BALLYNAHINCH 42 BUCCANEERS 31
Rugby with Michael Silke
Ballynahinch and Buccaneers served up a feast of scores in their All-Ireland League Division 1B encounter played at Ballymacarn Park on Saturday when the homesters came out on top by 42-31.
A fluctuating contest, the exchanges were fairly even for the opening quarter but, bizarrely, Buccs then suffered a triple setback on the half-hour mark when they lost three forwards to injury. Ballynahinch took control in the third quarter to build up a comprehensive lead before the Pirates’ late rally salvaged a try-scoring bonus point.
Buccs were guilty of blocking from the kick off but Hilton Gibbons pulled the kickable penalty wide before a 6th minute Luke Carty penalty opened the scoring. Hinch swiftly replied with smart interplay sending James Simpson in for 9th minute try converted by Gibbons. Three minutes later the northerners No.8 Conal Boomer amazingly escaped a card of any colour for a spear tackle on his opposite number Simon Meagher but Olly Loughead was sin-binned on 13 minutes as the Ulster side brought down a Buccs maul close to the home line. The visitors promptly notched a try when Colm Reilly made a clever snipe from the base of a scrum, Carty’s conversion putting Buccaneers 10-7 ahead.
A missed catch on their own ten metre line would then prove costly for Buccs enabling Hinch to apply sustained pressure as the game entered the second quarter. After spreading the ball from side to side in the face of defiant defending, Richard Reaney got in for a try wide on the right after 23 minutes. Buccs then lost Meagher (who didn’t really recover from the early spear tackle ), Conor Kenny and Evan Galvin all on the 30 minutes mark with Niall Farrelly, Rory Moloney and Darren Buckley coming on. This derailed Buccs promising endeavours and following a fine Callum McLaughlin break the hosts profited from good continuity play in the final phases of the opening half, Conor Kelly’s left corner try giving them a 17-10 halftime advantage.
Buccs had a gilt-edged chance to reduce the arrears with a 44th minute penalty in front of the posts but they opted for a scrum and Hinch held firm. With a weakened pack this was a strange, ill-judged decision which the midlanders were to rue as Ballynahinch counter attacked and, although there was a clearcut forward pass in initiating their move, they forced Buccs to carry the ball over their own line. The home pack then surged over from the resultant scrum with Aaron Cairns applying the finishing touch to secure a bonus point try. Soon afterwards, Rhys O’Donnell scythed through the centre to add another and put Hinch 27-10 to the good.
It was all coming apart for the Shannonsiders at this stage and, when possession was lost in the tackle inside their half as the game entered the final quarter, Reaney kicked ahead and won the chase to ground the ball for another home try. The winger was then allowed to step inside to complete his hat-trick on 64 minutes and a rout was looming as O’Donnell notched his second try just two minutes later to put Ballynahinch in a commanding 42-10 lead.
But Buccaneers regrouped thereafter to play with pride and vigour as they scored 21 points in the closing stages. Darragh Corbett reignited their efforts with a 72nd minute try after the ball was popped to him following a scrum. Four minutes later the winger powered through again on the left to capitalise on good build up by Joyce, Peter Claffey and Rory O’Connor for another touchdown. In the final move of the game, debutant Kieran Joyce surged through the centre following a lineout on the home ten metre line to snatch a bonus point try. Carty converted all tries but it was too late to deny Hinch their 42-31 victory.
Little errors again contributed to this defeat. The straight forward penalty should have been tapped over after the change of ends whilst a missed catch ended with a Hinch try and too many first up tackles were unusually missed. John Sutton was Buccs outstanding performer with notable assistance from Claffey and Ruairi Byrne in the pack. Reilly continues to impress as does Corbett in the backline where the team may have benefited better had Hanley been slotted in at centre with Boland (who did not look fully fit after injury ) in his stronger berth at fullback.
BUCCANEERS:- M.Hanley; R.O’Connor, C.Boland, K.Joyce, D.Corbett; L.Carty, C.Reilly; M.Staunton, J.Sutton (captain ), C.Kenny; R.Byrne, P.Claffey; O.Treacy, E.Galvin and S.Meagher. Replacements:- N.Farrelly (for Kenny, 30 mins ), R.Moloney (for Meagher, 30 mins ), D.Buckley (for Galvin, 30 mins ), L.Winnett (for Buckley, 65 mins ) and F.Hopkins (for Boland, 70 mins ).
Referee:- Leo Colgan (IRFU ).
Buccaneers home to Malone
Buccaneers are home to Malone in the All-Ireland League Division 1B at Dubarry Park on Saturday with the action in this Ganly’s of Athlone sponsored match kicking off at 2.30pm. The Belfast club have won three of their opening four fixtures to move up to second place in the league table and will pose a formidable challenge for Buccs.