Fourth Connacht Senior League title in a row for Buccaneers | News | Buccaneers Rugby Football Club Athlone

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Fourth Connacht Senior League title in a row for Buccaneers

published:Sep  10   2018



BUCCANEERS retained their Connacht Senior League for the fourth year in succession as they defeated Galwegians 36-33 in a most dramatic conclusion to this well-contested encounter at Dubarry Park on Saturday. For the second week in a row, 69 points were scored and ten tries evenly shared at the Athlone venue but, on this occasion, it was a much more enterprising and enjoyable affair with the Pirates plundering their narrow win with a last move try.


Both teams had many new faces in their squads but Buccaneers were forced to make numerous changes for a variety of reasons for this duel. They have nine defections from the previous outing against Sligo and then lost Graham Lynch to injury in their warm-up, further disrupting an already vastly depleted selection. They started with no less than eight U-20 players from last season plus another two on the bench. Even if Galwegians did not have too many familiar names in their ranks, an uphill battle looked in prospect for the homesters and it swiftly seemed unsurmountable when the visitors scored a try after just one minute and seventeen seconds.


But in a testing breeze and increasingly wet conditions, a spirited and exhuberant young home side rolled up their collective sleeves from start to finish to stun the light blues. A magnificent second half effort proved the catalyst of an unlikely but richly merited win that earned the spoils.


Led on to the pitch by captain for the day Martin Staunton who also led by willing example from start to finish, primarily ably aided and abetted by his more experienced cohort of John Sutton, Evan Galvin and Simon Meagher (although the latter was one of last year’s U-20). Wegians too had some seasoned campaigners on show in Brian Murphy, David Clarke, Eoin Tarmey and skipper Anthony Ryan while promising prop Ryan Lomas may now realise that he would have opportunities had he remained with the Shannonsiders.


Sensing the chance for a rare recent win at Dubarry Park, Galwegians were quickly into their stride and, after making good progress down the right, a pinpoint diagonal kick found Murphy in acres of space and he cantered in for the opening try which Clarke converted. But Buccs responed positively and a couple of penalties to the left brought them close to the visitors’ line before Galvin powered over for an 8th minute try. Michael Hanley converted to level the scores 7-7.


Next it was Wegians turn to profit from a penalty punted to the left where they got a bit of luck, Chris Reilly’s short lineout throw to Joshua Hays clearly not going to the five metre mark. But the Tribesmen continued their attack and, although held up at the posts, the ball was moved to the opposite flank where Sean O’Sullivan finished off for an unconverted 22nd minute try. Eleven minutes later Wegians nabbed their third try following a penalty on the home ten metre line and the ball was moved neatly via Rory Gaffney and James Kennedy to send Murphy in for his second try. Clarke’s conversion gave Galwegians a 19-7 halftime lead.


Now assisted by the elements Buccs applied steady pressure following the change of ends and forced a couple of penalties, with Hanley landing one on 44 minutes. His second longer effort was wayward and, following a short restart after this miss, Murphy made telling ground up the right before linking with Tarmey and the big lock found a gap in the home cover to romp in for a 49th minute try. Clarke’s conversion of this bonus point try gave Wegians a healthy 26-10 advantage and a home comeback now appeared to have been knocked on the head.


But Buccs continued to press forward and Robert Enraght-Moony was unfortunate when being whistled back for an earlier infringement. However, Galwegians were now beginning to concede a growing number of penalties and Michael O’Donnell was sin binned for illegally slowing possession after 52 minutes. A fierce drive by the home pack after Meagher had won good lineout ball saw Staunton and Sean O’Connell combine to surge over the visitors’ line for an unconverted 55th minute try. Ten minutes later further impressive mauling by the youthful hosts yielded a Sutton try and Hanley’s conversion reduced the arrears to just four points.


The westerners were now in disarray and when substitute Shane Ryan incurred a yellow card and a super chase by Thomas McGann pressurised the Tribesmen forcing a turnover deep in his opponents’ territory. Buccs never-say-die efforts capitalised on this and saw them again driving over the Wegians line for a 71st minute Staunton bonus point try with Hanley’s conversion seeing the Pirates lead for the first time 29-26.


Then following a lengthy break while Ross Flanagan received treatment for an injury, the wily Murphy somehow worked his way through from distance for a smartly taken 76th minute try to complete his hat-trick and regain the lead for Galwegians. Clarke’s fine conversion from wide on the right looked like ensuring victory as it put four points between the teams. With time fast running out, nothing other than a try would suffice for Buccs. But they never wavered in their endeavours and a silly penalty concession by the under pressure visitors gave the homesters a final throw of the dice as the scoreboard clock now ticked into the red. Buccaneers piled forward one last time and a clever chip over the defence saw Conor McMahon (who had started in place of the unfortunate Lynch) about to pounce and score. However, he was impeded by a Galwegians defender and referee Jason Cairns had no hesitation in making the brave but correct decision to award a penalty try that not only decided this contest but also the destination of the league title.


This was an inspiring performance by a massively understrength and inexperienced Buccaneers side in which halfbacks Hanley and Colm Reilly really caught the eye as did substitute Darren Browne in such testing circumstances. Five young players were making their debut at this level with another quartet having only a handful of senior appearances between them. It is a credit to the work being done by the current coaching team and last season’s U-20’s group as well as new Seconds coach Michael Harding who is putting in a Trojan effort too. The spirit and potential in the overall squad augurs well for the future while indiscipline hindered Galwegians prospects.


Buccaneers now not only retain the Connacht Senior League title but, in the new Connacht fixtures structure, have the bonus of automatically qualifying for this season’s Senior Cup final scheduled for January 5th.


BUCCANEERS:-  R.Murphy-Sweeney; E.O’Reilly, C.McMahon, R.Enraght-Moony, T.McGann; M.Hanley, C.Reilly; S.O’Connell, J.Sutton, M.Staunton (captain); R.Byrne, R.Flanagan; O.Treacy, E.Galvin and S.Meagher. Replacements:- D.Browne (for O’Connell, 60 mins), J.Kelly (for Galvin, 65 mins), G.Fallon (for Flanagan, inj. 75 mins), and S.Flynn.


GALWEGIANS:-  R.Gaffney; S.O’Sullivan, A.Donovan, B.Murphy, J.Kennedy; D.Clarke, S.Browne; J.Hays, C.Reilly, R.Lomas; E.Tarmey, A.Ryan (captain); A.Addis-Johnson, P.Hackett and M.O’Donnell. Replacements:- S.Ryan (for Addis-Johnson, temp. 6/12 mins), M.Fox (for Hays, h/t), P.O’Donnell (for Reilly, h/t), S.Ryan (for Addis-Johnson, h/t), H.Lane (for Browne, 56 mins) and D.Faulkner (for Kennedy).


Referee:-  Jason Cairns (Connacht).