BUCCANEERS 24 BALLINA 45
RUGBY with MICHAEL SILKE
Buccaneers tamely surrendered their grip on the Connacht Senior League title when they were comprehensively defeated by Ballina 45-24 in the final fixture of this season’s campaign played in dull conditions at Dubarry Park on Saturday. Buccs were unable to match ‘Dublin’s strive for five’ when they came up against a rejuvenated Mayo outfit as they suffered a first home CSL defeat in five years.
From the restart, Buccs got a block on an attempted Ballina clearance but the ball spun over the deadball line just before Corbett could get to it. The north-westerners quickly added a second try, Callum Quinn easing through the centre all too easily and Kieran Lindsay’s conversion gave the visitors a 12-0 lead after a mere six minutes.
Ten minutes later Callum Boland made a fine angled break but his pass to the supporting Corbett was over-cooked and a try chance went abegging. The home fullback departed the action due to a knee injury on the quarter hour mark, being replaced by Ross Murphy-Sweeney. Laurence Leonard then swooped on a pop up pass from the base of a scrum to dart in between the posts for a try on 22 minutes. Lindsay’s conversion stretched the Greens advantage to 19-0.
Buccs finally got some cohesion and organisation into their play and, after a fine maul gained yardage, Darren Browne made further ground before the ball was spun to the left where Shane Layden powered through for a 26th minute unconverted try. This left the Pirates trailing 19-5 at half-time.
A revival looked possible five minutes into the second half when another good drive set up a platform for Darren Touhy to break forward and Murphy-Sweeney finished off the attack for a try converted by Corbett to narrow the arrears to seven points. A Layden foray just before the hour mark looked promising but the home skipper’s attempted pass missed its target when he really should have backed himself. Ballina fastened on to the wayward ball and countered swiftly with Billy McVann scampering away for a bonus point 59th minute try; a possible 14 points swing in this incident as Craig McCormick’s conversion put the visitors in a commanding 26-12 lead.
As in the opening quarter, Buccaneers were again chasing shadows in the final quarter and two minutes later they fell further in arrears when Chris O’Neill collected a clearance and careered all too easily through the home cover for his side’s fifth try. Ballina made it three tries scored in a purple six minutes patch when Lindsay nicked possession to send hooker McVann on his way for another touchdown. Substitute McCormick converted both tries to put an embarrassing look on the scoreboard for the hosts with Ballina now 40-12 ahead.
The lively McVann completed his hat-trick of tries after Quinn had made a fine snipe up the left flank five minutes from time before Buccaneers salvaged some pride and a losing bonus point. Corbett, one of the few to impress for Buccs in this match, got in for a try which he also converted while his break sent Layden in for his second try in the final move to complete the 45-24 scoreline in favour of Ballina.
This was a hugely disappointing display by Buccaneers who appeared to be gaining some momentum in recent wins. But this was a reality check, even allowing for absent personnel. Ballina fielded quite a number of young players also as they forged a first league win in this campaign, a victory that will provide them with a timely boost ahead of the All-Ireland League. Meanwhile, Buccaneers have some serious work and soul-searching to do as this, Corbett apart, was a below par performance in far too many facets.
BUCCANEERS:- C.Boland; E.O’Reilly, S.Layden (captain ), R.Enraght-Moony, D.Corbett; F.Hopkins, G.Fallon; M.Murphy, D.Browne, M.Staunton; J.Scoular, R.Byrne; S.O’Connell, D.Touhy and E.Galvin. Replacements:- R.Murphy-Sweeney (for Boland, inj. 20 mins ), J.Kelly (for Murphy, h/t ), R.Grenham (for Browne, 44 mins ), L.Donnelly (for Touhy, 52 mins ), A.McAleer (for Corbett, inj. 54 mins ), M.Murphy (for Staunton, 68 mins ), D.Corbett (for Hopkins, 68 mins ), Cian Daly and Colin Daly.