Buccaneers Seconds earned a vital 10-3 Connacht Junior League Division 1A victory over their Galwegians counterparts at wet and windy Crowley Park, Glenina, on Saturday.
In difficult weather conditions scores were at a premium, with neither team registering any points in the first half. However, tries at either end of the second half ensured victory for the visitors.
Buccs made seven changes from the side that exited the Junior Cup the previous week. Six of these were in the pack, where prop Niall Farrelly was the only forward to start in the same position. Ryan O’Meara reverted to his more familiar berth on the other side of the front row. Experienced trio Rory Grenham, Ruairi Byrne and Sean Byrne returned to active service, while James Foley, Trevor Phillips and Rossa Dooley formed a new backrow line-up.
These changes considerably strengthened the power and guile of the pack from the previous outing and, on another testing afternoon, were vital in this contest. However, the solitary change to the backline was, perhaps, the key alteration, with Graham Lynch at scrum-half ultimately proving the difference between the teams.
The opening half saw few significant incidents as rain fell in spades. A straight-forward penalty miss by Gerard Fallon was the Pirates' best scoring opportunity. However, the Athlone side made a positive start to the second period, with the busy Lynch speeding away from his own 10 metre line, outstripping the home defence for a superb individual try that Fallon was unable to convert.
Weather conditions improved at this stage and Wegians responded with a penalty to leave the outcome still in the balance, with Buccs 5-3 ahead. However, the midlanders’ pack proved their merit when driving over the home line, where the alert Lynch pounced for his second try. Although Alex Hayman took on kicking duties for this conversion, he too was off-target, but Buccaneers had done enough to take the hard-earned spoils on a 10-3 scoreline.
Lynch was awarded for a fine display with the Man of the Match award, and skipper Sean Flynn made a number of telling carries from the backline. O’Meara and Ruairi Byrne were pick of the pack, where Rossa Dooley and Trevor Phillips also had good moments.
This victory moves Buccs up to fourth in the league table, just above Westport to whom they travel on Sunday next. There was little between the teams when they met at Dubarry Park in mid November. On a damp dreary afternoon, a committed display by Buccs earned them a crucial 17-12 victory. It is likely to be another dogged encounter in Mayo and the Athlone side will need to be resilient and disciplined to get a result.