BUCCANEERS 59 GALWEGIANS 5
BUCCANEERS retained the Connacht Senior League title with an emphatic 59-5 victory over Galwegians at Dubarry Park on Saturday. The Pirates were in ravenous mood, particularly in the opening half, as they devoured the westerners with a nine try blitz that should put the Athlone side in good stead for their return to action in the opening round of the Ulster Bank League at home to Lansdowne on Saturday week.
Report by Mike Silke
Buccs made seven changes from the side that overcame Sligo in the previous round. In the backline Luke Carty made his first start of the campaign at centre while Rory O’Connor returned on the wing following illness. Despite the absence of a trio of forwards John Sutton, Eoghan Maher and Dan Law, all injured in the Sligo win, this was compensated by the returns to action of Cian Romaine, Conor Kenny and Simon Meagher with Ronan Farrell and Peter Claffey making their first appearances of the season. Galwegians, who had bounced back from their opening day loss at Sligo to defeat Corinthians, fielded a much changed squad from last season’s visit to Athlone with Cormac Brennan, Dave Clark, Martin Cummins and captain Anthony Ryan being their more recognisable players.
With Buccaneers possibly requiring a bonus point win to ensure retention of the league crown, they hit the ground running even though playing against a fresh breeze. They took command from the kick off and opened the scoring with an excellent fourth minute try when they used the full width of the pitch to telling effect before Alan Gaughan surged in between the uprights for a try which he also converted. O’Connor then demonstrated his pace and nifty footwork after 12 minutes to score the second try. Five minutes later, the homesters turned over ball at their own 22 to send Thomas McGann haring away for try number three and the bonus point try was secured by the end of the opening quarter. Galwegians were penalised for a block trip deep in the home half and Gaughan found a fine touch on the right. From the resultant lineout a snappy attack was finished off by Frankie Hopkins who had the strength to hold off Cormac Furey as he grounded the ball. Gaughan converted all four tries to put the midlanders a massive 28-0 ahead at such an early stage.
Wegians had a couple of half chances either side of Buccs next try which was set in motion by Farrell and Carty and carried on by Kenny, the impressive prop’s rollicking run proving unstoppable by the visitors as he scored on 26 minutes. Gaughan duly converted and his only miss followed when Claffey rumbled up the right to power in for a try at The Bounty corner. Buccaneers were simply awesome in this half after which they led 40-0 at the interval.
The hosts made a couple of changes at the break with teenage centre Corey Reid coming in for Gaughan and Conan O’Donnell debuting in the front row for Martin Staunton. Carty switched to flyhalf for the second period and he was swiftly converting O’Connor’s second try scored just three minutes after the change of ends. Soon afterwards Romaine made a splendid break that almost yielded a second McGann try but thereafter the Pirates play became a bit sloppy with focus and application dropping. Galwegians now had their best spell and substitute Terry Mboko scored a 55th minute try with his first touch but Morgan Codyre was unable to convert from near the right touchline. Home hooker Rory Grenham was yellow carded on 66 minutes with visiting flanker Paul Hackett joining him in the sin bin six minutes later as the game became somewhat scrappy.
However, Buccs regained their momentum in the closing stages but McGann was denied a try by Killian McHugh’s timely tackle in the left corner. The Athlone side maintained territory and pressure as O’Donnell capped his debut with a 77th minute try following a five metre scrum and Carty added a terrific conversion from the left. He then found a superb touch with a penalty to the same corner that led to Buccaneers ninth try. Meagher won lineout possession and, although Claffey and Brian Diffley were both held up just short, Buccs had an overlap when McGann popped up on the right flank to finally secure his second try and complete the 59-5 scoreline with an unconverted try.
This was a magnificent and highly encouraging display by the midlanders. They had huge energy, desire and aggression and were much too powerful and slick for a valiant but outclassed Galwegians outfit. Challenges ahead will undoubtedly be considerably stiffer for the Athlone standard bearers, and discipline will need to be notably better, but this was nonetheless a hugely encouraging performance by the squad on duty.
BUCCANEERS:- C.Boland; R.O’Connor, S.Layden (captain), L.Carty, T.McGann; A.Gaughan, F.Hopkins; M.Staunton, R.Grenham, C.Kenny; P.Claffey, R.Byrne; C.Romaine, R.Farrell and S.Meagher. Replacements:- C.Reid (for Gaughan, h/t), C.O’Donnell (for Staunton, h/t), B.Diffley (for Kenny, 50 mins), G.Fallon (for O’Connor, 57 mins), M.Staunton (for Romaine, 68 mins) and J.Delahunt (for Boland, 68 mins).
GALWEGIANS:- C.Brennan; C.Furey, B.Dixon, D.Clarke, D.Carr; M.Codyre, R.Gaffney; P.Curran, A.Byrne, M.Fox; M.Cummins, A.Ryan (captain); A.O’Sullivan, P.Hackett and J.Winters. Replacements:- C.Reilly (for Byrne, 28 mins), T.Mboko (for Hackett, 50 mins), S.Browne (for Furey, 50 mins), K.Joyce (for Dixon, 50 mins), K.McHugh (for Carr, 58 mins) and P.Hackett (for Winters, 58 mins).
REFEREE:- Jason Cairns (Connacht).