BUCCANEERS 24 BALLYNAHINCH 43
RUGBY with Michael Silke
A greatly depleted Buccaneers could not match the intensity and cohesion of Ballynahinch whose 43-24 victory at Dubarry Park moves them level on top of the All-Ireland League Division 1B leaderboard. Buccs had nine enforced changes from last week’s win at Malone while Hinch could call on a key spine of Ulster players for this ‘Glasson Country House Hotel and Golf Club’ sponsored fixture.
The visitors, aided by a cold fresh breeze, started at a high tempo and the much changed midlanders came under early pressure. The Pirates defended commendably until conceding a close-in 11th minute penalty awarded after a lengthy advantage period. But the homesters turned their backs while the alert visiting captain Aaron Cairns darted 30 metres to take a quick tap and go over untouched for a try on the left. McPhillips fine conversion added further embarrassment to this schoolboy defending.
Bolstered by this tonic start, the northerners piled forward with Buccs holding them out for a further ten minutes when the sustained pressure yielded an unconverted George Pringle try on the right. The game was into the second quarter before the Athlone side got a spell of territory in the Hinch half where an intended pass in a promising situtation ricocheted off a Buccs player and Ballynahinch countered swiftly with Ross Adair’s pace earning him a 29th minute try. Four minutes later, a ragged Pirates defence held Adair out but McPhillips launched an inch perfect diagonal ball to Zac McCall to dot down for a bonus point try. McPhillips converted both touchdowns for a 26-0 lead.
An Enraght-Moony break got Buccs moving in the right direction and they enjoyed a good spell of territory in which Hinch conceded a number of penalties with Robin Harte finally incurring the ire of referee Shane Kierans and the northerners centre was sin-binned on 38 minutes. The midlanders made their efforts pay when, after Martin Staunton was held up just short, young prop Harry O’Reilly squeezed through a plethora of bodies for an unconverted try that left Buccs trailing 26-5 at half-time.
Buccaneers looked like they had secured a second try just four minutes after the change of ends. A good chase following a long clearance forced Adair to hoof the ball into touch on the right. Following the lineout, Buccs went through a number of phases before Graham Lynch switched direction and Evan Galvin ghosted on to a pinpoint Michael Hanley crossfield kick to touchdown. However, a touch judge spotted an infringement by Shane Layden resulting in the Pirates skipper being sin-binned and no try being awarded.
Instead it was Ballynahinch who scored first in this half with Harte returning to the fray to notch a 48th minute try. Six minutes later, Galvin got the try his efforts warranted when he finished off a fine sequence of play by the hosts. Hanley added the conversion and when Adair was forced to carry the ball back over his own line shortly afterwards Buccs won a five metre scrum. But a promising opportunity to ignite the contest was lost when Hinch drove the home pack backwards.
‘Audi Athlone Man of the Match’ Masterson was held out short of the visitors’ line before McPhillips and Adair then linked up neatly to send Paddy Wright scampering in for a 64th minute try and the Mournemen continued to run riot with Keith Dickson adding their seventh try just three minutes later. McPhillips conversion put them in a commanding 43-12 lead.
John Sutton was held up over the Ulster side’s line as Buccaneers continued to battle and the Pirates were rewarded for their endeavours when Layden burst through O’Toole’s tackle to dive over for 74th minute try on the left, Hanley landing a smashing conversion. In the final prolonged move of the match Buccs salvaged a losing bonus point when backs coach Aidan Wynne, who had come on just moments earlier, found a gap in the Ballynahinch defence to score an unconverted try to complete the scoring.