BUCCANEERS finished this season’s Ulster Bank League with a disappointing 24-12 defeat away to Bruff at Kilballyowen Park. With six players on duty with Connacht A and also missing injured experienced duo Kolo Kiripati and Garreth Halligan, Buccs were stretched for numbers and fielded a very young squad that included Brendan Fagan in the backrow and Ben Carty deputising at outhalf for elder brother Jack who was skippering the Eagles at Dubarry Park.
On a balmy late Spring day with a slight breeze making for near ideal conditions, Bruff got off to a quick start in this Division 1B fixture of little consequence. Although already consigned to relegation, the proud Co. Limerick club as always were fiercely spirited and asked some searching questions of a weakened Pirates outfit. After a series of mauls deep in the midlanders’ territory, Bruff took the lead when Brian Carroll slotted a penalty from the right. Buccs responded with Fagan and James Tormey keeping an attack going but a knock-on gave relief to the hosts. Tim Clifford soon replaced the injured Conor FitzGibbon and Buccs promised in another attack from deep started by the steadily maturing Luke Satchwell and kept alive by Mark Dolan, supported by Martin Staunton and fly-half Carty, that tested the Bruff defence.
The homesters changed four personnel in a brave alteration prior to halftime with experienced loosehead David Horan among the introductions. Carroll tacked on a second penalty just before the half-hour mark and it took some frenetic tackling notably by Aidan Connaughton off a defending scrum and by substitute Clifford to keep Buccs arrears to 0-6 at the interval.
Diarmuid Higgins replaced Johannes Roets in the second half but, following an infringement at a breakdown on Buccs 22, Carroll made it a hat-trick of on-target penalties for Bruff. Shortly afterwards, Callum Boland countered (as he did with menace throughout) and with Satchwell feeding Clifford, the Corkonian touched down on the left for an unconverted try that left Bruff 9-5 ahead.
Dolan and Horan were sin-binned for a bout of minor aggravation and Horan’s removal, if only temporarily, gave Buccs a breather in the scrum from the serious pressure his presence exerted. Bruff attacked on the left and regained lost possession to score a try through Robbie Finn. Tormey was next to be yellow-carded after a ruck infringement while Brian Teape replaced another teenager Scott Flanagan in the front row for Buccaneers. Two more young Pirates Barry Digby and Ross Enraght-Moony soon entered the fray for the Athlone club in place of Dolan and Connaughton, both of whom had been lively throughout.
With their more physical, stronger pack dominant, Bruff kept up the pressure which yielded a Mike Carroll try converted by Brian Carroll who also kicked a fourth penalty for a 24-5 advantage. Although Buccs had the final score with an Enraght-Moony try converted by Boland, the brief and late response fell short. Even so, Buccs though depleted did not lack spirit and gave this less than meaningful fixture their best effort with the resources available. All the youngsters gave full commitment and the experience will be very beneficial to them. The more experienced players such as Tormey, Rory Byrne, Staunton and Dolan all gave direction and example with Satchwell and Boland showing best to set the benchmark for the others to follow. Although Bruff repeated the victory of the corresponding fixture last season, it was too late to repeat the grand escape of last year and they will look to regroup and re-energise in Division 2A.
BUCCANEERS:- C.Boland; B.Henshaw, C.FitzGibbon, A.Hayman (captain), D.Griffith; B.Carty, M.Dolan; M.Staunton, S.Flanagan, J.Roets; J.Tormey, R.Byrne; B.Fagan, A.Connaughton and L.Satchwell. Replacements:- T.Clifford (for FitzGibbon, inj.), D.Higgins (for Roets), B.Teape (for Flanagan), B.Digby (for Dolan) and R.Enraght-Moony (for Connaughton).
BRUFF:- B.Enright; M.Cosgrove, R.Finn, B.Carroll, A.Breen; E.Maher, W.Casey; T.Quirke, J.Hogan, C.O’Sullivan; P.Lynch, M.McMahon; M.Cahill, D.Keogh and Paddy Clery. Replacements:- Padraic Clery, D.Horan, G.Bolger, R.McAuliffe and M.Carroll.
Referee:- John Carvill (IRFU).