BUCCANEERS 35 SLIGO 34 | News | Buccaneers Rugby Football Club Athlone

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published:Sep  03   2018

Ten tries shared evenly, 69 points scored and just the minimum dividing the teams may indicate a cracking Connacht Senior League duel between Buccaneers and Sligo at Dubarry Park on Saturday. However, exciting though it may have been at times and especially in a nail-biting finish, overall this was a frustrating exhibition for both sets of supporters. Buccs will have been the happier having played below par to survive a massive scare to win 35-34 but Sligo will feel this is one that really got away from them.


League champions Buccs had just two changes in personnel and a couple of positional switches from their promising win at Ballina. Peter Claffey came in at lock for the 'Electric Picnic' attendee Evan Galvin with Ross Cooper moving to No.8 while Eoin O'Reilly started in place of the unavailable Thomas McGann. Frankie Hopkins and Graham Lynch swopped the fullback and scrumhalf roles on this occasion. Cup winners Sligo made one late change with Niall Gray starting at centre while Robert Holian operated at No.8 with Jason Havea switching to the second row.


On a humid afternoon with little breeze, the visitors dominated the early exchanges with their beefy pack content to keep matters tight and denying the hosts possession. The Pirates did not help their cause through some sloppy handling and one poor Hopkins pass went behind his three-quarters from which Sligo forced a 13th minute penalty in front of the posts duly slotted over by Jack Keegan.


Claffey and Conor Finn began to make some inroads for the midlanders to forge a penalty that was punted to touch on the left. From the lineout, Buccs mauled over for a 25th minute try by Andries Kruger and another youngster Michael Hanley added a sweet conversion. Finn, unfortunately, was forced off through injury at this stage and he was a loss as he had been prominent in Buccs better play as well as secure in defence. Ger Fallon came on at left wing with Darragh Corbett now forming a centre partnership with another winger Rory O’Connor.


Sligo were back in front just three minutes later. They opted for a scrum when awarded a penalty on the home 22 and Holian broke away to career through some paper thin defending for a soft try which Keegan converted. Buccs continued to struggle against the bulkier Sligo pack but, nevertheless, an impressive maul earned them another penalty that was kicked to touch in the left corner. They forced a number of penalties, opting for touch on each occasion, and finally breached the north-westerners defence after a series of pop and goes with Claffey stretching over for a 36th minute try. Hanley’s conversion gave Buccaneers a 14-10 halftime lead.


Lynch and Hopkins rotated berths for the restart and Buccs suffered a couple of injuries in the opening minutes of the second half. Sean O’Connell replaced Rory Grenham in the front row and Simon Meagher came on for Kruger. Moments later, as in the first half, a Lynch pass went behind the supporting backs and Sligo snaffled possession with Matt Kavanagh surging through for an unconverted 43rd minute try. He almost notched a second just minutes later but knocked on in a try-saving tackle. But Sligo stretched their advantage when Brendan Cunningham finished off further good pressure for a smartly taken 54th minute try which Gray converted for a 22-14 advantage.


Buccs then put their best phase of play together and this was finished off in style at the posts by O’Connor for a 58th minute try with Hanley adding the conversion to leave just a single point between the teams. Ten minutes later Sligo patiently went through phases which Matt Davey capitalised on to burst over for a bonus point try converted by Gray. Straight from the restart, O’Connor made a trademark break and sucked in four defenders before off-loading to Martin Staunton who had Meagher in support and the substitute strode over to grab a bonus point try for Buccs. Hanley’s conversion left just one point between the sides with ten minutes remaining.


On 75 minutes Buccs turned over possession from Sligo on the home 22 and Lynch cleared his lines with a lengthy kick which Corbett chased. He proved the braver in punting the ball away from the covering defender and he scampered in for a try at the posts to edge the Pirates back in front. Hanley continued his unerring place-kicking and his conversion, giving Buccs a 35-29 lead, looked like ensuring victory.


However, there was another twist in the tale as Sligo refused to wilt and retained possession for a prolonged spell to earn a penalty. Silly dissent by a couple of Buccs players meant that the penalty was moved close to the home 22. Ideal territory for the team in unfamiliar white jerseys to tap and go and, after a sustained spell of pressure, Shane Boyle forced his way over for a try wide on the left to set up a dramatic conclusion. With 87 minutes now on the clock, Gray was presented with a pressure kick and, in the face of a mass charge by the homesters, his conversion went fractionally wide.


Thus Buccs prevailed by the minimum in a far from vintage performance. They lacked the poise and accuracy of the previous week and made far too many errors throughout. Worryingly they allowed Sligo dictate the tone of a bruising contest when better precision should have enabled them to move the ball more efficiently and take the sting out of the much heavier visiting forwards. The Pirates pack, with Claffey and Rory Moloney to the fore, worked valiantly but lacked the sheer bulk of their opponents. Finn looked the most likely in the home backline where Corbett did well and Hanley maintained his promise. Also, to their unflinching credit, Buccaneers came from behind on three occasions to take the spoils.


A losing bonus point was little comfort to Sligo who were best served by Boyle and Havea in the forwards battle with Ryan Feehily and Kavanagh liveliest of their backs.


BUCCANEERS:- G.Lynch; E.O’Reilly, R.O’Connor, C.Finn, D.Corbett; M.Hanley, F.Hopkins; R.Grenham, J.Sutton, M.Staunton; R.Byrne, P.Claffey; A.Kruger, R.Moloney (captain) and R.Cooper.  Replacements:- G.Fallon (for Finn, inj. 26 mins), S.O’Connell (for Grenham, inj. 42 mins), S.Meagher (for Kruger, inj. 42 mins), O.Treacy (for Claffey, 62 mins), P.Claffey (for Cooper, 69 mins), R.Cooper (for Moloney, inj. 75 mins) and D.Buckley.


SLIGO:- J.Keegan; P.Carter, N.Gray, E.Gavin, M.Kavanagh; M.Butler, R.Feehily (captain); S.McGuinness, C.Adams, T.Gormley; C.Cassidy, J.Havea; S.Boyle, D.O’Dowd-Hill and R.Holian. Replacements:- S.O’Hehir (for McGuinness), C.Mitchell (for Adams), M.Davey (for Holian), B.Cunningham (for Carter), S.McGuinness (for Gormley) and G.Kerr (for Kavanagh).


Referee:-  Daithi Flood (Connacht).