BALLINA 14 BUCCANEERS 51
Buccaneers proved much too strong for champions Ballina with the midlanders romping to a 51-14 Connacht Senior League victory at Heffernan Park on Saturday.
Buccs were in control from start to finish on the impressive 4G surface and, inspired by a quartet of tries by Saul O’Carroll, had the bonus point in the bag long before halftime on a warm, bright afternoon.
The visitors started with nine players who featured in their home defeat last season by the north-westerners but the Mayo side had only two survivors from that surprise victory. Although facing the breeze, Buccs enjoyed early territory that eventually yielded a ninth minute try when play went through phases from right to left where O’Carroll opened the scoring with the first of his four tries, all scored in the opening half.
Ballina responded with a try within four minutes, Ronan Connolly’s conversion edging them 7-5 ahead. Buccs retorted equally swiftly with a slick move involving Ruadhri Fallon, O’Carroll and Shane Layden being finished off by Tom Shine near the posts. Michael Hanley added the conversion. Another smart handling attack along the left on 25 minutes saw Shine send O’Carroll over for his second try converted by Hanley.
Within a further two minutes, Buccs had secured their bonus point when O’Carroll weaved his way along the left flank to complete his hat-trick and a 24-7 lead. Ballina replied just after the half-hour mark when Buccs were guilty of some sloppy defending and Connolly’s conversion narrowed their arrears to 24-14.
Five minutes later Darren Browne peeled away from a fine maul to notch a blindside try, Hanley hitting a second conversion off an upright. In the final move of the half, after hooker Browne was held out on the right corner, O’Carroll bagged his fourth touchdown on the opposite flank to give the Athlone side a commanding 34-14 advantage at the interval.
Within a minute of the change of ends, Rory O’Connor started and finished a raid to stretch Buccs lead with their seventh try. Hanley converted and was content to land a neat drop goal soon afterwards following further promising pressure by the Athlone side. As the game entered the final quarter Layden powered through for a try with Hanley’s conversion completing the scoring. Thereafter the tempo and focus dropped noticeably and the Pirates were able to give First team experience to younsters Orrin Burgess, Dara Fitzgerald and Harry Balsiger as they put the Greens to the sword.
In the backline, O’Carroll’s try-scoring spree really caught the eye while Danny Qualter, who lorded the lineouts, was the leading figure in the forwards exchanges.
BUCCANEERS:- R.Fallon; R.O’Connor, S.Layden, T.Shine, S.O’Carroll; M.Hanley, A.Flanagan; J.Kelly, D.Browne, M.Staunton (captain ); C.McCann, F.Galvin; S.O’Connell, G.Daly and D.Qualter. Replacments:- F.McDonnell (for O’Connell, h/t ), O.Burgess (for Shine, 60 mins ), H.Balsiger (for O’Connor, 60 mins ), D.Fitzgerald (for McCann, 65 mins ), S.O’Connell (for Staunton, 68 mins ) and R.Grenham.
Buccaneers Away to Corinthians
Buccaneers travel west to Corinthian Park on Saturday where they face the home side in the Connacht Senior League with a 2.30pm kick-off. Corinthians have lost both their matches to date although their most recent loss was a narrow 12-7 defeat at Galwegians. This is Corinthians first home fixture of the campaign but Buccs should have the wherewithal to account for the Tribesmen provided they guard against complacency.
Seconds Away to Castlebar
Buccaneers Seconds are also on the road on Saturday evening when they make the trip to Cloondeash outside Castlebar to take on the Mayo side in the Cawley Cup. Although both these clubs have played just one fixture each, they share leadership of Pool A so a tough test looks in store for both sides. Kick-off is 7.30pm.
Buccaneers Thirds to be Revived
Buccaneers are “bucking the trend” so to speak with the revival of a men's thirds team this season. This squad is ideal for those returning to rugby after a break or if you wish to play rugby more or less on a social basis or cannot commit fully to the more intensive input required on the club’s other teams. It could also be a perfect entry for beginners to give rugby a try. All are welcome. If you are interested, contact Sean 0858086269 or Gerard 0852778480.