NUIG 26 Buccaneers 48 | News | Buccaneers Rugby Football Club Athlone

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NUIG 26 Buccaneers 48

published:Jan  28   2019

Following a disappointing defeat to leaders Old Wesley at home the previous week, a renewed and determined Buccaneers put NUI Galway to the sword by 48-26 at the University’s grounds in Dangan, Galway last Sunday. Buccs welcomed back Darren Browne from injury at hooker whilst debutant Mark Balaski was able to join the squad after a prolonged injury lay off. Before the kick off, captain James Kelly asked the players for a renewed commitment for the remainder of the season, starting with NUIG and the squad duly delivered.

Buccaneers scored 6 tries to take maximum points, but the score line does not reflect the challenge presented by NUIG. They were strong and committed, and fell just short of taking a try bonus point from the fixture. Buccs had to stay focused for the full duration, and in the end used the full squad to close out the game in style. The result moves the Pirates into the top four scramble and in touching distance of second place in this very competitive JP Fanagan Leinster Premier League 2.

NUIG got off to a good start when a knock-on in the tackle gifted an easy penalty in front of the posts which was converted. However, the next 30 minutes was dominated by the Athlone side who scored 3 unanswered and converted tries. The first on 11 minutes came off a good lineout move with Browne breaking and gaining several metres before offloading to Sean O’Connell who made further gains. The ball was then swiftly moved across the back by Dermot O’Rourke, where Robert Teape had run a great line to gather and cross the line under the posts, leaving Michael Hanley with the easiest of conversions.

The next try would have had forwards coach Benny Gilligan beaming from the technical area. Front rows Kelly, Browne and Harry O’Reilly each made a number of pick and goes, punching hard at the NUIG defence and making strong ground. With the cover struggling to deal with the intensity, Colm McMahon gathered and ran hard to score under the posts. Hanley again converted. A growing feature of the game was the metres being gained by the Shannonsiders pack, and as well as the aforementioned front row, Brian McDonnell was having a super game, whilst the ever imperious Fergus Galvin was everywhere.

The third try was the result of a great break from back rower Goncalo Catarino. He carried 30 metres from inside his own half, whilst strongly handing off several tackles before offloading to Tom McGann who showed his pace to beat the NUIG cover. Hanley again converted and Buccaneers were ahead by 21-3. NUIG rallied, and Catarino was handed a yellow card for slapping the ball illegally. McMahon also took a big hit and had to leave the field with Hanley moving to centre and Sean Flynn coming in at out half.

NUIG had a final 5-minute purple patch, with Buccaneers perhaps guilty of easing off on their intensity at the breakdown. A penalty against the visitors for holding on secured 3 NUIG points and in the final play of the half, with Buccs deep in NUIG territory, a rare poor Buccaneers scrum led to a break and clearing kick from College which was superbly chased and gathered, and scored under the Buccaneers posts. With the conversion completed, Buccs had received a wakeup call and went into the break just 21-13 up.

Jimmy Curley replaced Connor Watt at lock, and Balaski made his long-awaited debut for the club coming on at full back to replace Jensen Nagle. Within five minutes, Balaski showed his pace and class when another well executed lineout and several phases of attack, saw the ball released to the full back who at full tilt took a great line and ran in the try from 30 metres past several cover tackles. Hanley accepted the easy conversion.

NUIG were however really growing into the game and for the next 15 minutes they had all the possession. An NUIG penalty rebounded off the upright and whilst cleared by Buccaneers, the ball was gathered on the half way line, cleverly chipped in behind the Pirates defence and gathered for an excellent try. The conversion was missed but another penalty for NUIG was scored and the Students had closed the gap back to 7 points as the game entered its final quarter.

Buccaneers were awarded a penalty just beyond the half way line on 60 minutes, and Hanley decided that a shot for 3 points was the smart option. As he has done all year from the tee, he duly delivered with real composure. It was however his last contribution and, following a knock, he left the field to be replaced by Daniel Ennis. McMahon shook off his injury concern and came back on to replace Darragh Mulvihill who had given another good defensive display. Flynn took over kicking duties and was immediately tested with a penalty which he calmly slotted over. Liam Doyle entered the fray for Kelly and settled quickly with a couple of strong scrum showings and line breaks.

The Buccaneers forwards had now wrestled momentum back from College and, following another series of advances, tight head O’Reilly was rewarded for his menace with a try under the posts. Flynn converted. From the restart, NUIG gathered untidy ball but in trying to get the ball wide, the move was intercepted by the watchful McGann, and he ran the length of the pitch for his second try of the day. Flynn was grateful for the simple conversion. Watt and Daly came on to replace Galvin and Browne who had both given typical commanding all round performances. In the final phases of the game, Buccaneers kept control and did not allow NUIG regain any momentum. Kalem Wheatley-Byrne came on for O’Connell and Buccs closed out the game with a 26-point cushion in the end.

The result felt like a turning point for this young Buccaneers side. It was a committed and skilful all-round performance as NUIG were disciplined and strong, and they will surely test other sides as the league closes out. Galvin was man of the match, with O’Reilly, McDonnell and Browne in close pursuit of that accolade. Hanley before he left the field was his normal assured self, but Flynn showed he can cover when needed and will have grown from this experience. O’Rourke at scrum half was aggressive and assertive and McGann had his best game of the series. Finally, it was great to see the smile on the face of Connacht academy player Balaski and the joy of returning to play rugby with his new club after a prolonged absence.

Next up is a home fixture versus St Mary’s College on Sunday February 10th at Dubarry Park. After a horror start, Buccaneers went on to dominate the away fixture but still went down by the narrowest of margins at Templeville Road. A more settled and consistent Buccaneers side will be looking to avenge that defeat and stay in the hunt for league honours.

BUCCANEERS:- J.Nagle, T.McGann, R.Teape, C.McMahon, D.Mulvihill; M.Hanley, D.O’Rourke; J.Kelly (captain), D.Browne, H.O’Reilly; F.Galvin, C.Watt; S.O’Connell, G.Catarino and B.McDonnell. Replacements:- C.Daly, L.Doyle, K.Wheatley-Byrne, J.Curley, M.Balaski, D.Ennis, K.Foxe, S.Flynn and A.Abono.