On field sporting action returned to Dubarry Park, the home of Buccaneers RFC, on Saturday last, as the venue hosted the inaugural post lockdown touch rugby competition.
Seven teams from Westmeath, Galway and Dublin enjoyed the blazing sunshine at Dubarry Park with experienced Dublin side Sandymount Storm eventually emerging victorious with a 4-3 win over Marley Park Tipsters in the final.
The hosts, Buccaneers Touch, had a productive afternoon, winning Pool B and blooding several new players who all acquitted themselves well.
As well as being Athlone’s first Touch tournament, this was also Ireland’s first COVID-19 compliant tournament with a ban on casual spectators and pre-tournament player check-ins required, as well as team segregation and one-way systems in operation.
It all ran very smoothly on the day with no major issues mainly thanks to the hard work and pre-planning of Buccaneers Touch’s COVID-19 Safety Officer, Brendan Wilkins.
The hosts took on Kilbeggan based side Spud’s Army in the first game and despite their opponents’ inexperience, Buccaneers came out the wrong side of a 5-3 scoreline with the newcomers surprising a lot of people with a lot of pace and good rugby skills.
In Game 2, Buccs took on their old rivals Racoon West and although they put in a better performance the Galway side still came out on top by the odd score in five.
Buccs are traditionally slow starters in these tournaments and Game 3 against tournament favourites Sandymount offered little respite to the men and women in black. Despite the 7-2 scoreline in favour of the Dublin side, Buccaneers actually put in a strong performance in terms of possession and territory but Sandymount were much more clinical in the red zone.
After the lunch break, Buccaneers fortunes took a turn for the better. In their fourth game they took on Galaxy Galway, one of the country’s newest clubs and finally started to fire in attack. Buccaneers scored five tries through Bobby Pears (2 ), Eva Henshaw, debutante Eloise Clarke and Paul Gavin.
The final game of the day was an interesting encounter against the Emeralds (aka the Ireland Girls under 18s team ). This was something of local derby with Buccaneers players Zara Kurt-Elli, Leah Downes and Ivana Kiripati lining out for the Emeralds.
It turned out to be a very entertaining encounter. The first half was end to end fare and concluded 2-2 with Eva Henshaw and Nigel So scoring for Buccs while Ivana Kiripati got over for the girls.
The Emeralds hit the front early in the second half and an upset victory seemed possible. However, Paul Gavin stepped up to score the try of the day straight from the tap-off when a double side step got him through a seemingly non-existent gap to score. Buccaneers then upped a gear with further tries from Eloise Clarke and Bobby Pears to win 5-3.
It was a great day out for everyone who travelled to Dubarry Park on Saturday with all touch players glad to be back in action at long last.
For Buccaneers, there were some very encouraging performances especially from the seven newcomers to touch rugby.
Paul Gavin was once again top marksman for Buccs with six touchdowns. Bobby Pears was making a welcome return to Buccs colours and his pace was a constant threat throughout, while Eloise Clarke was a revelation on her first appearance with three tries.
Eva Henshaw showed the type of finishing for which her famous cousin Robbie is famed and in the middle the three Connacht Under 18 players Mark Mitchell, Koronato Kiripati and Sam Fogarty got through an inordinate amount of work for their playing colleagues.
Buccaneers RFC Touch Rugby actively seeking new playing impetus
Meanwhile, with the success of Saturday’s event noted, Buccaneers RFC are actively seeking new players, especially women.
Buccaneers Touch has been in existence since 2017 and play on Monday nights all year round. Buccs compete in the Irish Touch Series and despite their smaller numbers pulled off several surprise victories against some of the bigger Touch clubs from Galway and Dublin in 2018 and 2019.
There are number of social touch tournaments planned over the coming months as the COVID-19 restrictions are eased and beginners are strongly encouraged to take part.
Everyone is welcome to come and play on Monday evenings at Buccaneers RFC from 6.30pm.
Contact Denis 085 7742751 or Brendan 083 4257460 for more information or visit Buccaneers Touch Rugby on Facebook.
Note that all new players must complete the World Rugby COVID 19 – Return to Play Awareness Certificate for coaches and Ppayers at bit.ly/38rTBqb, as well as filling out a Personal Assessment Declaration (PAD ). The Adult PAD is available at bit.ly/2BUA8SR while the Under 18 PAD is bit.ly/3gn5Rv4
The RTP certificate and completed PAD must be e-mailed to the COVID-19 Safety Officer at [email protected] prior to playing.