BUCCANEERS 20 BANBRIDGE 24 | News | Buccaneers Rugby Football Club Athlone

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published:Apr  08   2019

BUCCANEERS must venture into the play-offs minefield following their narrow 24-20 All-Ireland League Division 1B defeat to Banbridge at well-attended Dubarry Park on Saturday. Buccs led for the majority of this Prince of Wales Hotel sponsored fixture but the northerners bonus point victory ensures they secured their 1B status.


Both sides fielded a handful of provincial players with the Athlone side making five changes from their loss at Old Wesley. Luke Carty, Corey Reid and Kieran Joyce returned in the backline with the Masterson brothers Eoghan and Sean featuring in the back row. “Blues Brothers” Peter Claffey and Rory Moloney were Buccs latest injury absentees. Banbridge could call on Ulster contingent Greg Jones, Johnny Stewart, Callum Reid, Caleb Montgomery and Ian Porter.


On a bright and breezy afternoon, both teams played with passion and Cup tie fervour. The visitors had first benefit of the diagonal breeze but Buccs put in a splendid series of pick and goes to unlock the Bann defence for a 4th minute Shane Layden try converted by Luke Carty. The Co. Down side was under steady pressure in the opening quarter and they had a let off when Carty’s crossfield kick intended for Evan Galvin went straight into touch on 20 minutes. A chip over their retreating stretched cover may have reaped a richer dividend in that situation.


The Bann men finally got some territory as the game entered the second quarter and a charge up the centre sucked in the home defence before the ball was spread to the right where Conor Field got over in the Bounty corner for an unconverted 24th minute try. Buccaneers continued to press forward and, after a teasing Carty garryowen, Torin Rensford intercepted a Banbridge tap back to snaffle possession and surge forward. He showed good composure to link with Callum Boland who had Graham Lynch in support on the right flank and the fullback raced in for a 30th minute try converted by Carty for a 14-5 lead.


But from the restart Eoghan Masterson and Boland got their signals mixed up and allowed the ball bounce into touch close to the home line. Compounding their error, John Sutton’s lineout throw was deemed crooked, giving possession to the visitors. Three scrums later and the heftier, stronger Banbridge forwards drove over the line where Michael Cromie grounded the ball for a try. Porter’s conversion meant that Buccs led by only 14-12 having dominated territory and possession in the opening half.


Carty looked like making an early breakthrough following the change of ends only to be whistled back due to accidental crossing by a teammate while Layden’s splendid tackle denied Ben Carson a real try opportunity shortly afterwards. Carty then thumped over a 48 metre 51st minute penalty to edge the midlanders five points ahead. Banbridge replied with a series of pick and goes through the centre before shifting the ball to the left where Carson had better luck this time to just get over the home line. This try was unconverted so the teams were tied 17-17 with 22 minutes remaining.


Banbridge then put their best move of the game together six minutes later with some excellent interplay being finished off smartly by Andrew Morrison behind the uprights, making Porter’s conversion a formality. This earned the visitors both the lead and a try bonus point. Buccs were unlucky when, with the referee playing advantage, Carty’s crossfield kick was fractionally too high for Boland to control but the outhalf drilled over the resultant 69th minute penalty to narrow Buccs arrears to 24-20.


Buccaneers fought tigerishly to the finish with Evan Galvin and Martin Staunton to the forefront of their sustained endeavours as they steadily got closer to the Banbridge line. As the game entered red on the clock, Buccs earned a penalty which Carty punted to touch in the left corner but another crucial lineout throw went awry with Steve Irvine claiming possession, enabling Banbridge to put the ball dead and with it also kill Buccaneers hopes of a winning score.


So elation for Banbridge on retaining their 1B status but utter dejection for the homesters, who will now be bidding to stave off a second successive relegation. Their losing bonus point was scant consolation after the players gave it their all.  Queens University look their likely first up opponents. However, Saturday was not the day that left Buccs in this dire position for they gave as good as they got against a hardier outfit that had an edge in the front five. Eoghan Masterson was named Audi Athlone Man of the Match but he was run close for this accolade by Galvin in a hard-working and committed pack where 18 year old Harry O’Reilly continues to show real potential while Reid was pick of the Pirates backline in which Carty also played well.


BUCCANEERS:- G.Lynch; S.Layden (captain), C.Reid, K.Joyce, C.Boland; L.Carty, C.Reilly; H.O’Reilly, J.Sutton, M.Staunton; R.Byrne, T.Rensford; S.Masterson, E.Galvin and E.Masterson. Replacements:- N.Farrelly (for O’Reilly, 35 mins), H.O’Reilly (for Farrelly, h/t), N.Farrelly (for Staunton, 47 mins), M.Staunton (for O’Reilly, 55 mins), O.Treacy, M.Hanley and R.O’Connor.


BANBRIDGE:- J.Cromie; C.Field, A.Morrison, J.Little, B.Carson; I.Porter, J.Stewart; C.Reid, P.Cromie, M.Cromie (captain); C.Allen, S.Irvine; C.Montgomery, E.Harbison and G.Jones. Replacements:- C.Barrett (for P.Cromie, 65 mins), A.Irvine (for Carson, 80 mins), S.Cromie, R.Sinton and D.Carson.


Referee:- Kieran Barry (IRFU).