Lethargic opening quarter proves crucial as Buccs suffer Ballymena league loss


Buccaneers made the long journey to Eaton Park for this Energia All-Ireland League Division 2A clash on Saturday to play Ballymena and paid a big price for a very lethargic start that saw the visitors go behind 22-3 after only 21 minutes.

From the opening exchange, scrumhalf Eoin O’Reilly had his box kick charged down, and the resulting scramble saw the home side awarded a penalty that was duly converted by Tim Small. The score provided real energy and within a few minutes, Ballymena won a lineout and moved the ball swiftly across the pitch. Ross Murphy-Sweeney was out-foxed whilst providing cover and the home winger Dean Millar ran in a fine score. The conversion was missed but Buccaneers trailed by 8 points inside 5 minutes.

Worse was to follow when out half Michael Hanley misjudged his kick to space; instead providing the same winger an opportunity to field and run at an exposed defence. Ballymena worked the overlap well and Adam Lamont ran under the posts for an opportunist 12th minute try that was converted by Small.

At 15-0 down, the away side had to score next and Hanley obliged with a penalty following a good carry from Evan Galvin. Relief was brief for the visitors as Ballymena again showed much greater belief following a good lineout on the visitor’s line, they mauled over for a James McCormick try and with Small’s conversion sat 22-3 ahead after a mere 21 minutes.

Visitors Response

Buccaneers had to respond and they did with Danny Qualter and Tabo Maree instrumental is taking the ball to the home team and grabbing momentum back. Captain Galvin crossed the line from a strong lineout maul on the half hour and Hanley was unlucky to hit the post with the conversion. Continued pressure from the visiting team led to a penalty try on 38 minutes and the home crowd were silenced somewhat when the last play of the game was a penalty from Hanley to reduce the half time deficit to 7 points at 22-15.

The second half was five minutes old when Buccaneers brought the game to level terms. A strong scrum win against the head resulted in a penalty and from the lineout, Buccaneers mauled over for a try courtesy of Adamson. Hanley’s conversion tied the game, and the small crowd that had travelled the long journey were increasingly vocal. Buccaneers now needed to find a way to win, but the ensuing 35 minutes proved to be very frustrating.

Firstly, Ballymena rallied and regained a seven point lead after 50 minutes, hooker McCormick notching his fifth touchdown in two matches and man of the match Small adding the extras to complete the scoring.

Missed Scoring Opportunities

But more frustratingly, the visitors spurned chance after chance and, whilst showing huge endeavour and fight, the scores could not be taken. Darren Browne was introduced for Adamson, and following an opposition overthrow, Browne made a strong break into the home half with a resulting penalty. The lineout was won, but the referee’s interpretation at maul time was changing and it was a feature of the final quarter with many key decisions going against the midlanders. James Kelly, who was introduced for Charlie Ward for the final quarter, was particularly effective in the scrum but was not getting the reward from the referee. Head coach Kolo Kiripati emptied the bench, and the young replacements acquitted themselves well, but could not change the dynamic.

The last exchanges were played out inside the home 22 with the Athlone side dramatically looking for the converted score to level the game. However, it was Ballymena’s day, their young side featuring three 18-year-olds in their back row defending manfully at the end. Buccs had to settle for a losing bonus point. Whilst that moves the Pirates up to 4th in the table after two games, the players and coaches know that this was one that got away.

Qualter had a fine game, and his leadership was telling. Maree followed up from last week with another aggressive display. Kelly was very impactful when introduced for the final quarter whilst youngster Ruaidhri Fallon at full back had a very composed games and was the pick of the backline where Stephen Mannion also had good moments.

Buccaneers home to Nenagh Ormonde

Buccaneers tackle Nenagh Ormonde in the third series of Energia All-Ireland League fixtures at Dubarry Park, Athlone, on Saturday afternoon. Kick off for this encounter, which will also have the John McCormack Memorial Cup at stake, is at 2.30pm.

Nenagh lost their opening match 32-24 at home to promotion favourites MU Barnhall and were inactive last weekend when their scheduled Tipperary derby clash against Cashel fell victim to Covid-19. That game was deemed a draw and will not be rescheduled. With John Hayes operating at No 8 in a well-drilled pack, Buccs can expect a searching test in this joust.

However, the homesters will be hoping to get back to winning ways following their narrow defeat away to Ballymena. They hit the ground running in their opening day win over Cashel but paid dearly for a very sluggish opening quarter against the Braidmen. The Pirates cannot afford to be so lethargic again while good discipline must be maintained.

There have been encouraging signs in both AIL games to date. A bright start against Cashel followed by stout defending in the second half of that contest. Then, after a dire opening period against Ballymena, the midlanders worked ceaselessly to get back on level terms early in the second half up north. But they just could not secure a fourth try that could have earned a share of the spoils and further points on the league table.

With a few tweaks a potentially exciting Buccaneers outfit can regain their momentum so come along and give of your full support on Saturday!

Pre-match Function

Buccaneers are hosting a pre-match function for the All-Ireland League game at home to Nenagh Ormonde on Saturday.

You can enjoy a meal with complimentary wine, plus free admission to the game and a souvenir 100 page matchday programme, all for just €30 per person with groups or individuals being catered for. Meal commences at 12.45pm.

Contact Club Administrator Geraldine at 0861732711 or email [email protected] to book.

Your Club Your Country Draw

The annual ‘YOUR CLUB, YOUR COUNTRY’ draw organised by the IRFU offers ten super prizes, including a trip for two persons to follow Ireland on their tour to New Zealand next July, have been sponsored.

Due to the Covid-19 pandemic the draw was moved to an easy-to-use online platform where each club will have its own grand draw page.

Each entry costs only €10 and the clubs retain all funds from sales/entries on their page. It is a superb no-cost fundraiser for the club and we look forward to the continued generous support of our members and friends to this draw.

Amazing Prizes

Follow the Ireland Team on their Summer Tour of New Zealand in July 2022 Return flights, hotel accommodation, match tickets and spending allowance for two persons (Compliments of Vodafone )

Win a €5,000 Holiday Holiday voucher worth up to €5,000 (Compliments of Energia )

France v Ireland 2022 Guinness Six Nations VIP Trip to Paris with the IRFU Patrons Club Return flights, hotel accommodation, match tickets and spending allowance for two persons (Compliments of Opel Ireland )

England v Ireland 2022 Guinness Six Nations VIP Trip to Twickenham, London Return flights, hotel accommodation, match tickets and spending allowance for two persons (Compliments of Canterbury )

Experience Business Class Service with Aer Lingus Transatlantic business class return flights to East Coast routes with Aer Lingus for two persons (Compliments of Aer Lingus )

2022 Galway Races VIP Package Corporate hospitality at the Galway races and overnight hotel accommodation for two persons (Compliments of Guinness )

Aldi Shopping Voucher Voucher to the value of €2000 (Compliments of Aldi )

Druids Glen Hotel & Golf Resort Voucher Voucher to the value of €1500 (Compliments of Lucozade Sport Ireland )

Elverys Shopping Voucher Voucher to the value of €1000 (Compliments of Elverys )

VIP package to 2022 Guinness Six Nations matches in Aviva Stadium Tickets & hospitality package for two persons (Compliments of The Hospitality Partnership )


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