Buccaneers Relegated to Division 2A Of AIL

It’s relegation for the second successive season for Buccaneers following their 30-24 All-Ireland League play-off defeat to Queen’s University last weekend.

Queens now progress to a playoff decider at Navan for a place in Division 1B but it’s Division 2A for the Athlone side next season.

Buccs, who rested a number of players carrying injuries last week, made ten changes for this crunch contest with Darragh Corbett being the only back to have played against Naas.

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They also fielded a fully changed front row while Peter Claffey was fit to return at lock after injury and teenager Brian McDonnell retained his place in the back row following his promising debut against the Cobras.

Queens got the vital opening score when Rory Bell found a gap through the centre of the home defence to score a ninth minute try between the posts. Ritchie McMaster added the straight-forward conversion to settle the visitors.

Buccs retorted with a sustained spell close to the visitors’ line during which Queens conceded a series of penalties and had both Bell (12 minutes) and Alastair Burke (17 minutes) yellow carded.

The home pressure was eventually rewarded when Kieran Joyce capitalised on Colm Reilly’s swift pass to stretch over the College line for 21st minute try on the left converted by Luke Carty.

Mark Keane intercepted a  move by  the midlanders inside his own half and hared away to touchdown near the posts for a 25th minute try which McMaster converted.

Nevertheless Buccs responded positively and Darragh Corbett scored a 30th minute try. Carty’s conversion levelled the scores at 17-17.

A  37th minute scored penalty from Ritchie McMasters gave the visitors a 17-14 lead at the interval.

Luke Carty levelled matters with a penalty in the 45th minute but Ritchie McMasters scored another penalty two minutes later to restore their lead.

Queens captain David Whitten was next in the sin bin on 54 minutes but another McMaster penalty edged his teammates 23-17 ahead after 58 minutes.

In the 66th minute- a pacey Queens counter-attack was finished off by Matthew Keane for a try. Ex-Ballymena outhalf McMaster added the extras to bring his tally to 15 points.

But Buccs continued to battle in a thrilling and competitive joust and their growing pressure saw James Catterson become the fourth Queens player to be yellow-carded due to persistent infringing by the northerners.

The Pirates now applied fierce pressure and Shane Layden scored 74th minute try behind the posts. Carty’s swiftly taken drop kick conversion narrowed the Athlone side’s arrears to six points.

Peter O’Donnell’s side pounded the Ulster side’s 22 for the remainder of  the contest but the managed to hang on to put them in touching distance of Division 1A.

Meanwhile, Buccaneers are heading in the opposite direction, now relegated to 2A.

Buccaneers annual Awards Event takes place on Saturday, May 25th when their Senior, J1’s, U-20’s and Womens ‘Player of the Year’ winners will be revealed. The club will also honour players who have been capped by Ireland during the season.