ST MARY’S COLLEGE 17
RUGBY with Michael Silke
Despite a spirited and sustained collective effort, Buccaneers U20s will view their 17-10 home defeat to St. Mary’s College in the J.P.Fanagan Leinster League Premier 2 division as a missed opportunity. They enjoyed much the greater possession even against the elements but did not translate it into match winning scores at cold and windy Dubarry Park on Sunday.
A strong swirling breeze favoured the visitors in the opening half and, as they pressed forward in the opening exchanges, their hooker Gavin O’Brien was fortunate to escape with just a lengthy lecture from referee Jason Cairns for a wild high tackle after only four minutes. Three minutes later Dermot O’Rourke put in a try-saving tackle on Brian McMahon before the Pirates settled into the contest. They put together an impressive series of drives after which Balaski knifed forward to earn a penalty centrally inside the St. Mary’s 22. Buccs surprisingly opted for a scrum at this early stage and, despite applying a good spell of pressure close to the metropolitans’ line, they could not get over it. They really should have taken the straight-forward placekick.
Injury forced the withdrawal of Michael Hanley at the end of the first quarter, with Sean Flynn coming in to the pivotal fly-half role. A diagonal kick by St. Mary’s was a rare threat to the home line before some exciting interplay by Flynn, Balaski and Thomas McGann sent the Buccs winger racing up the left flank after 30 minutes. But the Saints fullback Eamonn Byrne was ideally placed to deal with his teasing chip ahead.
Then in the final move of the half, the Buccs pack, who had rarely erred, were caught in possession and Sean Bourke stroked over the resultant penalty with the final kick of the half to give St. Mary’s College a fortuitous 3-0 half-time advantage. Buccs made one change during a prolonged interval with Harry O’Reilly coming on for his captain James Kelly at loosehead prop.
A snipe by Flynn just after the restart almost unlocked the St. Mary’s defence but the diminutive outhalf made the most of advantage being played by the referee on 46 minutes. Flynn’s cheeky grubber kick caused mayhem in the visitors’ rearguard and he neatly footed the ball ahead to win the race for a smartly-executed try. His luck held when his conversion went over via an upright.
McGann then did extremely well when chasing a kick ahead to rob possession wide on the left but Conor McMahon, who had sustained a hefty knock moments earlier, could not hold on to the offload and a try chance went abegging. However, Flynn edged Buccaneers 10-3 ahead after 54 minutes, slotting over a penalty without the aid of a kicking tee.
But Buccs had to withdraw both Reid and Balaski for the final quarter and St. Mary’s struck back on the hour mark. A home player strayed offside at a scrum and, following the resultant quickly taken penalty, the visitors outflanked the reshuffled cover with fullback Byrne running in for a try. Standoff Bourke landed a superb conversion from the left touchline to level the scores 10-10.
As the rain and dusk descended, St. Mary’s got a break on 71 minutes when the referee impeded the hosts’ tacklers and Sean Heeran took full advantage of the space to surge in for a try at the uprights with Bourke adding the conversion. There was still time for Buccs to mount serious pressure in the closing stages when they pounded the St. Mary’s line. But they lacked a bit of composure and patience in the face of steadfast defending by College who, despite a succession of close-in penalties that escaped severe censure, held on for a crucial 17-10 victory.
BUCCANEERS:- M.Balaski; T.McGann, C.Reid, C.McMahon, D.Mulvihill; M.Hanley, D.O’Rourke; J.Kelly (captain ), D.Browne, L.Winnett; F.Galvin, S.Kroupa; S.O’Connell, K.Wheatley-Byrne and B.McDonnell. Replacements:- S.Flynn (for Hanley, inj. 22 mins ), H.O’Reilly (for Kelly, h/t ), J.Curley (for Wheatley-Byrne, 54 mins ), J.Kelly (for Winnett, 60 mins ), D.Solenka (for Reid, 60 mins ), R.Teape (for Balaski, 60 mins ), C.Watt (for Mulvihill, inj. 71 mins ), L.Winnett (for McDonnell, 73 mins ) and A.Obono.
Referee:- Jason Cairns (Connacht ).