MALONE 6 BUCCANEERS 11 | News | Buccaneers Rugby Football Club Athlone

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published:Mar  04   2019

BUCCANEERS inflicted only the second home defeat of the season on Malone when the midlanders won their All-Ireland League Division 1B encounter 11-6 in difficult conditions at Gibson Park, Belfast, on Saturday. The Pirates enjoyed by far the greater territory and possession throughout and the Cregagh Red Sox were fortunate to pinch a losing bonus point that keeps them in second place. Meanwhile, on the back of a fourth win in their last five outings, Buccs were finally rewarded in making some overdue ground up the league table to seventh.


The Athlone side made four changes for this testing encounter with Peter Claffey and Joe Maksymiw returning to the second row and Evan Galvin starting out of position at No.8. With injury ruling Callum Boland out, Shane Layden switched to fullback and Mark Balaski got his first call-up to the senior side on the left wing. Malone made five changes, two in the backline and three in the pack where notably Ulster duo Ross Kane and Adam McBurney started in the front row.


On a squally afternoon, a blustery diagonal breeze made life difficult for both teams with scoring chances at a premium. Buccs had first advantage of the elements and were camped in Malone’s half for long spells. Despite the presence of Kane and McBurney in the homesters front row, the visitors were having the better of the forwards exchanges causing Malone to regularly concede scrum penalties. Luke Carty passed the century points mark this season when he opened the scoring for Buccaneers with a 9th minute penalty.


A thumping Kieran Joyce tackle ended Malone’s first real threat following a penalty to touch on the left in a scrappy opening quarter. Carty then made terrific ground with an excellent penalty to touch on the right and, following the lineout, Buccaneers fizzed the ball acrossfield via Joyce, Corey Reid and Layden to Balaski. The U-20 winger eyed the cover before racing through Mark O’Connor’s tackle to cap his debut with an excellent 21st minute unconverted try wide on the left for an 8-0 lead.


With Conan O’Donnell in vibrant form, Ricky Greenwood was called ashore with Ben Halliday coming in to the home front row as Buccs continued to apply steady pressure that grew in intensity around the half hour mark when Joyce and Rory Moloney both went close to crossing the home line. But the Shannonsiders handling let them down on a number of occasions as did their lineout work, and the northerners held their line intact. Four minutes before halftime, Layden put in a crunching tackle on O’Connor but Malone recycled the ball to Graham Curtis. The scrumhalf headed right before off-loading blindly to his left where the ball hit the retreating Claffey. Referee Chris Lough, who was inconsistent and allowed too much slow ball, surprisingly flashed a yellow card at the Buccs lock and O’Connor slotted over the resultant 36th minute penalty. This reduced Malone’s arrears rather fortuitously to 8-3 at the end of a half in which they had been considerably outplayed.


Rain heralded the change of ends and the floodlights came on as Buccs rode out this hiccup despite Ulster’s Shane Kelly coming on at scrumhalf with Curtis switching to the right wing in place of Chris Jordan. Colm Reilly soon joined the fray adding extra snappiness at No.9. There were few incidents of note up to the hour mark of what was overall a disappointing contest. As the game entered the final quarter, the Pirates piled fierce pressure on close to the home line forcing the Red Sox to cough up a spate of penalties that should have resulted in a penalty try for the visitors. It took the referee an inordinate number of offences by desperate Malone defenders before he eventually despatched prop Kane to the sin bin on 64 minute. Carty kicked the resultant penalty to put Buccs 11-3 ahead but they did not add further to their tally while the northerners were temporarily depleted.


As conditions brightened in the closing stages, Rory O’Connor untypically mishandled a hopeful Malone kick ahead and then threw a loose pass that gave the Ulster side possession inside Buccaneers 22. Suddenly the hosts, not used to being dominated at home, upped their efforts and the Pirates got nervy with Moloney incurring a 76th minute yellow card when going offside in front of the posts. O’Connor slotted over the placekick but determined Buccs, with Martin Staunton coming in for Conor Kenny, regrouped to see out the remaining time for a well deserved victory that really should have been more comprehensive on the scoreboard.


Malone salvaged a precious losing bonus point to remain in second place, now ahead of Ballynahinch on scoring difference and only four points ahead of Buccaneers in this division that remains extremely competitive with a mere handful of points separating most teams. Buccs win lifts them above both Banbridge and Old Belvedere. The Pirates controlled vast swathes of this duel against the long time pace setters. Their tackling and defensive work was executed excellently in a well organised Buccaneers performance in which Claffey, Carty, Joyce and O’Donnell were most prominent. Balaski looks an exciting prospect but, in the testing conditions, saw too little of the ball.


MALONE:- A.Bryans; C.Jordan, J.Pentland, N.Brown, M.O’Connor; C.Smith, G.Curtis; R.Kane, A.McBurney, R.Greenwood; R.Clarke, M.Dalton; D.Cave, R.Todd (captain) and J.Dunleavy. Replacements:- B.Halliday (for Greenwood, 28 mins), S.Kelly (for Jordan, h/t), J.McAllister (for Clarke, h/t), R.Clarke (for Cave, 46 mins), D.Kerr and J.McMurtry.


BUCCANEERS:- S.Layden (captain); R.O’Connor, C.Reid, K.Joyce, M.Balaski; L.Carty, F.Hopkins; C.O’Donnell, J.Sutton, C.Kenny; P.Claffey, J.Maksymiw; S.Masterson, R.Moloney and E.Galvin. Replacements:- C.Reilly (for Hopkins, 44 mins), M.Staunton (for Kenny, 74 mins), R.Byrne, D.Browne and M.Hanley.


Referee:- Chris Lough (IRFU).




BUCCANEERS J1’s completed their Connacht Junior 1A League campaign when going down 42-26 to Castlebar in demanding conditions at Cloondeash on Saturday night. Buccs made good progress at this level this season under the tutelage of coach Mike Harding and manager Conor Moran to finish a highly commendable third in this division won by Connemara.


Champions The Blacks had defeated Westport earlier in the day so Buccs were then assured of finishing third. Castlebar, on the other hand, had a lot yet to play for as a win would take them out of the relegation playoffs. Accordingly, from the start, both teams played with the intensity representing what they had to play for.


Defensively it was Buccaneers worst day all season, conceding seven tries. They trailed 22-12 at halftime with a Torin Rensford try opening the Pirates scoring and then Eoin O’Reilly had a brilliant finish in the corner to score Buccs second. Andre Kruger and Liam Doyle secured a try bonus point with touchdowns in the second half. Teenager Doyle acquitted himself very well in defence in this his senior debut.


On reflection of the season, Buccaneers accumulated points in 13 of their 14 league fixtures, a not insignificant achievement. That is something to be proud of but also knowing that the team left a number of possible wins behind them too. But there is a lot to build on and, with a large number of promising U-20’s coming through, Buccaneers can certainly be in the running to win this league next season.


BUCCANEERS:- E.O’Reilly; R.Murphy-Sweeney, D.McMahon (captain), R.Enraght-Moony, C.Forde; E.O’Toole, G.Fallon; S.Flynn, R.Grenham, S.O’Connell; A.Shine-Lynch, T.Rensford; A.Kruger, G.O’Toole and O.Treacy. Replacements:- L.Doyle, A.Obono and M.Harding.