BUCCANEERS 14 BALLINASLOE 8 (Connacht U-16 Plate Final) | News | Buccaneers Rugby Football Club Athlone

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BUCCANEERS 14 BALLINASLOE 8 (Connacht U-16 Plate Final)

published:May  14   2018

 Buccaneers U-16’s Triumphant in Epic Connacht Plate Final  

Buccaneers U16’s pulled off one of the results of the season in the epic encounter against their near neighbours and this season’s Connacht U16 League Champions Ballinasloe. At The Green, Creggs, last Saturday, Buccs performed heroics whilst playing some outstanding rugby in overcoming this Ballinasloe 14-8, a team that they have never beaten in their almost 10 years of being together as a squad.

They certainly came into this fixture with the underdog tag firmly affixed, especially given the success of this Ballinasloe squad this year and indeed over last number of years, but the significant crowd who attended the game were treated to a level of rugby from both teams that made this fixture a very exciting encounter, right to the final whistle. 

Ballinasloe started, as expected, with a lot of possession and for the first 10 minutes of the game, they practically owned the ball. But Buccaneers never panicked and in fact looked very much in control of their own defence, soaking up all the pressure with real confidence. Their communication in defence was evident and, at times, Ballinasloe became frustrated with the "young pirates" defensive wall.

The Buccs defence was led from the front with some excellent tackling from Gavin Daly, Aaron Brady, Deema Feehan and Joe Henson in the forwards while Adam Flanagan, Tom Shine and Eamon Martin defended aggressively in the backline. Any time Ballinasloe kicked down field, the Buccaneers back three of Fergal Cunniffe, Olan Healy and Kieran Hurd defended and counter-attacked admirably.

Once Buccaneers got to grips with the pace of the game, they played the territories with excellent tactical kicking from outhalf Ruaidhri Fallon, frustrating the Ballinasloe attack on many occasions with the accuracy off his boot. This enabled Buccs to get their own hands on the ball, where their forwards attacked with pace and aggression, setting the platforms for their exciting backs to display their attacking flair and ability. While ball-handling errors occurred on both sides, Ballinasloe found it increasingly difficult to cope with the intensity of Buccaneers attacking ability from forwards Sam Fogarty, Koronato Kiripati, Kieran Egan and Dermot Carey and it paid dividends after approximately 15 minutes when prop Egan crashed over to touch down for Buccaneers first try after great attacking work off the fringes from Fallon, Shine and Fogarty. Outhalf Fallon completed the conversion to make it 7-0 in favour of Buccaneers.

This score certainly didn’t have any negative effect on this Ballinasloe outfit. Although Buccs continued to play with absolute confidence in their ball handling and attack, this inevitably increased the possibilities of errors occurring and on the 25th minute mark, as Buccaneers worked their way out of their own 22, maybe a little over-exuberance in their play allowed a missed pass drop right in the path of the Ballinasloe 10, Mathew Devine, who sprinted in unopposed from the Buccs 22, touching down almost under the posts.

Devine proceeded to take the easiest of conversation kicks to level the scores, but the accomplished kicker bizarrely missed by pulling the kick wide of the posts, leaving the scores at 7-5 in favour of Buccs. However, the half was not yet finished and another indiscretion from Buccs resulted in a penalty being awarded to Ballinasloe in a very kickable position and this time Devine made no mistake in slotting over the kick to leave the half-time score at 8-7 in favour of Ballinasloe. 

The second half started very favourably for Buccaneers where they had much of the possession and were having the better of the exchanges in contact. This period gave the Athlone lads a lot of confidence and they continued to impose their aggressive, high intensity attacking style of play on their opponents. While the Co. Galway team defended resolutely, Buccaneers continued with their own game plan, chipping away at the Ballinasloe team, phase upon phase of controlled attack. 

They were well rewarded in the 10th minute of the second half which ended in what was arguably the try of the season from this talented side. Continued phases of attack from their forward pods down the right gave the perfect platform to let their backs loose down the open channels. Once the platform was set, Buccs scrum-half Flanagan seized the opportunity and flashed a pass to Fallon, who found Shine and the centre found his mid-field partner Martin in space. Martin had a lot of work to do, but not for the first time this season, he used his excellent balance and footwork to beat three Ballinasloe defenders to score a fantastic try in the left corner. Fallon was Mr. Coolness personified, slotting over the most difficult of conversion kicks from the left-hand touch line, leaving the score line at 14-8 in favour of Buccaneers.

The closing stages of the game was a topsy-turvy affair. While Buccs maintained the majority share of territory in the Ballinasloe half of the field, the westerners were always capable of making one of those match-winning breaks to steal the game from Buccs grasp particularly from their back row trio of John Claffey, Kyle Blackweir and Mark Mitchell. But Buccs again defended with aggression, composure and structure with every player committed to the cause for the remaining few minutes. In an effort to maintain their grip on the game, Buccs introduced imposing, skilful winger Aaron Oyoki and impressive replacement props Evan McCormack and Adam Kennedy. All three players contributed to the win and will have a lot to offer to next season’s league and cup campaigns.  

In the end, the young Buccs held out with confidence but when the final whistle sounded to end the game, the relief and excitement at the achievement was evident. This was an unexpected victory according to most but this Buccs squad had the belief in their new-found ability and they knew that, once they turned up mentally, they would cause problems for this excellent Ballinasloe team. 

Turn-up they did, and they participated in one of the matches of the season at this age-group. The future potential in this entire squad is enormous and based on their improvement and performances throughout this year, there will definitely be many more jubilant days to come for this talented group of players. 

BUCCANEERS:- F.Cunniffe; K.Hurd, E.Martin, T.Shine, O.Healy; R.Fallon, A.Flanagan; K.Kiripati, D.Feehan, K.Egan; J.Henson, S.Fogarty (captain); A.Brady, G.Daly and D.Carey. Replacements:- E.McCormack, J.Norton, A.Farrell, A.Kennedy, A Oyiki, E.Pillion, M.Turner and B.O’Carroll.