RUGBY with MICHAEL SILKE
Buccaneers extended their winning run to seven games when they overcame a very dogged and determined Galwegians/Oughterard side in the JP Fanagan Leinster U-20 League Premier 2 Division at Crowley Park in Galway on Sunday.
Weather conditions were perfect for rugby in a cold but sunny Crowley Park where a good crowd gathered. Buccaneers reserved their worst quarter of rugby this season, when conceding ten unanswered points and it should have been more. Poor discipline led to three consecutive penalty awards in front of the posts with the hosts only managing to take 3 points. Oisin Kieran then incurred the wrath of the referee with a yellow card for talking to the match official – it was harsh, but you don’t talk to referees and Kiernan can have no complaints.
Out-half, Mikey Byrne, was having a bad day with a number of handling and kicking errors, and it got worse on 30 minutes when an attempted clearance was blocked down and the homesters romped in under the posts for a converted try. Buccaneers were now 10 points down, playing very poorly, and out of sorts.
But this group have shown time and time again that they have real leaders and having consigned the first 30 minutes to history, they regrouped. Jensen Nagle was introduced in place of Venter on the half hour mark and on 35 minutes, following a series of 'pick and gos', Galvin broke the cover and he was not going to be stopped for the opening try for Buccaneers. Stephen Mannion narrowly missed the conversion but the Pirates were adrift only 10-5.
Buccaneers secured possession from the restart and smartly worked some early phases. Mannion then decided to strike, and taking the ball of a well worked move, darted from the half way line and with real pace and swerve, got held up a metre from the try line. Buccs kept calm and went through their forwards with multiple phases. Finally, as he has been doing all season, Darren Browne powered over from close range for his fourth try in 2020. Again, Mannion was narrowly off cue with the conversion, and the sides went into the half time break level on 10 points apiece.
Buccaneers again started poorly, and conceded a silly penalty after 3 minutes which the home team scored. But from that point onwards, the Athlone side were the dominant force and delivered a perfect and immediate response to that early set back when Mannion, who was the best back on show, took a great running line and darted through the home defence to score under the posts. This time Mannion nailed the easy conversion.
Galwegians/Oughterard were now playing catch-up and the final 30 minutes of the game was a very scrappy affair. Goncalo Catarino, Lasha Laoshvilli and Nathan Horan were all introduced and steadied proceedings. Rooney-Digan and the Galwegians/Oughterard Number 8 got involved in a fracas and the referee issued two yellow cards.
On 80 minutes, Buccaneers got another penalty in front of the posts and with the prospect of a try bonus point, the team decision was to go for touch. Lineout was secured, and several phases worked, only for Laoshvilli to spill the ball when scoring the bonus point try was a step away. In a frantic five minutes of stoppage time, the visitors broke into the Midlanders 22 for the first time, and a massive defensive effort secured the turnover when a try looked like the outcome. Mannion kicked to touch with Buccaneers now very content to leave Glenina with the win, minus the try bonus point.
It is always very difficult in this provincial derby, and Buccaneers were worthy winners on balance of play. Next up are league leaders St Mary’s College who opened up a six point lead following their weekend win.
BUCCANEERS:- H Ballsiger; B Nealon, R Venter, S Mannion, C Rooney-Digan; M Byrne, L McFarlane; O Kiernan, D Browne (Captain ), H O’Reilly; F Galvin, M Tallon; C O’Grady, J Scouler and L Winnett. Replacements:- L Laoshvilli, E Gallagher, A Kelly, G Catarino, N Horan, J Nagle, K Connolly and C Forkin.