Ballina 19 Buccaneers 49
BUCCANEERS made a winning start to the defence of their Connacht Senior League title by inflicting a first home defeat in over a year on Ballina with Buccs coming out on top 49-19 at Heffernan Park on Saturday.
On a fine afternoon and on a firm sod, the game was played at a lively pace. Buccs forced a knock-on deep inside their own half and O’Connor and McGann linked smartly down the right flank before the former scored Buccaneers first try of the new season under the posts, giving Hanley the perfect opportunity with his first placekick at this level.
Shortly afterwards home No.8 Daniel Molloy was caught in possession, coughing up a penalty to the visitors who then mauled their way to the line where referee Jason Cairns had no hesitation in awarding a 12th minute penalty try. Seven minutes later, Ballina opted for a scrum when awarded a penalty inside Buccs 22 but a good shove by the Pirates pack enabled Ruairi Byrne to swoop on the ball which was thumped downfield where Christopher O’Neill did not cope with Darragh Corbett’s chase. The Buccs winger was rewarded for his bravery as he grubbered ahead to ground the ball for a try on the left. Hanley’s conversion gave Buccaneers a healthy 21-0 lead by the end of the opening quarter.
Ballina had their moments too and, following a decent spell, Aidan McNulty opened their scoring with a 28th minute try converted by Kieran Lindsay. Three minutes later Hanley had his only placekick miss, from a penalty, before Buccs notched a bonus point with their fourth try after 35 minutes. The lively O’Connor made a fine break into the home half where he off-loaded to Corbett who sped down the left flank for his second try and Hanley stroked over an excellent touchline conversion.
Ballina had chances to close the gap but Byrne’s tackle forced O’Neill to knock on in a promising position while Buccs again turned over possession from a home penalty when the men in green opted for a close-in scrum. The Pirates moved the ball smartly right to left and Hopkins made some ground before kicking ahead. As O’Connor challenged O’Neill the ball bounced kindly for the supporting visitors’ fullback and Hopkins scampered away to score between the posts. Hanley’s conversion was the final act of the half and it gave Buccaneers a comfortable 35-7 lead at the break.
Ballina were more urgent on the resumption in a more even second half and the mazy running of O’Neill yielded a 48th minute try converted by Lindsay. Although Gavin Moore could not gather possession in a quick counter attack, further improved continuity by Ballina was rewarded with an unconverted Fergal Tully wide on the left after 53 minutes. This reduced the margin to 35-19 and the mettle of this Buccs outfit was tested. But they quickly responded with the impressive O’Connor making another typically scything break that warranted a try. Running out of space, he fed Moloney who was stopped just short of the home line. However, Buccs forced a penalty which they opted to scrum and fine work by the pack was finished off by Martin Staunton for a 57th minute try, Hanley again adding the conversion.
McGann then killed off any lingering hopes of a home comeback when he intercepted near his own 22 to hare away for a 63rd minute try between the uprights. Hanley’s sixth conversion proved the final score and Buccs saw the game out despite late yellow cards to James Kelly (for a rash tackle ) and Corbett (for a deliberate knock on ).
BALLINA:- C.O’Neill; M.Cribben, C.Quinn, A.Corduff, M.O’Grady; K.Lindsay, M.Murphy; C.Mason, L.Sweeney, S.Clarke; A.McNulty, A.West; J.Keaveney, F.Tully and D.Molloy. Rolling substitutions:- S.Herbert, H.Henson, D.Holmes, C.McCormick and N.Keane.
BUCCANEERS:- F.Hopkins; T.McGann, C.Finn, R.O’Connor, D.Corbett; M.Hanley, G.Lynch; R.Grenham, J.Sutton (captain ), M.Staunton; R.Byrne, R.Cooper; A.Kruger, R.Moloney and E.Galvin. Replacements:- E.O’Reilly (for Lynch, 44 mins ), S.O’Connell (for Grenham, 53 mins ), R.Grenham (for Sutton ), R.Enraght-Moony (for Kruger ), J.Kelly (for Staunton ) and G.Fallon (for Hopkins, inj. ).
REFEREE - Jason Cairns (Connacht ).
Buccs home to Sligo
BUCCANEERS have their first home game of the season when they take on new leaders Sligo in the Connacht Senior League at Dubarry Park on Saturday, kick off 2.30pm. Sligo bounced back from their opening day defeat at Ballina to record an impressive 31-13 win at home to Galwegians. They appear to have scoring firepower having secured try bonus points in both outings to date and will be keen to take Buccs scalp.
Sligo, who won Division 2C in the AIL last season, will likely pose more questions for the Pirates but Buccs have a promising nucleus of upcoming players that should enable them to prevail on home soil, provided they again work hard, both individually and collectively, and maintain their discipline.
Congratulations to the Connacht U-18 squad who performed so admirably in the Festival of Rugby in Limerick, defeating Leinster, Munster and Ulster in the process! Five Buccaneers players featured in the squad which was captained by Darragh Murray. Harry Balsiger, Martin Fallon, Leo McFarlane and Sam O’Sullivan made up the Buccs quintet.
Buccaneers had an even larger contingent in the Connacht U-17 squad that defeated Munster schools and clubs. Kieran Egan, Ruadhri Fallon, Deema Feehan, Sam Fogarty, Koronato Kiripati, Mark Mitchell and Thomas Shine all got game time while injury ruled Adam Flanagan out.
Congratulations too to Brian and Aislinn Lennon on their recent marriage.
Deepest sympathy is extended to Liam Macken and family on the death of his mother Annie. Deepest sympathy goes also to the family of the late Thomas Byrne (ex-Ericssons ), who served on the voluntary bar rota in the club’s old clubhouse at Keane Park.