BUCCANEERS made it a clean sweep of Connacht Senior League victories when they defeated Corinthians at Corinthian Park, Galway, on Saturday. But, as last week, it took a last move try to secure a hard fought win when the indomitable John Sutton broke Corinthians hearts when he popped over for the vital score.
The hosts had the better of the early exchanges and took a 13th minute lead. From a scrum on the Buccs ten metre line, Corinthians moved the ball smartly to Paddy Griffin and the fullback rounded Thomas McGann for an unconverted try wide on the right. Fourteen minutes later, a blockdown by Cathal Evans teased Buccs offside. The Tribesmen punted the penalty to touch on the right and, after a couple of rumbles towards the Shannonsiders line, Aaron Broderick crashed over for a try. Mark McDermott, who had earlier missed two placekicks, found the range at the third time of asking to give Corinthians a 12-0 lead.
But Buccs struck back immediately with Dean McMahon making ground before off-loading to his centre partner to send O’Connor racing upfield. Although he had McGann in support on the left, a delectable O’Connor show and go wrong-footed the defence and he scampered in for a 30th minute sniper try which Michael Hanley converted. Shortly afterwards McDermott was off-target with a drop goal attempt but Corinthians seemed certain to add to their tally in the final moments of the half. Their pack drove inexorably towards the Buccs line where a try looked inevitable but, in the face of defiant defending by the Pirates, the homesters lacked patience and endeavoured to spread the ball. But McGann read their intentions to intercept and race 95 metres for a stunning solo try at the posts. Hanley’s conversion gave Buccaneers a 14-12 half-time lead somewhat against the run of play.
Although Buccs switched Browne and Sutton for scrums after the change of ends, Corinthians pack still held the upper hand in the tight and they mauled impressively for a 44th minute Colin Raftery try. McDermott’s conversion gave them the perfect start to the second period and he landed a 53rd minute penalty to push the westerners 22-14 to the good.
Frankie Hopkins was now introduced at fullback with Boland switching to centre at the expense of McMahon. The livewire Sutton made a tremendous break down the left to link up with O’Connor but the skipper was shunted into touch near the home 22. Five minutes later Sutton was prevented from taking a quick tap and go penalty by Dylan Tierney who was yellow carded for the offence. Buccaneers promptly added further punishment with a number of swift sallies forward before O’Connor strode in for a try on the hour mark. Hanley’s conversion reduced the arrears to the minimum.
Six minutes later Simon Meagher was sin binned for illegally slowing possession and McDermott steadied Corinthians with the resultant penalty. Next Buccs looked like scoring a fourth try on 74 minutes when Eoin O’Reilly made a good surge down the right flank but his pass to Hopkins was forward.
But Buccs held their composure to continue to push forward and, in the dying embers of an exciting contest, they forced a penalty which was kicked to touch on the left. Meagher, back on the field again, soared to claim lineout possession and the Pirates pack got to work showing that they too could maul very effectively. Always in the thick of the action it was most appropriate that the fiery Sutton somehow popped over the cover to snatch a dramatic winning bonus try. Then, as at the end of the opening half, Hanley’s successful conversion completed the action as Buccs edged a narrow 28-25 scoreline.
Overall, Buccs had that cutting edge when it was dearly needed and their incessant workrate was also a key factor in claiming a fourth successive Connacht Senior League title.
BUCCANEERS:- C.Boland; R.Murphy-Sweeney, R.O’Connor (captain ), D.McMahon, T.McGann; M.Hanley, C.Reilly; J.Kelly, D.Browne, M.Staunton; R.Byrne, E.Galvin; J.Sutton, O.Treacy and S.Meagher. Replacements:- F.Hopkins (for McMahon, 45 mins ), S.O’Connell (for Browne, 66 mins ), T.Rensford (for Kelly, 66 mins ), E.O’Reilly (for Murphy-Sweeney ) and M.Harding.
Connacht Eagles host Ospreys in Dubarry Park
CONNACHT EAGLES take on their OSPREYS counterparts in Round 3 of the Celtic Cup under the Dubarry Park floodlights on Friday night. Kick off for this game at the Athlone stadium, the first home fixture for the Eagles in this new Cup, is 7 p.m.
Deepest sympathy is extended to the family of Tom Donohoe who died last week. His sons Tom Junior, Padraic, Michael and Niall all served the club well over many seasons.