RUGBY with Michael Silke
Buccaneers maintained the pressure on leaders Sligo with a commendable 31-17 Connacht Senior League victory over Galwegians at Crowley Park, Glenina, on Saturday. Buccs were the superior of two youthful, developing sides and were good value for their bonus point win in a game played in dry but breezy conditions.
Wegians, playing towards their clubhouse, had first benefit of the influential diagonal breeze but Buccs enjoyed early territory with Martin Staunton being held out before his side recycled possession smartly and Torin Rensford surged in for a 10th minute try converted by Frank Hopkins. The light blues responded within five minutes after a good touch to the right brought them close to the midlanders line. With lineout ball secured, Michael O’Donnell got over for a try which Ewan Strang converted.
The Pirates retorted with a fine attack but a knock on close to the home line thwarted that raid while Rory Gaffney’s weaving run through the visitors’ cover ended when his intended pass went straight into touch. Buccaneers looked the more likely to score from open play and a smashing break by Darragh Corbett, initiated by soft handling from Staunton, saw him link up with his centre partner Shane Layden who careered through for a 32nd minute try at the posts. Hopkins, showing his versatility at outhalf, tapped over the conversion.
Next it was the hosts turn to be thwarted by a knock-on when a chip ahead stretched the Shannonsiders while, within two minutes in the final move of the half, Evan Galvin, Goncalo Catarino and Rensford all moved the ball slickly after Corbett had turned over possession to send Eoin O’Reilly in for a try in the right corner. Hopkins conversion rebounded off the near upright but Buccs held a decent 19-7 halftime advantage.
Galwegians made a number of replacements at the interval and their bigger pack asked more questions now. Yet it was Buccs who struck first when a quartet of youngsters combined neatly for a 54th minute try. McGann broke in midfield to link with Ross Murphy-Sweeney who had Darren Browne in support and his perfectly timed offload sent fellow teenager Harry O’Reilly scampering through to touch down. Hopkins conversion from wide on the left rebounded off the crossbar on this occasion but the Pirates now had a bonus point try in the bag.
Both sides utilised their benches from hereon and Wegians enjoyed good swathes of territory and possession but came up against committed Buccs defending that was not breached until the 70th minute when Andrew Paton was driven over for an unconverted try. The homesters pressure was rewarded again five minutes later when a flowing move was finished off by O’Donnell for his second try near the posts but the conversion was surprisingly off target.
Nevertheless, this tightened the margin to 24-17 but Buccs, who did not harness the breeze in the second half, got back to business with Layden making a strong break to send McGann haring away to stretch over for his second try. Hopkins added an excellent conversion to complete the 31-17 scoreline. Rensford was a workaholic in the Pirates pack ably supported by Galvin and Browne. Corbett was pick of a lively backs division where Layden and Hopkins also stood out.
BUCCANEERS:- T.McGann; R.Murphy-Sweeney, D.Corbett, S.Layden (captain ), E.O’Reilly; F.Hopkins, G.Fallon; S.O’Connell, R.Grenham, M.Staunton; S.Kroupa, T.Rensford; D.Browne, G.Catarino and E.Galvin. Replacements:- H.O’Reilly (for O’Connell, 45 mins ), M.O’Toole (for Fallon, 45 mins ), M.Murphy (for Staunton, 55 mins ), D.Buckley (for Grenham, 64 mins ) and A.Wynne.
Buccaneers host Ballina in Connacht Senior League
Buccaneers are home to Ballina in the final round of the Connacht Senior League, with kick off for this vital encounter at Dubarry Park being 2.30pm. Buccs will be chasing victory by a high margin if they are to retain the league title for a fifth season in a row.