Buccaneers RFC

Buccaneers RFC complete Connacht Senior League and Cup double

Buccaneers RFC

Buccaneers 17 Corinthians 10

Buccaneers completed their fifth Connacht Senior League and Cup double when they overcame Corinthians 17-10 in a well-contested Cup final at Corinthian Park, Clounacauneen, Galway, on Friday night.

Picture Credit: facebook.com/buccaneersrugbyfootballclub

Buccs were the stronger outfit overall but were forced to work hard until the very last moment before being assured of victory in testing conditions. The Pirates seemed to get a bit lost in the fog against dogged opponents and they also looked somewhat ring-rusty following the festive break in front of a decent attendance (despite the late notice of the switch to a Friday night decider).

Stephen McVeigh and Saba Meunargia returned after injury for the Athlone side that also included Cian Romaine and Rory Moloney in their pack while other young guns Luke Carty, Conor McKeon and Jordan Conroy started in Buccs backline. Stephen Kerins lined out at scrumhalf with Ger O’Connor on the bench for the home side who had the Keller brothers Simon and Ross in their backline. Lise Soloa, Craig Hansberry and Sean Masterson were key figures among Corinthians forwards where Pat O’Toole started at blindside flanker ahead of Sean Connolly.

Aided by the light breeze, the Galway side settled quickly to the task on hand, helped by a straight-forward 2nd minute penalty stroked over by Simon Keller. Buccs too had an early penalty opportunity but their effort for touch was overhit as they took a long time to get into anything near their recent form. However, they grabbed the lead after a quarter of an hour when Alan Gaughan capitalised on a knock-on near halfway to boot the ball upfield. Then following his grubber kick ahead, he held off Kerins to ground the ball for an opportunist try before adding the conversion from right of the posts.

However, the midlanders failed to build on this as Corinthians continued to dominate possession, albeit rarely threatening the Buccs line. But they finally managed to prise the visitors’ defence open on 29 minutes when some sustained play got the ball from right to left where Owen Daly got in for a try. Simon Keller added a splendid conversion from near the touchline to give Corinthians a 10-7 advantage that they deserved at half-time.

Second half turn-around

With the fog lifting for a period and the elements now in their favour, Buccs piled forward with greater intent following the change of ends. They camped in the home 22 for the third quarter but errors and lack of precision and composure, allayed to some staunch Corinthians defending with Conor O’Donovan making one try saving interception, ensured Buccs still trailed at the three quarters stage. The creaking hosts had shipped a lot of knocks in the opening half and it seemed only a matter of time before the visitors would also take command on the scoreboard. But Moloney knocked on in one promising situation while McKeon surprisingly dropped the ball soon afterwards when a try seemed inevitable.

But the pressure was eventually rewarded following a powerful scrum by the Pirates when McKeon popped the ball to Romaine and the imposing lock thundered through for a 65th minute try converted by Gaughan. Buccaneers added to their slender lead ten minutes later when their pack drove Corinthians back at scrumtime and Gaughan duly slotted over the resulting penalty via an upright to complete the 17-10 scoreline. The Tribesmen made a few belated sallies into the Shannonsiders territory culminating in a maul that took them tantalisingly close to the Buccs line but they just could not fashion the try necessary to send the match into extra-time.

Overall it was not one of the Pirates better displays this season with Mata Fifita perhaps their only player to approach his potential against spirited opponents who looked the more interested outfit. Although more powerful and physical, Buccs never really got moving as they can, yet the Athlone standard bearers will not care one whit as they completed a Senior Cup and League double last recorded by the club ten years ago.

Connacht Junior Vice-President Mossy Moran presented the magnificent trophy to victorious captain Kolo Kiripati after the match and Buccaneers now face holders Cork Constitution in the Bateman Cup All-Ireland semi-final at Temple Hill, Cork, on Saturday week, January 21st.


BUCCANEERS:- L.Carty; D.Keane, S.Layden, M.Fifita, J.Conroy; A.Gaughan, C.McKeon; M.Staunton, J.Sutton, S.Meunargia; S.Meagher, C.Romaine; S.McVeigh, R.Moloney and K.Kiripati (captain). Replacements:- R.Byrne (for Meagher, h/t), S.Hastings (for Keane, 59 mins), R.O’Meara (for Staunton, 62 mins), R.Grenham (for Sutton, 68 mins), F.Hopkins (for McKeon, 71 mins) and S.Meagher (for McVeigh).

CORINTHIANS:- R.Keller; C.O’Donovan, D.McDermott, C.Evans, O.Daly; S.Keller, S.Kerins; C.Joyce, D.Donnellan (captain), C.Hansberry; S.Masterson, J.Campbell; P.O’Toole, S.McCormack and L.Soloa. Replacements:- S.Connolly (for O’Toole, inj. 22 mins), A.Broderick (for Masterson, inj. 38 mins), G.O’Connor (for Kerins, 69 mins), D.Panther (for Daly, 69 mins) and T.Hogan.

REFEREE:- Karol Collins (Connacht).