Thrilling win ensures Buccs move up the league table

BUCCANEERS 24 CITY OF ARMAGH 17

BUCCANEERS scored a greatly needed All-Ireland League victory when they defeated City of Armagh 24-17 in a thrilling and compelling Division 1B encounter at Dubarry Park on Saturday. The Athlone side looked to be heading for a comprehensive win when romping to a 24-0 lead inside the opening quarter of this first ever AIL fixture with the Orchard County club. But the gritty visitors refused to capitulate and a strong second half effort secured them a worthy bonus point in a fiercely contested but sporting battle.

Luke Carty settled the hosts with a 4th minute penalty following an Armagh offside before the Pirates raided a trio of tries in a blistering six minutes spell. Darragh Corbett’s chase of Callum Boland’s up and under caused Timmy McNeice to fumble and Boland swooped to touchdown wide on the left after 11 minutes. Four minutes later a long Boland clearance was not dealt with authoritatively by the Ulster side’s defence and, with referee Chris Harrington playing advantage, Carty’s perfectly judged grubber was fastened onto by his fullback for a 15th minute try. Two minutes later City of Armagh looked in absolute dire straits when they lost possession at the home 22 and Boland scampered up the left before sending Eoin Griffin in for a try between the uprights. With Carty converting all three tries, Buccs were an incredible 24-0 to the good!

But the midlanders contrived to let the red and blacks back into the contest. Shane Layden and Rory Moloney challenged Ryan Purviss for a garryowen just inside the home half where the Armagh winger came off second best. Following consultation with a touch judge, the referee sin binned Moloney on 19 minutes. Almost immediately the homesters did not deal with an angled grubber kick that should have been hoofed into touch. Instead City of Armagh made the most of Buccs hesitancy to keep the ball in play on the left and they recycled it across the pitch where the overlapping Chris Colvin got in for a 20th minute try which Cormac Fox converted.

Buccaneers were the more purposeful outfit in the opening half but a Carty drop goal attempt rebounded off the crossbar while Andrew Willis just denied Boland his hat-trick at the corner flag, although it looked like the Pirates player may have got the first touch on the ball over the goal line. Halftime arrived with the Shannonsiders 24-7 ahead.

With the floodlights on for the second half City of Armagh started the brighter and, following a couple of penalties punted to the left corner, hooker Smyth continued his try scoring exploits after a number of pick and goes to touchdown on 44 minutes. Fox converted from the left while a Carty placekick three minutes later was marginally off-target. A 51st minute Fox penalty then tightened the scoreline to 24-17 and the contest was truly in the melting pot.

The exchanges were battled with Cup tie fervour for the remaining half hour with huge tackle counts being put in by both sides. It was fiercely competitive but neither side could manage to breach the other with a knock on denying Rory O’Connor a good opportunity ten minutes from time. The exchanges were fast and intense all the way to the final whistle with a crunching Corbett tackle ending a promising Armagh raid.

City of Armagh notched a losing bonus point that looked highly unlikely early on and they will take considerable consolation from their commendable sustained efforts right to the end.

Buccaneers merited this vital hard-earned and confidence boosting win that saw them move up the league table, but perhaps they should have accomplished more following their stunning start. Lacking a ruthless streak they dropped their focus after racing in to such a healthy lead and also over-cooked line kicks too often. However, they never wavered in their tackling and support play. Injury forced Boland off entering the final quarter but the fullback had wreaked havoc when in possession and was a worthy Audi Athlone Man of the Match winner. Griffin was rock solid in the centre and the young halfback pairing continues to do well. Moloney was dynamic and destructive throughout, Byrne was the dominant lineout player and the home front row had a fine outing against a competitive visiting unit.

BUCCANEERS:- C.Boland; S.Layden (captain ), K.Joyce, E.Griffin, D.Corbett; L.Carty, C.Reilly; M.Staunton, J.Sutton, N.Farrelly; E.Galvin, R.Byrne; S.Meagher, R.Moloney and E.Masterson. Replacements:- D.Heffernan (for Sutton, h/t ), R.O’Connor (for Boland, inj. 58 mins ), T.Rensford (for Galvin, 66 mins ), R.Grenham (for Staunton, 70 mins ), G.Lynch (for Reilly, 72 mins ) and J.Sutton (for Rensford, 76 mins ).

Referee:- Chris Harrington (IRFU ).

Buccs away to Old Belvedere

BUCCANEERS face a pair of pre-Christmas crunch All-Ireland League fixtures with clashes against Old Belvedere (away ) and Ballymena (home ) before the AIL takes its festive break. First up, is a trip to Anglesea Road for a joust with Old Belvedere who sport a couple of ex-Buccs, Ben Carty and Daniel Riordan in their backline coached by Steve Crosbie. Crosbie’s duel with fellow Connacht rookie Luke Carty (younger brother of Ben ) should add spice to this match!

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