CITY OF ARMAGH 32 BUCCANEERS 27
RUGBY with MICHAEL SILKE
A final move of the game try snatched a 32-27 victory for City of Armagh over Buccaneers in a hugely entertaining All Ireland League Division 1B game played in front of a big attendance at The Palace Grounds, Armagh, on Saturday. The win propels the Ulster side up to third in the league table while the heartbreak defeat drops Buccs to second from bottom.
Fortunes ebbed and flowed in a fast moving encounter in near perfect conditions apart from the breeze blowing from goal to goal. City of Armagh had first benefit of the elements and attacked from the off. With referee Ken Imbusch playing advantage Shea O’Brien looked like he had notched an early try. However, the referee whistled play back for a home penalty which the visitors repelled. But it was Buccaneers who opened the scoring after just 7 minutes. Callum Boland collected a home clearance on his own ten metre line and, in a scintillating break, he carved open the Armagh defence for a stunning try between the uprights. Luke Carty added the conversion while Cormac Fox responded with the homesters first score, an 11th minute penalty.
Just three minutes later Boland was again making ground, linking up with Carty and Maksymiw to send Simon Meagher over for an unconverted try wide on the right. Meagher was injured in this move, being replaced by Sean Masterson. Fox soon added his second penalty for the Ulster side before City of Armagh got a break when the referee, whose decisions baffled both sets of supporters on occasion, missed a clearcut knock on that helped the northerners to good territory. There Buccs substitute Masterson was yellow carded for slowing possession. Fox made a good touch with the resultant penalty and, following the lineout, Neil Faloon surged over in the right corner for an unconverted 31st minute try.
Faloon was again involved in the lead up to Armagh’s second try before the ball was flashed to the right where the visitors’ cover was stretched. Rory O’Connor did his utmost to deny O’Brien but his tackle was high and the Pirates could have no complaints about this sin binning. Referee Imbusch also awarded a penalty try and, with the midlanders down to 13 players and battling to retain possession until half-time, James Hanna turned over possession from them just before the interval. The Orchard County men quickly spun the ball to the left where O’Brien was alone on the wing and could not be denied on this occasion. Fox added a fine conversion to give the hosts a 25-12 halftime lead.
Buccs restarted with purpose and a series of pick and goes looked like earning reward when the ball was moved to O’Connor but the winger was forced to put a foot in touch just before grounding the ball. However, the midlanders soon regained possession in close and following a series of snipes Eoghan Masterson crashed over between the posts for a 51st minute try converted by Carty.
After Fox pulled a penalty kick wide, Armagh came under further pressure from the Pirates’ pack and Paul Mullen was despatched to the sin bin for slowing possession illegally on 59 minutes. Buccs opted for a scrum and drove over the home line where Eoghan Masterson grounded the ball for his second try and a bonus point for the visitors. Carty was unable to convert but there was now just a single point between the teams entering the final quarter.
The momentum was now with Buccs and Carty landed a 68th minute penalty to put them ahead again on a 27-25 margin. They piled on further pressure and another try seemed likely but, following a series of patient phases, a less than accurate pass inside the home 22 was fastened on to by Armagh five minutes from time. From there to the final whistle the midlanders just could not get their hands on the ball, although they kept the northerners in their own half until very late in a lively and exciting duel between two evenly matched teams willing to move the ball.
But just three minutes from time, referee Imbusch was again the focus of attention when he contentiously deemed that Layden had deliberately knocked on when tackling Evin Crummie. City of Armagh, match sharpened by their recent Ulster Senior Cup final triumph, bravely opted for a kick to touch on the right where they earned a further brace of penalties as Buccs now defended desperately. They finally prised victory in the final move of the game when their man of the match Faloon broke powerfully from the back of a five metre scrum to plunder the spoils from the Pirates. Fox’s conversion of this bonus point try completed both the action and the final scoreline of 32-27 in favour of the Ulster side.
BUCCANEERS:- C.Boland; R.O’Connor, C.Reid, K.Joyce, S.Layden (captain ); L.Carty, F.Hopkins; M.Staunton, J.Sutton, N.Farrelly; P.Claffey, J.Maksymiw; S.Meagher, E.Galvin and E.Masterson. Replacements:- S.Masterson (for Meagher, inj. 15 mins ), S.Delahunt (for Sutton, 45 mins ), C.Reilly (for Hopkins, 45 mins ), J.Sutton (for Galvin, inj. 66 mins ), H.O’Reilly (for Farrelly, 72 mins ), G.Lynch (for Boland, inj. 76 mins ) and N.Farrelly (for O’Reilly, 79 mins ).
Referee:- Ken Imbusch (IRFU ).