggs both looking to get their first win on the board.

The Bank of Ireland Connacht Senior League continued on Saturday afternoon with two local derbies. 

Ballina welcomed Sligo, while Corinthians travelled into Galway City to face Galwegians.

In a high scoring affair, Sligo proved to have too much for the young Ballina side, running out 45-26 victors. However, it wasn’t until the second half that Sligo’s strength in depth proved to be too much for the team from Mayo.

The sides went into the break with just three between them, with Sligo leading by 21-24. However, Ballina weren’t able to add to their tally until the closing stages as their counterparts raced into an unassailable 21-45 lead.

The weekend’s other Connacht Senior League game was a low scoring affair between two Galway sides, where it was Galwegians who made it two wins from two, running out 12-7 victors.

The home side built up a 12-0 lead, with Corinthians getting a late consolation try.

Those results left both Galwegians and Sligo with two wins on the board.

Buccaneers has earned one point in their sole outing so far, while both Ballina and Corinthians have one point on the board, with the latter having played a game more.

There are no Connacht Senior League fixtures next week, with Ballina welcoming Buccaneers and Sligo hosting Galwegians, the week after.

Full fixtures and the group table is available here.

Loughrea RFC hosted the latest end of season blitz at their headquarters last Sunday. 11 teams from 6 clubs met for an afternoon of U16, 7-aside action where the emphasis was on sportsmanship and enjoyment rather than challenging for honours.

 

One of the organisers, Connacht Rugby’s Galway Development Officer Craig Hansberry, said:

“It’s a fantastic day out for these young athletes, these participation blitzes are a great way for players to get one last run out before the end of the season. Most of these players aren’t involved in playoffs, or have already been knocked out of cups so to be still playing rugby at the end of April is a bonus.”

 

Teams from Westport RFC, Claremorris Colts RFC, Galwegians RFC, Sligo RFC, Ballinasloe RFC and hosts Loughrea RFC played 10-minute matches over two pitches in glorious sunshine at the Ballygasty venue and fine weather, coupled with the lack of pressure of silverware meant for some scintillating action.

 

Hansberry added:

“From a developmental perspective is brilliant to see these players trying new things, chip kicks, off-loads, skip passes, these are the slightly riskier plays that may not be encouraged during the competitive season, so to see these players enjoying themselves, taking chances, developing new skills, that’s what these blitzes are all about.”

 

Games started with a round of rock-paper-scissors to determine who kicked off, an event that drew some of the biggest cheers of the day, and that the tone for an afternoon of silky skills, good humour and plenty of comradery as the Youths rugby season draws to a close.

 

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