Buccaneers kicked off life in Division 2A of the Energia All-Ireland League with a very disappointing 24-6 home defeat to Queen’s University writes Michael Silke.
Buccs fielded a massively changed squad for this encounter against the side they had played in their most recent AIL fixture, a play-off at the Athlone venue last May.
The Pirates kicked off with only five starters from that match while Queen’s, fresh from their Ulster Cup triumph, were able to call on the bulk of their panel from last season.
Backs Callum Boland, Shane Layden, Corey Reid and Darragh Corbett all featured last May but Evan Galvin was the only forward to have played when the Students made their first ever visit to Athlone.
Buccs began promisingly and led through a 10th minute Michael Hanley penalty. Ritchie McMaster levelled the scores with a penalty at the end of the opening quarter.
On 29 minutes David Whitten found a gap in the home defence following a pass that had more than a hint of forward to it and sent Conor McKee in for a try between the posts.
McMaster tapped over the straight-forward conversion to give the visitors a 10-3 half-time lead.
Within a minute of the restart, Buccs conceded a soft penalty going off feet in midfield, debutant Christian Maulaulau was forced back over the Buccs line, referee Andrew Cole rather hastily awarded a five metre scrum to the Students.
Queen’s pack drove over for a fortunate Whitten try converted by McMaster, Buccs applied a sustained spell of pressure that could not breach the College cover. Hanley reduced their arrears to 17-6 with a 55th minute penalty.
But that was as good as it got for Buccaneers and the northerners stretched their advantage with a penalty try ten minutes later.
The Ulster side chased a bonus point with a vengeance but, to their credit, Buccs defended resolutely to the bitter end at which stage Queen’s took the spoils on a 24-6 margin.
Buccaneers: C.Boland, T.McGann (E.O’Reilly 60), S.Layden (c), C.Reid, D.Corbett, M.Hanley, F.Hopkins, H.O’Reilly (M.Murphy 50), D.Browne (R.Grenham 50), M.Staunton, G.Caterino (R.Byrne 4 (G.Caterino 45)), T.Rensford, S.O’Connell, E.Galvin, C.Maulaulau
Queen’s University: M.Orr, E. Vale Falemaka, R.Bell (S.McMaster HT), R.Johnston, Connor McKee, R.McMaster, Conor McKee, A.Lupari (M.Millar 70), D.Swann (B.Pentland 60), T.Linton (R.Gibson 60), J.McCay, J.Longwell (N.Woods 60), A.McGrath, C.Pollock, D.Whitten (c)
Referee: Andrew Cole (IRFU)