QUEEN’S UNIVERSITY 21
Buccaneers have qualified for their ever Bateman Cup final following their 45-21 victory over Queen’s University at Dubarry Park, Athlone, on Saturday.
On a dull afternoon this entertaining semi-final between two youthful squads brightened up the day for the small attendance, understandably so as most rugby followers opted to watch the Wales v Ireland Six Nations opener.
With a heavy load of upcoming league fixtures looming, both squads opted to give youth its fling. Remarkably home captain Martin Staunton was the only starting survivor from when these clubs contested the AIL Division 2A decider just a few months ago when James Kelly came on as a replacement. The Pirates side was composed of Seconds and U20s while the Students fielded their U-20s string.
Nevertheless, there was energy, enthusiasm and enterprise aplenty with Buccs dominating the opening half, helped by the light breeze and a 6th minute Harry Balsiger try scored after neat interplay following a penalty to the right. The Ulster side began to settle but a crunching Tom Shine tackle near halfway saw Henry Boyle spill the ball which Ross Murphy-Sweeney booted ahead and he had the pace to outrun Ben Westcott for a 16th minute try on the left and a 10-0 lead.
It got more difficult for the northerners when Samuel Arundel was yellow carded for a no arms tackle but it took the hosts some time to make their extra man count, Shine and Murphy-Sweeney trading passes before the former ran in for a 26th minute try converted by Adam O’Carroll. Buccs had a number of other chances that they spurned so could have had a greater margin than 17-0 at half-time.
With the breeze freshening somewhat and a light drizzle now behind the visitors, this game was not done and dusted yet. But Buccaneers grabbed the opening score following the change of ends. Following some tidy interplay in midfield Murphy-Sweeney made inroads before Cian McCann scampered up the left flank, an area where Buccs regularly profited, to score a 43rd minute try.
The Students refused to capitulate and enjoyed a spell of pressure close to the home line where they earned a 49th minute penalty try with home hooker Oisin Dolan being sin binned for an illegal tackle. Buccs responded to this score, going through a series of effective pick and goes in which Robert Teape (in a first-time role at scrumhalf ) was involved a number of times before McCann stretched over the Queen’s line between the uprights for a 55th minute try, his second of the game. College retorted on the hour mark, winning ball at a Buccs scrum and Patrick McAlpine burst through following a quick tap by skipper Harry McMeekin for a try converted by Will Cusack via an upright to leave the midlanders 31-14 ahead.
Buccs regrouped quickly and, following a penalty to the left, they put in a splendid maul from which Cian Daly surged over for 64th minute try but soon afterwards the substitute was sin binned for a deliberate knock-on. Queen’s were much improved in the second half and Daniel O’Regan showed good desire and strength to notch their third try which Cusack converted.
But Buccaneers had the final say, James Blair offloading audaciously to Brendan Fagan who romped away to score his side’s seventh try. Teenager O’Carroll also converted all the second half tries as Buccaneers prevailed on a 45-21 margin, their first home win over Queen’s!
This was a most encouraging performance by a relatively inexperienced home squad. McCann, Fagan and O’Neill were busy in the forwards exchanges with Murphy-Sweeney and Shine prominent in a lively backline where O’Carroll’s place-kicking was spot on while John Why displayed promise until injury curtailed his involvement. Buccaneers now advance to face 1A league leaders Terenure College in the final on the weekend of March 11th which will be a much stiffer test but one that Eddie O’Sullivan and his band of Pirates will surely relish.
BUCCANEERS:- A.O’Carroll; R.Murphy-Sweeney, T.Shine, C.FitzGibbon, H.Balsiger; J.Why, E.O’Reilly; J.Kelly, O.Dolan, M.Staunton (captain ); F.McDonnell, C.McCann; B.Fagan, M.O’Neill and R.O’Meara. Replacements:- J.Blair (for Why, inj. 28 mins ), C.Daly (for McDonnell, h/t ), C.Fokam (for Staunton, 50 mins ), R.Teape (for O’Reilly, inj. 51 mins ), K.Egan (for McCann, 55 mins ), C.Byrne (for Kelly, 55 mins ), Y.Avrahami (for Balsiger, 61 mins ) and E.Gallagher (for Dolan, 61 mins ).