Buccs salvage pride with victory

RUGBY with MICHAEL SILKE LANSDOWNE  12  BUCCANEERS  24 BUCCANEERS salvaged some pride when recording their first AIB League victory of 2007 as they came from behind to overcome Lansdowne by double scores 24-12 in their Division One encounter played at Donnybrook on Saturday. Unfortunately for the midlanders, it was too late to spare them from relegation and a cursory look at the final placings in the league table will prove frustrating reading for Buccs and their followers. There is a divide between the top five (the usual suspects plus UL/Bohemian) and the rest, but the remainder of the sides are relatively ordinary although UCD (who ironically had to save their skins in the final fixture) are perhaps the best of the rest. Consequently, Buccaneers will be particularly disappointed not to have secured their status in the top flight. It was typical end of season fare and Mark Bruce and David Kelly made Buccs first breaks of note. Although Lansdowne came in from offside, they were awarded an 18 th minute penalty which they kicked to touch to pen Buccs inside their 22. William Wallace, in the wars earlier with an injury, was sin-binned four minutes later although Robinson looked the culprit when scavenging for the ball. Lansdowne promptly made their numerical advantage pay when, after tapping the penalty to touch on the left, Gavin O’Meara was mauled over the visitors’ line for a try and a 12-0 advantage. At this stage it looked all too familiar for the visiting supporters and a rout looked on the cards but Buccaneers, despite being woeful in the lineouts, were forging a growing share of possession. Kelly was injured making another good thrust coming up to halftime but Aidan Wynne’s 39 th minute penalty resulting from this break tailed wide of the left upright and it seemed that the Athlone side would remain scoreless until the break. However, Alex Hayman turned over possession inside his own 22 two minutes into added time and he made good progress before linking with Colin Finnerty who did well to get to the opposition ten metre line where Sean Carey was at his shoulder to take the offload. The winger accelerated away for a tremendous try which Wynne converted, and this timely psychological score meant Buccs arrears were only 12-7 at half time.   Anthony Hughes replaced the injured Kelly just before the interval while Benny Gilligan came on for Michael Diffley, who was struggling with a knock, for the second half. Lansdowne sent Derry Coughlan on for Shane Whelan who sustained a knock and Vinny O’Dowd replaced placekicker Dolan early in the second period as the hard ground took its toll. Wynne further reduced Buccs arrears with a 50 th minute penalty while home substitute Coughlan was sin-binned five minutes later following the intervention of a touch judge. Lansdowne had a few good mauls around the hour mark but when Bruce scampered away with the ball with only Boucher to outwit, the indifferent referee whistled much too quickly to award Buccs a penalty just inside their half when prudent advantage should have been allowed. Lansdowne then escaped censure when Bruce was hampered from offside and then the hosts went over the top in search of possession but Robinson was not so fortunate when he was caught offside on 70 minutes and he became the third player to be yellow carded. Nevertheless, it was Buccaneers who scored next, and in remarkable circumstances. Lansdowne mauled splendidly to inside the midlanders’ 22 where they created a four to one overlap but Danny Riordan gambled successfully on making an intercept and the full back steamed eighty metres for a smashing opportunist 72 nd minute try at the posts. Wynne’s conversion was a formality and Buccs were 17-12 ahead and with a decided spring in their steps. Lansdowne now replaced both props but, with Riordan’s influence becoming ever more prominent, Buccs were playing with the pragmatism that was all too often missing throughout the season. And they sealed their fifth successive win over the metropolitans when ‘man of the match’ Carey showed wonderful pace and composure after he had snaffled possession on his own ten metre line three minutes into added time to scamper away for another wonderful try which Robinson converted with the final kick of the match. BUCCANEERS:-  D.Riordan; T.Robinson, A.Hayman, W.Wallace (captain), S.Carey; A.Wynne, M.Bruce; M.Diffley, G.Halligan, K.O’Neill; J.Tormey, D.Kelly; C.Finnerty, G.Kelly and A.Hanley. Replacements used:- Anthony Hughes (for D.Kelly, injured 39 mins) and B.Gilligan (for Diffley, injured h-t). LANSDOWNE:-  M.Ashford; B.McGeever, N.Walsh, R.Dolan, J.Coleman; D.Crotty, S.Whelan; J.Lyne, G.O’Meara, P.Doran-Jones; A.Maher, D.Toner; D.Lavin (captain), N.Ronan and R.Boucher. Replacements used:- D.Coughlan (for Whelan, h-t), V.O’Dowd (for Dolan, 44 mins), K.Cleere (for Doran-Jones, 73 mins) and R.Murphy (for Lyne, 73 mins). BUCCANEERS have been drawn away to Connemara in the semi-final of the Connacht U-20 Cup. This game was scheduled for last weekend but Buccs sought a deferral and the match is likely to go ahead at the Monastery Field, Clifden, next weekend, probably on Saturday. However, this can not be confirmed at presstime. Galwegians await the winners in the final. Personally, I believe that the siting of this competition so close to college examinations is less than ideal. There are only a limited number of clubs in this Cup so it should really be played earlier in the season. It’s months since Buccs were in U-20 action (and, undoubtedly, it is the same situation for the Blacks) but the midlanders won two out of their final three All-Ireland League matches to retain their Division One status. However, a number of their players have been involved lately with both the Senior and Reserve squads, and Buccaneers will look to Aidan Wynne, Paul Harte, Gavin Kelly and Eddie Brady to set the tempo for this cup tie. Alan Gaughan, Greg McGill, Kevin Creavin and skipper Paul Galvin are others likely to be in the forefront for the midlanders. If Buccs play to their potential, they have the wherewithal to progress to the final but they can be sure of a committed, sustained and searching test out west in Connemara. Well done to Alan Gaughan on his exploits with Ireland in the U-19 World Cup championship. The Buccs winger did not start for Ireland until their game against Japan but Gaughan’s contribution on that occasion was rewarded with another start in the vital final fixture against Scotland which resulted in a 34-0 walloping of our celtic neighbours. This clearcut victory earned Ireland a creditable 9 th world ranking. Buccaneers end of season function, the ‘Rugby Awards Night’, takes place in the Radisson SAS Hotel, Athlone, on Friday, May 11 th . The ‘Oyster Homes Player of the Year’ awards will be made on the night while the victorious Junior Cup winning squad will be feted. Presentations will also be made at the function to all the club’s players who played for Ireland teams during the season. Finbarr Furey and his band will provide the musical entertainment at the event. Dinner is at 7.30 p.m. and dress code is ‘smart casual’. Tickets are €60 each or, much better value, €500 per table of ten. So, why not organise your own group for the occasion which promises to be a most enjoyable affair. The club’s annual Golf Classic takes place at Glasson Golf Hotel and Country Club on Wednesday, May 23 rd . Entries for teams of four players should be confirmed to Paul Connellan 087-2545605 or our Administrator Geraldine 086-1732711. Deepest Condolences are extended to the O’Rourke, Begley and McVeigh/Jackson families on their recent bereavements. Annual General Meeting is provisionally scheduled for Monday, May 21 st in the Bounty at 8 p.m.