Buccaneers 21 Ballinasloe 22 (U-18.5 Cup final) | News | Buccaneers Rugby Football Club Athlone

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Buccaneers 21 Ballinasloe 22 (U-18.5 Cup final)

published:Apr  08   2019

BUCCANEERS and Ballinasloe served up a cracking Connacht U-18.5 Cup final at Galway Sportsground on Sunday when the young Pirates were pipped by a single point 22-21. Ballinasloe thus completed a commendable league and cup double but Buccs can take huge pride from their contribution to an excellent decider.


Ballinasloe were hot favourites for this contest. They won the league with a 100% winning sequence including a heavy 40-5 defeat of the Athlone side. They were backboned too by many of Garbally College’s Schools Senior Cup and League winning squad. But Buccs really put it up to them from the off on a sunny but typically breezy afternoon at the Sportsground. The Pirates, wearing the black and white Athlone colours, excelled in the opening half despite playing against the considerable wind.


They were spurred on by a smashing early try following a brave diagonal kick by Michael Byrne that was mishandled into touch by the Ballinasloe fullback. Liam Doyle won good lineout possession just inside the 22 on the right and the ball was fed swiftly to Sam O’Sullivan who powered through for a try at the posts making Byrne’s conversion a formality.


Midway through the half, Ballinasloe were awarded a questionable penalty which Stephen Mannion drilled over to open their account. Doyle was rampant for Buccs in this half and he made huge yardage to take Buccs close to the opponents’ line but over enthusiastic support players went off their feet granting the Co. Galway side a welcome relieving penalty.


Jensen Nagle was next to make huge inroads before being held up on the right but the diminutive fullback was not to be denied shortly afterwards. Ballinasloe infringed at a ruck and Byrne punted the penalty to touch on the left. Buccs took a long throw-in and, several slick passes later, Nagle was scorching over in the right corner for a try. Byrne added an excellent touchline conversion and Buccaneers had their tails up 14-3 ahead. Cathal Flynn showed a portent of Ballinasloe’s attacking potential with an exciting break up the right that was halted by a super Harry Balsiger tackle. However, Buccs conceded a couple of sloppy penalties in the closing moments of the half and Mannion kept Ballinasloe in touch from the tee. Buccs 14-9 lead at the interval did not truly reflect their superiority in the opening half.


Just as Buccaneers had done in the opening half, Ballinasloe hit the ground running at the start of the second period. They too punted a penalty to the left touch and, following fine lineout possession, Pat Grehan drove over for a try converted by Mannion to edge his side 16-14 ahead. Doyle and John Claffey were sin-binned eight minutes into this half following a brief clash which earned Buccs a long range penalty that Byrne could not convert.


Ballinasloe were now enjoying the better of the exchanges and Buccs coughed up a number of penalties. Mannion’s place-kicking was radar-like and he added a brace to edge his side 22-14 ahead with 15 minutes remaining. Remarkably all his penalties were awarded in very similar central locations!


The midlanders rallied, spurred on by a superb Balsiger 24th minute try. The centre won possession close to his own 22 and left a trail of Ballinasloe defenders in his wake as he scored as good an individual try as has been witnessed at the Sportsground. Byrne added the conversion via an upright to set up a grandstand finish. Buccs piled forward time and again but Ballinasloe held firm and then ran down the clock in Munster style to complete a memorable double. Winning captain Grehan led by example in the forwards exchanges while Mannion (son of Ireland legend Noel) was their man of the match, making some telling breaks in addition to his flawless place-kicking.


Buccaneers were hugely disappointed to suffer such a narrow defeat. But they have made massive improvement during the league campaign and could have done little else to prevail. They outscored the winners by three tries to one, but concession of some needless penalties hurt them dearly. Doyle, Jack Scouler, Lasha Loashvilli and Martin Fallon caught the eye in a pack forced to play without talismanic skipper Darragh Murray. O’Sullivan and Balsiger formed an exciting centre partnership and fullback Nagle looked a real threat when in possession. Overall it was an immensely promising team performance to be proud of.


BUCCANEERS:- J.Nagle; J.Why, H.Balsiger, S.O’Sullivan, C.Rooney-Digan; M.Byrne, L.MacFarlane; E.Connolly, E.Gallagher, L.Laoshvilli; M.Tallon, L.Doyle; C.O’Grady, J.Scouler (captain) and M.Fallon. Replacements:- R.Muldoon (for Connolly, 43 mins), K.Connolly (for Tallon, 55 mins), K.O’Sullivan (for Rooney-Digan, 63 mins), T.Devery, J.Downes, H.Stewart and R.Byrne.


BALLINASLOE:- S.Horkan; C.Flynn, S.Mannion, James Carry, M.Devine; C.Goode, C.Finn; J.Curley, P.Grehan (captain), S.Egan; F.Finneran, P.Galvin; L.Dunne, K.Blackweir and J.Claffey. Replacements:- A.Marjanovic (for Devine, 63 mins), M.Kelly, R.Carry, Joey Carry, A.Reams, T.Fitzpatrick, G.Colleran and J.Cunningham.


Referee:- Andrew Fogarty (Connacht).




Champions Old Wesley proved too strong for a weakened Buccaneers side, winning their final J.P.Fanagan Leinster Premier 2 U-20 League encounter 34-7 at Energia Park, Donnybrook, on Sunday. Buccs were short a number of frontliners including Michael Hanley, Fergus Galvin, Harry O’Reilly, Thomas McGann and Jensen Nagle. They had little to play for as they could not improve on their already highly creditable third place finish in this competitive league. Their attention now turns to the Cup commencing on Sunday next.