NUI Galway 39
There was no joy for Buccaneers last weekend, as NUI Galway completed a league and cup double, proving much too strong for the Athlonians in the Connacht Womens Cup final at Galway Sportsground on Sunday.
College got off to a flying start and despite the best efforts of Buccs the outcome was rarely in doubt thereafter.
NUIG are a formidable outfit and despite their youth are much more experienced and battle hardened courtesy of Varsity matches than the Pirates.
The Athlone girls really needed a good start but, unfortunately, had to face a stiff cold breeze that blew towards the graveyard goal in the first half. NUIG hit the ground running and scored two tries inside seven minutes, and the hopes of the Midlanders, who seemed extremely nervous and tentative, were all but dead and buried at that early stage. Their jitters caused Buccs to make far too many unforced errors, primarily handling and at restarts, in the opening half hour, at which stage NUIG led 22-0.
Elizabeth McKeever opened the scoring after just five minutes and when the Shannonsiders erred at the restart Shannen Lane pounced for another unconverted try.
Buccs looked overawed by the occasion and Orla Dixon got the winners third try after 20 minutes, with Amanda Forde finally finding the range with this conversion. Buccs were hurried when in possession and a blocked clearance set up NUIG’s fourth try.
However, the Pirates girls then steadied their ship and, through pick and goes and utilising ball possession a lot better, they began to make inroads into College territory. Their pressure saw NUI lock Dearbhla Canty incur a yellow card and Buccs piled forward in search of a badly needed score. They got tantalisingly close to the opposition line on a number of occasions, but just could not apply the finishing touch.
Although 22-0 in arrears, it was not an insurmountable margin to reel in, but the loss of Susan Earner, injured in that attacking salvo before the break, was a massive blow. Nevertheless, Buccs made a promising start to the second period and a wonderful angled kick by Sabina Egan just eluded Shannon Hennessy, going into touch at the right corner flag before the full-back could grasp the ball.
The Midlanders continued to put pressure on NUIG but The Students survived and captain Lane lifted the siege on her own five metre line when she somehow wriggled through a horde of Pirates and raced eighty metres down field. College were much more clinical when opportunities presented themselves and Forde was soon scampering in for a try at the posts which she also converted.
This score deflated Buccs. They continued to battle but with little luck and no reward on the scoreboard. A quickly tapped penalty by the Galway girls yielded a try at the three-quarters stage and they were in seventh heaven when Lane sent Orla Dixon racing away to finish with a flourish on a 39-0 scoreline. These two players were extremely impressive throughout for the worthy winners.
Buccs were game to the bitter end and the scoreboard did not truly reflect their endeavours. It was a harsh finish to their season, but their younger players in particular will have learned and benefit from this setback.