TRINITY TOPS IN TIGHT AFFAIR

RUGBY with MICHAEL SILKE

 

DUBLIN UNIVERSITY 23  BUCCANEERS 19

 

DUBLIN UNIVERSITY pipped Buccaneers 23-19 in their crunch Ulster Bank League encounter at College Park, Dublin, on Saturday. Just a solitary point separated these teams before this vital clash of third versus fourth as Division 1B enters the final straight and the home win now gives Trinity a key edge in the chase for promotion.

 

A fine afternoon and a decent, if passing, attendance witnessed an exhilarating contest that could have gone either way on a firm, relatively grassless surface. College made three changes, all in their backline, from their colours defeat to UCD. James O’Donoghue came in at fullback, Ariel Robles in the centre and Cathal Marsh at outhalf. Meanwhile, Buccs fielded an unchanged squad with Kolo Kiripati again on the bench.

Trinity were quickest out of the starting blocks and early pressure was rewarded with a 3rd minute Marsh penalty from in front of the posts after Buccs came in from the side. But when the Students were guilty of not rolling away six minutes later, Jack Carty opened the Pirates’ account. Then a high tackle that stopped a promising 13th minute break by Conor Finn went unpunished and Trinity made the most of their good fortune when Neil Hanratty countered through the midlanders’ ranks where his progress was eventually stopped by Conor FitzGibbon but Paddy Lavelle was on his shoulder to touchdown just right of the posts. Marsh’s conversion was straight-forward for a 10-3 advantage.

But Buccs were back on level terms within five minutes. Finn was prominent again going forward and the visitors pack then made good ground to force a five-metre scrum from which Eoghan Grace peeled away to get the ball via Mark Dolan to FitzGibbon and the teenage winger scythed through for a try at the posts which Carty converted. FitzGibbon then fielded a poor Michael McLoughlin clearance and, when the Students came in from the side, Carty landed a lengthy penalty to put Buccs 13-10 ahead after a hectic opening 23 minutes.

Carty was off-target with two penalty kicks either side of a Marsh miss while Buccs should have had a healthier lead at the interval but Garreth Halligan had no support as his terrific charge down the left flank was stopped by a quartet of Trinity players just short of the hosts’ line.

Mataele Fifita replaced FitzGibbon (with Finn switching to the left wing) for the second half but the big centre had a torrid introduction, promptly conceding two penalties (both of which Marsh gratefully converted, his second effort just squeezing inside the far upright) as well as visiting the sin bin on 50 minutes for slowing possession after Finn had run into trouble when he had space to kick into. This rejuventated Trinity, who now led 16-13, whilst putting an added workload on the Athlone side already busy dealing with a more solid College pack.  

The experienced Kiripati now came on for Rory Byrne and Buccs took the game to their hosts despite their temporary numerical deficiency. The Pirates’ skipper broke from the back of a scrum after 57 minutes and sent Billy Henshaw scampering down the right flank before the Trinity defence forced him into touch six metres short of the goal line. Then hands on the ground by the Students yielded a penalty which Carty slotted over from the left to level matters again at 16-16.

The decisive score arrived after 66 minutes, Trinity wrong-footing Fifita before the ball was spread swiftly to the left where, for once, Niyi Adeolokan evaded Henshaw for his ninth try of the season and Marsh, who later missed a penalty, added the conversion. Carty was blatantly body-checked after chipping the cover on 74 minutes but no penalty accrued to Buccs who continued to press forward. Kiripati made a surge down the left a minute later and off-loaded to Halligan but the gallant hooker was wrapped up and just could not get his pass away to the over-lapping Dolan.

However, moments later, Carty drilled over a fine drop goal to set up a grandstand finish. Buccs had survived a Trinity onslaught in the closing stages when the sides met earlier in the season at Dubarry Park. Now it was College’s time to defend desperately but they conceded one more penalty in midfield which Carty lofted towards touch in the left corner. His kick fell just short and was taken back over the home line by a Trinity player who then grounded the ball. To the amazement of most spectators, not only was a five-metre scrum not awarded to Buccs but the referee blew full time prematurely, certainly short of 80 minutes!

This left Buccaneers frustrated after an exciting, fast duel in which they played their part in this absorbing contest. Trinity are very well-drilled with an excellent pack where Pierce Dargan was a persistent menace. Their backline, orchestrated superbly by Marsh, constantly probed at pace and, overall, College just about deserved the spoils that keeps them just one point adrift of their arch rivals UCD. Buccs had to work that bit harder to counter a lack of real bulk in their forwards and, on the day, their tackling was not as crisp as it usually is or needed to be. However, their first losing bonus point of the campaign keeps their aspirations still alive.

TRINITY COLLEGE:-  J.O’Donoghue; N.Hanratty, A.Robles, P.Lavelle, N.Adeolokan; C.Marsh, M.McLoughlin (captain); I.Hirst, W.Larkin, M.Kelly; C.MacDonnell, J.Kelly; P.Dargan, B.du Toit and J.Dilger. Replacements:- W.Scott (for MacDonnell, h/t), S.Pitman (for M.Kelly, h/t), C.Wade (for Robles, inj. 54 mins), A.Lloyd (for Adeolokan, 72 mins) and G.Blackburn.

 

BUCCANEERS:-  C.Boland; B.Henshaw, C.Finn, A.Hayman, C.FitzGibbon; J.Carty, M.Dolan; M.Staunton, G.Halligan, J.Roets; J.Tormey, R.Byrne; L.Satchwell, D.Heffernan and E.Grace. Replacements:- M.Fifita (for FitzGibbon, h/t), K.Kiripati (for Byrne, 51 mins), P.Reilly (for Roets, 66 mins), D.Higgins and B.Digby. 

REFEREE:-  Olly Hodges (IRFU).  

 

BUCCS Women capture League title!

 

BUCCANEERS 13 SLIGO 7

 

BUCCANEERS WOMENS squad proved too hot for Sligo as they wrestled the Connacht Womens League title from the north-westerners by defeating the holders more comprehensively than the 13-7 margin indicates after a good final played at Ballyhaunis on Saturday afternoon. The Buccs ladies were dominant from the off and, apart from a late rally by Sligo, the winners looked comfortable throughout.

 

With Buccs going well in the Leinster Cup and Sligo recent winners in the Ulster Cup, confidence was high in both camps. But the Buccettes signalled their intent from the off to force the pace and dominate territorially for the vast portion of a tough decider played in fine conditions on a sandy-based pitch. Elaine Conlon displayed her versatility when operating at prop with Emer Phelan retaining the No.8 berth. Sinead Taylor and Colette McSpadden, both absentees last week, returned to play key roles in the centre.

Tackling was tight throughout and both teams fared well at setpieces but Buccaneers had a sharper cutting edge although it took them until the 17th minute to open the scoring when Emma Treanor slotted over a penalty. Taylor then made a typically barn-storming break from her own 22, handing off four attempted tackles enroute to a magnificent 29th minute solo try that gave the Athlone girls, who missed one long-range penalty, an 8-0 half-time advantage.

Buccaneers continued to force the pace on the resumption and Niamh Ni Dhroma, try poacher supreme, added another touchdown to her growing collection when she squeezed through in the third quarter to stretch over the Sligo line. This gave Buccs a 13-0 lead that should have been greater as two kickable penalties in this period were spurned while Yvonne O’Shea went close with a promising break. Sligo did not relish losing their title so readily and they battled on gamely, and a 71st minute try at the posts was converted to set up an edgy finish. However, Buccs maintained their composure and shape to deservedly take the honours.

Try scorers Taylor and Ni Dhroma received best support in the backline from McSpadden. Mele Kiripati led by typical example in the front row exchanges, Treanor was a tower of strength at No.8 and Myriam Borque-Cascajo was as busy as a bee around the fringes. All in all, it was a very decent all-round squad effort by Buccaneers that reaped it’s due reward as they captured the League crown in only their second season to add to last year’s Cup triumph. Congratulations to all involved in this historic success.

BUCCANEERS:- N.Ni Dhroma;, A.Kelleher, S.Taylor, C.McSpadden, N.Gough; E.Treanor, S.Hynds; A.M.Sleator, M.Kiripati (captain), E.Conlon; N.Egan, C.Moore; M.Borque-Cascajo, S.O’Shea and E.Phelan. Replacements:- A.Kemmy (for Egan), Y.O’Shea (for Borque-Cascajo), A.Taaffe (for Kelleher) and M.Devaney (for Gough).

 

BUCCANEERS 38  THOMOND 13

 

BUCCANEERS U-21s returned to winning ways when they defeated Thomond 38-13 in their South-West Conference League game at Dubarry Park on Saturday. Conditions were ideal for this Section A fixture and Buccs were well on top until they dropped their focus and workrate in the closing stages.

 

Buccs quickly got on the scoreboard with Rossa Taylor finishing off a fine backline move for a 6th minute try. Later in the half, Paul Maxwell broke from a ruck for the homesters second try, both of which Jack Feeney converted for a 14-3 lead. A gritty Thomond battled gamely in the opening half and they caught the midlanders napping before the break when they quickly tapped a penalty to forge a converted try that left them 14-10 in arrears at the interval.

Buccs kicked on following the restart with Ben Carty putting the finishing touch to a slick backs move when he dummied neatly for the Pirates third try. Substitute Ryan Sheridan then bashed his way through for a brace of tries and Feeney maintained his 100% success rate with the conversions as well as landing one penalty while a solitary penalty is all the Limerick outfit could muster in this period. The exchanges got a bit scrappy in the final quarter but Buccs, with notable contributions by Feeney and Carty in the backs as well Michael Mannion, Josh O’Rourke and Maxwell in the pack, were well worth their bonus point victory.

BUCCANEERS:-  R.Taylor; R.Pepper-Hobbs, B.Carty, T.Clifford, R.O’Reilly; J.Feeney, R.Corcoran; B.Teape, S.Flanagan, C.Flynn; M.Mannion, J.O’Rourke; J.Donoghue, P.Maxwell and A.Connaughton (captain). Replacements:-  E.Kelly (for Flynn), E.O’Reilly (for Pepper-Hobbs), G.Costello (for Corcoran), N.Carr (for Mannion), C.O’Reilly (for Taylor) and R.Sheridan (for Clifford).

 

OUGHTERARD 20  BUCCANEERS 23

 

BUCCANEERS THIRDS continue to set the pace atop the Connacht J2 League but they took their collective feet off the pedals a shade too early and almost paid the price at Oughterard before prevailing 23-20 on Sunday.

 

Despite a lack of recent matches, Buccs did not show too many signs of rustiness for the opening hour after which they led 23-6. They opened the scoring following a quickly tapped penalty after only 6 minutes when Gerry Glynn popped the ball to Mossy Turley who crashed over for a try. Nicky Purcell added the second, breaking from the back of a scrum and giving two dummies for a snappy try. There was good handling in the lead up to Keith O’Neill’s try and the fullback kicked one conversion to put Buccs 17-3 ahead at halftime.

As Buccs continued to dominate a physical contest, Darren Costello added a pair of penalties but then Oughterard capitalised when Buccs eased off the throttle in the final quarter. Two late home tries almost yielded an upset result but Buccs held on to maintain top spot in the league table with just one game remaining. Liam Doran, skipper Glynn and Nigel Flynn were pick of the pack while Peter Smith, Sean Flynn and Purcell were best of the backline.

BUCCANEERS:-  K.O’Neill; J.Bonnar, P.Smith, S.Flynn, M.Tormey; D.Costello, N.Purcell; P.Rikadze, K.Grehan, L.Doran; V.McGrath, D.Dunning; G.Glynn (captain), N.Flynn and T.Turley. Replacements:-  C.Shanley, S.Byrne and Leo Aadic.  

 

BUCCANEERS 13  BALLINASLOE 36

A seasoned Ballinasloe outfit proved too much of a handful for a young, light Buccaneers Development Squad in this Connacht Junior 1B League game at sunny but cold Dubarry Park on Sunday where the visitors came out on top by a 36-13 margin.

FIXTURES

 

The big game in Athlone this weekend is the ‘Electric Ireland’ U-20 Six Nations Championship showdown between Ireland and France in Dubarry Park on Friday night, kick off 7.45 pm. (See separate article).

Meanwhile, Buccaneers U-21s have a long haul to Cork on Saturday where they face Highfield in the South-West Conference League. Kick off in the city’s western suburbs is scheduled for 2.30 pm but that may be changed due to the Six Nations matches. Buccs Development Squad are away to Creggs in the Connacht Junior 1B League on Sunday. Apart from leaders Castlebar, this league is fairly congested and the Pirates really need to salvage something from this game, which won’t be easy at The Green. Kick off 3 pm. The Thirds complete their Connacht J2 League schedule with a home game to second placed Corinthians. A home victory will guarantee the title for Buccs but the Galway outfit, with a game in hand, still have designs on the silverware so a very competitive joust is anticipated from 3 pm. Finally, Buccaneers Women are on the road again, into uncharted territory this time as they journey to Carlow for a Leinster Cup encounter. Carlow are a Division One side in the east province so this will be a step up for the Buccettes. But the Athlone girls love nothing better than a challenge and, if their Connacht League title win celebrations have not been too hectic, they can be counted on to give Carlow a decent run for their money!

 

BAG PACKING THIS WEEKEND

BAG PACKING in aid of Buccaneers youth rugby takes place in Dunnes Stores, Irishtown, this Thursday, Friday and Saturday. Volunteers to help are always welcome and those willing to help should contact our Administrator Geraldine at 0861732711.

CONDOLENCES

Deepest sympathy is extended to the family of the late Sean (Jack) Flanagan.

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