Buccaneers 15 Galwegians 8
(J.H.Potgeiter try, con & pen; C.Rigney try)
(T.O’Halloran try; M.Butler pen)
BUCCANEERS improved form and fortunes continued when they defeated Galwegians far more comprehensively than the 15-8 scoreline suggests in a well-contested AIB League Division 1B encounter at rain-lashed Dubarry Park, Athlone, on Saturday. Buccs enjoyed the far greater territorial and possession dominance but just could not edge out of the comfort zone on the scoreboard in front of a decent attendance (that included Connacht coach Michael Bradley and his assistant Eric Elwood) despite the torrential rain that fell at the key pre-match time and indeed throughout spells of an absorbing battle.
Buccs made two changes in personnel plus a number of positional tweaks for this derby duel. Sean Stapleton started on the left wing with John O’Brien (who had GAA commitments earlier on the day) on the bench. Paul Harte returned on the opposite flank with Conor O’Loughlin switching to scrumhalf and Adam Kennedy on the bench on this occasion. Stephen Burke moved to blindside swopping berths with Colin Watters although the latter wore the No. 8 jersey and Colm Rigney togged out in No. 7! Galwegians lined out along anticipated lines although Ati Olive was a loss through injury with Ambrose Conboy filling the No. 8 role. Ex-Bucc Liam Scahill was included at blindside while Tiernan O’Halloran was an exciting inclusion on the right wing.
Both teams endured a deluge during their warm-up and it took some time for the action to hot up with the heavy underfoot conditions and greasy ball making life difficult for the participants. Exchanges were even early on and handling errors abounded throughout, but Buccs began to assert their authority at the end of the opening quarter of this Russell Brennan Keane sponsored match. Brian Touhy willingly chased an Alex Hayman kick ahead forcing Mark Butler to hold on too long but, although Buccs won the resultant lineout after they had punted the penalty to touch on the left, they could not control possession and teenager O’Halloran was glad to make a relieving kick after Wegians endured a spell of pressure close to their line.
Soon afterwards, the light blues were guilty of bringing down a Buccs drive and again the midlanders opted for a penalty to touch on the stand side. This time John Paul Cleary lifted the siege with an opportunist kick ahead which almost caught Buccs napping, Hayman having to do some sterling defending to clear his line. However, the danger was not fully relieved and Buccs were then sluggish in dealing with the westerners first serious visit inside their 22 with winger O’Halloran getting space far too easily to dot down for a soft 26th try in the clubhouse corner. Cleary, surprisingly, was entrusted with the conversion from wide on the right and his attempt never troubled the touch-judges. Nevertheless, Galwegians were 5-0 ahead against the general run of play.
But Buccs kept sniping away and O’Loughlin made a neat darting run before finding a decent touch on the right and soon afterwards J.H.Potgeiter boomed a sublime kick ahead that stopped just short of the visitors’ line, although the homesters seemed to kick too readily at times. Much play was congested in midfield with both defences generally on top but Harte unlocked the Tribesmens’ cover with a superb break down the left that left a number of Wegians defenders bemused. Although fullback Butler denied the home wing touching down, Harte off-loaded to the supporting Potgeiter who crashed over and then the young South African drilled over a stunning conversion from the touchline with the final action of the open half to give Buccaneers a 7-5 half-time lead, but it should have been greater.
Harte injured his ankle in this score and was replaced by O’Brien for the second period with Stapleton swopping flanks. Four minutes after the restart, Potgeiter converted a sweetly-struck penalty to nose Buccs further ahead. Aidan Wynne lifted home hopes with a thundering tackle into touch on his Connacht colleague Kieran Campbell before Liam Bibo came on for the visitors in place of young Dave Clarke. But on 54 minutes, Martin Staunton could not resist temptation and didn’t stay on his feet to cough up a cheap penalty straight in front of the home posts, and Butler had no trouble in converting to narrow the margin to 10-8.
Four minutes later, Buccs displayed some impressive interplay that almost yielded a Stapleton try, the winger being halted on the Wegians line. But the midlanders maintained the pressure in the left corner and skipper Rigney defied the pain barrier to power over for the decisive score. Although Potgeiter’s conversion attempt went the wrong side of the upright, Buccs now held the upper hand and a 15-8 advantage.
Buccs utilised their full bench in the final quarter as they controlled the proceedings and Kennedy, who came on on the wing initially, slotted seamlessly in at scrumhalf when a knock to his hip curtailed O’Loughlin’s involvement. Clear chances remained few and far between with Touhy’s chase of his own late clearance being the closest to realising a score. Buccs showed commendable composure, keeping ball more or less up their collective jumper as the referee played a seemingly generous period of added time but, eventually, Wegians ran out of ambition and then time as Buccaneers leap-frogged them in the league table with this richly-merited win.
Hayman was wonderful throughout, never shirking in the spadework, kicking well and always willing to have a cut and he was deservedly named ‘Athlone Springs Hotel man of the match’. Wynne was solid and resilient and O’Loughlin as eager and busy as ever in a backline that always carried more threat than the visitors for whom Cleary looked the most likely to score, too little went O’Halloran’s way and Aifai Aseri despite his best endeavours could not forge a way through committed home defending. Overall, it was another terrific team effort by Buccs, and this was echoed in the forwards battle too were Stephen Burke put his body on the line time and again to telling effect. Watters revelled in the heat of this battle and prop Staunton put in another serious hour’s effort. Joe Moran looked best forward on the day for Galwegians while Conboy, for all his earnestness, lacked the necessary mobility at No. 8.
BUCCANEERS:- J.H.Potgeiter; S.Stapleton, B.Touhy, A.Wynne, P.Harte; A.Hayman, C.O’Loughlin; M.Staunton, G.Halligan, C.Higgins; P.Burke, J.Tormey; S.Burke, C.Watters and C.Rigney (captain). Replacements:- J.O’Brien (for Harte, inj. h/t), B.Gilligan (for Staunton, 61 mins), A.Kennedy (for Stapleton, 61 mins), A.Hughes (for Tormey, 69 mins) and G.Kelly (for O’Loughlin, inj. 75 mins).
GALWEGIANS:- M.Butler; T.O’Halloran, A.Aseri, D.Clarke, J.P.Cleary; R.Shaughnessy, K.Campbell; J.Naughton, C.Muldoon, R.Loughrey; J.Moran, B.McClearn; L.Scahill, I.Muldoon (captain) and A.Conboy. Replacements:- L.Bibo (for Clarke, 50 mins), R.Dillon (for Campbell, 56 mins) and J.Stephens (for Naughton, 61 mins).
REFEREE:- John Lacey. (Munster).
BUCCANEERS 0 UL BOHEMIAN 3
A solitary early penalty was all that separated the sides as champions UL Bohemian ground out a very hard-earned U-21 South-West Conference National League 3-0 win over Buccaneers at Dubarry Park, Athlone, on Saturday.
Played in atrocious weather conditions and really testing underfoot conditions, this contest developed into a true forwards battle where little was given or asked. UL Bohs scored that crucial penalty after just 12 minutes to eke out a vital victory while Buccs will have been disappointed to have to settle for a losing bonus point. Both sides missed placekicks in the really difficult conditions.
Both teams gave it their all in a game that broke up regularly. Jack O’Carroll, Henry Reilly and Paul Robinson were outstanding in the home pack while Colin Draper excelled in their back line.