CORINTHIANS 10 BUCCANEERS 24
Despite the absence of some key players Buccaneers proved too strong for Galway Corinthians in the Connacht Senior League, comfortably winning this Round 3 fixture by 24-10 at Corinthian Park, Galway, on Saturday.
Ground and weather conditions were near perfect for a contest dominated for large portions by the visitors who may rue not collecting a bonus point victory. The Midlanders had four changes from their clearcut win at Ballina. Danny Qualter and Rory O’Connor were unavailable while injury ruled out another experienced campaigner Shane Layden. Fit again Stephen Mannion returned in the three-quarters line where he was joined by Orrin Burgess and Ross Murphy-Sweeney while Ryan O’Meara started at No 8.
Buccs gained early ascendancy and virtually all the opening half was played in Corinthians territory with a forward pass ruling out Saul O’Carroll adding to his try tally from the previous weekend. A couple of early lineouts went awry too but the third throw near the left corner was spot on and a fine Buccs maul was finished off by O’Meara for a 16th minute try which Michael Hanley converted. Unfortunately, injury forced the No 8 off shortly afterwards.
Good chasing by Ruaidhri Fallon and O’Carroll earned another lineout in a similar position where Buccs were initially held out but the ball was spun crisply acrossfield where fullback Fallon’s desire got him over the line. Hanley landed a smashing touchline conversion via an upright to this 23rd minute try for a 14-0 lead.
Corinthians first foray into the Pirates 22 proved profitable with an unconverted try on the right that narrowed their half-time arrears to 14-5.
Top gear was rarely threatened in the opening period but, with the elements and a warming sun on their backs, the hosts made a livelier start to the second half with one-time Bucc Josh Rowland’s pace being utilised a bit better. They were now getting ball in behind the Shannonsiders cover but it was Buccs who scored next, Mannion thumping over a 45th minute penalty from halfway.
Corinthians replied with their second unconverted try eight minutes later but any chance of a revival was eroded when Cian McCann thundered through from 15 metres to stretch over the home line for a 64th minute try at the posts. Hanley’s conversion was, surprisingly, the final score for despite a plethora of possession in the home 22 the Pirates lacked precision and could not manage to secure the try that would have earned what may be a vital bonus point.
Overall this was a scrappy affair in which the winners were guilty of handling errors, some poor decision-making and an inconsistent lineout. McCann, Martin Staunton and Fergus Galvin caught the eye in the pack while Mannion, Fallon and Hanley were pick of the Pirates backline. Big improvements will be required in next Saturday’s showdown against leaders Sligo at Dubarry Park.
BUCCANEERS:- R.Fallon; R.Murphy-Sweeney, O.Burgess, S.Mannion, S.O’Carroll; M.Hanley, A.Flanagan; M.Staunton (captain ), D.Browne, S.O’Connell; R.Byrne, F.Galvin; C.McCann, G.Daly and R.O’Meara. Replacements:- F.McDonnell (for O’Meara, inj. 19 mins ), J.Kelly (for O’Connell, h/t ), E.O’Reilly (for Flanagan, 50 mins ), C.Daly (for Browne, 50 mins ), S.O’Connell (for Staunton, 50 mins ), T.Shine (for Burgess, 56 mins ), R.Teape (for Mannion, 68 mins ), D.Browne (for McCann, 68 mins ), M.Staunton (for G.Daly, 68 mins ) and A.Evans (for Murphy-Sweeney, 74 mins ).
Senior League Decider in Athlone on Saturday
Buccaneers and Sligo square up at Dubarry Park on Saturday with the Connacht Senior League title at stake in this winner takes all final round fixture which kicks off at 2.30pm.
The visitors have a slight advantage ahead of this crunch match, topping the table on 14 points having defeated Galwegians and Ballina allayed to a walkover against Corinthians. Meanwhile, Buccs are two points adrift on 12 points, a late fadeout in their narrow loss to Galwegians proving costly. In the interim they have comfortably accounted for Ballina and Corinthians both away and their scoring difference is a single point better than the north-westerners.
Sligo have a big, physical pack and will look to their pack to give them a platform to dictate proceedings. Kuba Wojtkowicz, Matthew Earley, Rob Holian and captain Jason East will pressurise the Pirates in the forwards exchanges. Calum Goddard, Brendan Cunningham and Enda Gavin are backs who can profit with the right supply while fly-half Euan Brown is a very consistent place-kicker.
Buccs have been chopping and changing their starting XV to date, due to experimenting with players and formations and also dealing with absentees through injuries and other commitments. Danny Qualter is unavailable this weekend and his absence could be significant as Ryan O’Meara will face a fitness test. Shane Layden and Rory O’Connor could make returns on
Saturday when their experience and ability would be crucial but this match comes too early for the return of Frank Hopkins. However, some young players have really put their hands up for selection with Cian McCann, Fergus Galvin, Fionn McDonnell and Gavin Daly all doing well in their outings along with Darren Browne. Orrin Burgess, Adam Flanagan and Tom Shine have stepped up in the backs unit where another U-20 Ruaidhri Fallon belies his tender years with his sparkling performances. Stephen Mannion, Saul O’Carroll and Michael Hanley are other young players making their mark while Martin Staunton and Ruairi Byrne provide leadership and nous in the pack.
It promises to be a feisty affair with so much at stake with whoever wins assured of claiming the league title. Sligo, coached by Paddy Pearson, will bring big support so lets see hordes of Pirates roaring on Buccaneers on Saturday.