PIRATES CAPTURE DIVISION 1B TITLE | News | Buccaneers Rugby Football Club Athlone

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published:Mar  27   2017



BUCCANEERS are Ulster Bank League Division 1B champions following their 30-23 victory over Naas in a thrilling and intensely competitive top of the table clash in front of a big crowd at Dubarry Park, Athlone. On a sun-drenched afternoon, playing conditions were ideal for top of the ground rugby and both teams contributed to serving up a fast-moving, hard-hitting contest from start to finish. Buccs got off to a flying start and then held their nerve when Naas fought back to tighten their arrears to three points. Promotion for the midlanders is now assured with two rounds of fixtures remaining. They are the first club in all five divisions to be certain of their title as they return to the top flight after an absence of ten seasons.


Buccaneers made five changes, three in the backline and two in the pack, from the side that suffered a rare defeat away to UCC last time out. Alan Gaughan returned at fly-half after injury while Mata Fifita and Eoghan O’Reilly started in the centre and on the wing respectively. Simon Meagher also returned from injury at lock with Rory Moloney resuming after his red card against Dolphin. Naas were unchanged from the side that overcame Shannon in the previous round. 


The game was, arguably, won and lost in the opening quarter when Buccs went on a scoring salvo to steam 20-0 ahead. Naas refused to give up and battled their way in to an absorbing duel, reducing their arrears to 23-20 on the hour mark. However, the Pirates were that bit stronger, accurate and more composed in a highly competitive encounter. They were quicker into their stride with Alan Gaughan landing a straight-forward 6th minute penalty following an ill-judged tackle on the home outhalf. Four minutes later, Buccs pressure forced another infringement and Gaughan duly slotted this long-range between the uprights.


Then Jordan Conroy struck for a quickfire brace of tries. Buccs won possession in midfield and promptly got the ball to the young speedster and he accelerated away along the flank for a 14th minute try. Five minutes later, the Pirates turned over ball from Naas on the home 22 and again got it swiftly to Conroy who turned on his turbo to leave the visiting defence trailing in his wake once more for another smashing try. Both touchdowns were wide on the left but Gaughan had his radar very much in working order as he added two super conversions for a 20 points advantage by the end of the first quarter.


Naas were reeling at that stage but Peter Osborne opened their account with a 26th minute penalty. Gaughan’s only miss followed ten minutes later when former Naas hooker John Sutton was tackled off the ball. Buccs had dropped their tempo either side of halftime and the Leinster side grabbed a lifeline two minutes before the interval. They punted a penalty to the left and, following good lineout possession won near the home ten metre line, the ball was slipped to Osborne. The fullback should have been shunted into touch but he darted down the blindside to score a try that he could not convert from the left but it reduced Buccs advantage to 20-8 at the break.


This score revitalised Naas and they were much more purposeful following the change the ends. Five minutes into the second half, David Benn stretched over the home line for another unconverted Naas try before Gaughan steadied the Pirates ship with a 58th minute penalty. However, following the restart, Conor McKeon’s attempted clearance was blocked down and Paulie Tolofua pounced for an opportunist try in the right corner. Osborne’s conversion left just three points between the teams, 23-20 to the midlanders as the cracking contest entered the final quarter.


But Buccaneers held their nerve in the pacey exchanges and Conroy completed his hat-trick of tries when Eoin Griffin sent him off on a mesmerising run that left Fionn Carr, Johne Murphy and Peter Howard chasing a shadow to touchdown at the posts after 70 minutes for his 17th try of the campaign. Gaughan’s conversion gave the Pirates a ten points’ cushion which was enough to steer them to the title and promotion. Osborne completed the scoring with a late penalty that earned Naas a losing bonus point that could yet prove crucial as they chase the play-off berth.


But Buccs, for whom Conroy was clearly their AUDI ATHLONE Man of the Match, were worthy winners. Although two of Naas’ tries were preventable, this was another terrific team effort in a splendid season. Gaughan’s 15 points haul means he is now just three points behind the leading scorer in Division 1B and he enjoyed promotion celebrations on the double as Westmeath overcame Wexford in Gaelic football! Fifita and Griffin were solid and secure in the centre. In the testing forwards battle, Kolo Kiripati continues to roll back the clock in his final crusade with best support from Danny Qualter and Stephen McVeigh.


Buccs have extended their lead at the top of the table to an uncatchable 16 points and due credit is extended to the full squad and mentors, particularly Head Coach Brett Wilkinson. Celebrations, including a tasty pig on the spit, did not take long to get into full swing on a glorious evening at The Bounty in Dubarry Park with little worry about the clocks going forward!


BUCCANEERS:- S.Layden; E.O’Reilly, E.Griffin, M.Fifita, J.Conroy; A.Gaughan, C.McKeon; J.Dever, J.Sutton, M.Staunton; D.Qualter, S.Meagher; S.McVeigh, R.Moloney and K.Kiripati (captain). Replacements:- S.O’Leary (for O’Reilly, 55 mins), R.O’Meara (for Dever, 74 mins), E.O’Reilly (for Conroy, inj. 75 mins), F.Hopkins (for McKeon, 75 mins), R.Byrne and R.Grenham.


NAAS:-  P.Osborne; F.Carr, J.Murphy, H.Bryce, P.Howard; B.Swindlehurst, M.Whittingham; A.Coyle, G.Reynolds, J.Harney; P.Monahan, D.Benn; A.Kearney, W.O’Brien (captain) and P.Tulofua. Replacements:-  E.Walsh (for O’Brien, inj. 30 mins), W.O’Brien (for Walsh, h/t), E.Walsh (for Kearney, 53 mins), W.Larkin (for O’Brien, 55 mins), R.O’Connor (for Whittingham, 66 mins), C.Doyle (for Monahan, 70 mins) and M.Skelton (for Carr, 76 mins).


Referee:- Frank Murphy (IRFU).  




NAAS was also Buccaneers U-20’s opponents when the clubs squared up to each other in the Purcell Cup at sun-basked Dubarry Park on Sunday when the Pirates moved into the next round by virtue of a 35-19 victory. Buccs were deserved winners but they made unnecessarily hard work of dealing with the visitors’ challenge.


Corey Reid was unavailable, but Buccs balanced this by being able to utilise Luke Carty in their backline while James Foley also made a notable return to action at No.8. They scored their opening try through a maul, which was to prove an effective weapon for them throughout, with Ross Cooper applying the finishing touch. Thomas McGann once again demonstrated his finishing touch to add their second touchdown. Carty converted both to put the young Pirates 14-0 ahead but a converted Naas try left the game finely balanced 14-7 at halftime.


Buccs made a bright start to the second half. A good 45th minute break by Carty got them into the visitors’ 22 where they were composed and Frankie Hopkins spotted a gap to pick and go from close in for a try which Carty converted. Naas promptly retorted with a converted try. However, the Athlone side responded just as swiftly. A super Carty penalty to the right corner put them where they wanted to be and the pack again mauled over the Naas line where Hugh Ronaldson grounded the ball for a try which Carty converted to make it a double score game 28-14 after 51 minutes.


In the final quarter a Naas substitute was yellow carded for a dangerous tackle and Hopkins followed him to the sin bin two minutes later for slowing the ball. Naas got in for an unconverted try wide on the left before Buccs ensured a home win when Dean McMahon somehow conjured up possession inside the Naas 22 to snaffle an opportunist 75th minute try. Carty maintained his 100% success rate from placed balls to complete the 35-19 winning scoreline.


These young Buccs have been drawn away to St. Mary's College at Templeville Road in Dublin on Sunday next when the action kicks off at 3 p.m.


BUCCANEERS:- R.Convey; D.McMahon, S.Hastings, D.Keane, T.McGann; L.Carty, F.Hopkins; D.Buckley, E.Maher, C.Cleary; B.Collins, R.Cooper (captain); O.Rowe, J.Delahunt and J.Foley. Replacements:- H.Ronaldson (for Collins), J.O’Keeffe (for Convey), R.Flanagan (for Rowe), J.Kelly (for Cleary), E.O’Reilly (for Hastings), P.Browne (for Hopkins) and K.Joncher (for McGann).




BUCCANEERS WOMENS team face Tuam in the final of the Connacht Womens Cup at The Sportsground, Galway. This game fell victim to the dreadful weather of a couple of weeks ago and is rescheduled for Sunday, kicking off at 3 p.m. There has been little between these two teams in their League meetings and the Cup is likely to be decided by fine margins. The Buccs ladies have a wonderful spirit and work ethic so will not be found wanting for effort especially in the forwards contests where Sarah Kelly, Ciara Malone, Lorna Stuart-Trainor and Alex Hennessy can be counted on to give it their best shot. Cosmopolitan pairing Gohar Kostanyan and Andrea Antonissen form an athletic partnership at lock while Katy Ryan, Heather Sheridan and the mobile Antoinette Kemmy are other forwards who will put their bodies on the line.


Scrumhalf Niamh Gough skippers this Pirates crew and Hazel Kilduff, Emma O’Brien and Sabrina Egan are other formidable backs. Lizzie Flynn, Susan Ni Saoraigh, Judy Dowling, Aileen Hynes and Shannon Hennessy will all be itching to make the starting XV. Anna McGann and Niamh Ni Dhroma could be aces in the wide open spaces at the Sportsground for Buccaneers who have trained diligently under coaches Sean Byrne and Ger Fallon. If Buccs play to their potential, then they can claim the silverware. 




BUCCANEERS SECONDS square up to their Corinthians counterparts in a promotion/relegation play-off at Corinthian Park, Clounacauneen, on Sunday. Buccs dearly need to deliver on this occasion as they strive to retain their Division 1A status. Working off a small squad, inconsistency has shunted them into this contest. Nevertheless, there is a solid group who can lay the foundation for victory in this shootout. Skipper Rory Grenham, lock Ruairi Byrne and the versatile James O’Connell will surely lead by example. Coach Garreth Halligan has stepped into the breach in recent outings and Ryan O’Meara is a promising prop while Sean Byrne, Keith Grehan, Niall Flynn and Trevor Thompson are experienced in the forwards trenches where Tristan Couper adds mobility. Evan Galvin would provide dynamism in this sector where Enda O’Brien, Martin Lyons and Colm Conroy will be bidding to make the matchday squad.  


Alex Hayman can be a leader in the backline where Harry Hughes is a capable try-poacher and Sean Flynn provides solidity in the centre. Ger Fallon and Brian Walsh have also served well in the backline where the availability of Callum Boland and Rory O’Connor could be pivotal. Nicky Purcell and John Lopez are other contenders to start in the backline while U-20’s such as Frankie Hopkins, James Foley, Eoghan Maher, Dan Keane, Ross Cooper and Dean McMahon would be well able for this level if they are available. Coach Garreth Halligan and Manager Conor Moran will be looking for a massive effort in this must-win duel and, if the players deliver, then Buccaneers can prevail in what will surely be a searching test.  




Congratulations to Joe Lyster on his recent 80th birthday and best wishes for a return to rude health. Congrats to Darin and Carol Claasen on the birth of their third daughter. Congrats also to Corey Reid who scored a try in Ireland U-19’s win over Japan.




BUCCANEERS EASTER RUGBY CAMP for boys and girls aged 6 to 13 years old takes place at Dubarry Park from Wednesday, April 19th to Friday 21st. Qualified coaches will oversee the camp in which rugby skills will be coached in a fun and friendly environment. Contact Geraldine at 0861732711 to book.




The club is hosting a COOKERY DEMONSTRATION by popular TV chef and food writer CATHERINE FULVIO in the Shamrock Lodge Hotel, Athlone, on Wednesday week April 5th. It should to be a very enjoyable evening and the event gets under way with a Cheese & Wine Reception from 7.30 p.m. Tickets €20 each are now on sale at the hotel , ‘A Room In Bloom’ and The Bounty.




Looking a little further ahead, Buccaneers Awards Night takes place in The Bounty on Friday, May 12th. With our Senior team celebrating a trio of titles and no less than 9 Buccaneers players selected on Ireland teams this season, it promises to be an especially memorable occasion. Mark it in your diary, get the ‘glad rags’ organised and, more importantly, book your tickets early for this highlight night of the year!