Storming finish gives Buccaneers/Corinthians Womens Cup victory

Report by John Mulligan

The hardy souls who braved a cold night in Creggs on Friday night last were treated to a game of rugby for the ages as a Buccaneers/Corinthians amalgamation defeated Westport 40-28 in the Connacht Womens Cup quarter final. To say this was a classic would be to do the game injustice. It was much more than that. Two teams who gave their absolute all in eighty minutes that produced ten tries and moments of the highest quality with the amalgamation, who by the end of the game called themselves ‘Barbarians’ in the rugby sense, coming out on top of a pulsating game that was not decided until the final moments.

This team had not even trained together in the build-up to this game. Attempts to get together had been thwarted by schedules and unavailability of pitches due to the weather but on the night, you would not have noticed this. With a team in place, the management team of Hazel Kilduff, Martin Staunton, Yvonne Comer, Peter O’Hara and Kolo Kiripati got to work in getting the team ready and by kick off they were in position and up for a game that would be historic in many ways and particularly for Corinthians who had not featured in an adult cup game in Womens Rugby for the best part of twenty years. It must be said that with amalgamated teams like these it would always be uncertain as to how the game would go. One particular prediction looking at a heavy win for the Mayo girls. Not that the Barbarians’ support needed to worry. The weather may have been cold but conditions were perfect for running rugby and Westport made the first move after three minutes, Noreen Coyne touching down with Aisling Browne converting.

However, this Barbarians side had other plans and when Aine Earley broke down the right flank, there was no one who got close and with their first points on the board Buccaneers/Corinthians were just two points down with Aoibhe Kelly’s conversion attempt falling short. The tone was now set. Both teams wanted to run the ball and that is exactly what they did. This time Kelly made amends for her conversion miss with a stunning try and she also made no mistake with the extras. This side of Barbarians were now in front and any earlier prediction of a heavy defeat was out the window.

It was clear as the game entered the final moments of the first half, however, that Westport had a side of quality and when Noreen Coyne broke through the cover to score again, they also had serious intent. Browne kicked the conversion and if not exciting enough already, this game went to a whole new level among the crowd of supporters and interested neutrals from Creggs and Glinsk who had played a football challenge match before the evening’s rugby. With just two minutes remaining in the half, Justine Walsh decided she wanted in on the fun and her break through the centre was unmatched as she crossed over. Kelly’s boots had now found their range and after forty minutes of pure intense rugby, the Buccaneers/Corinthians side were five points to the good 17-12.

It was looking even better for the Barbarians early in the second half when Olivia Forde was at the end of a move that involved four players and with Kelly again accurate, the lead was now twelve points but there were still over half an hour of rugby to be played and Westport to their credit did not flounder. First Tara McNulty and then Saoirse Kelly scored tries for the ‘Covies’ and with Browne kicking both conversions, the lead was gone and it was Westport who now led by two with ten minutes left.

The game was now becoming a war of wills with both sets of packs now dominating. Barbarians, with Mele Kiripati and Mollie Starr dominant, were making ground as was the outstanding Earley on the wing who was using her power to surge forward. With time almost up, and with Earley having to retire due to an injured ankle, Barbarians were now in last gasp territory. A penalty on the Westport 22 would possibly be their last chance. With the ball in hand, up stepped Starr to burst through the massed defence and touch down under the posts. Kelly’s conversion made it a five-point game but there was still time for a dramatic winner as Westport pushed on but the final say would be with the Barbarians. A lineout fell to Aibidh Ni Mhaille and she used her power to get over and seal what was an incredible win for the Barbarians. The final play being another cracker of a conversion for Kelly which finished the game and booked Buccaneers/Corinthians their place in the semi-final against league winners OLBC that is fixed for March 13th.

Buccaneers/Corinthians: M Heavin, An Earley, J Walsh, A Kelly, G Mandal, C Collins S Hynds, M Jessop-McLaughlin, M Kiripati (C), L Egan, N Byrne, O Fenton, A Ni Mhaille, O Forde and M Starr. Replacements used:- J Daly and K Behan.

Westport: N Coyne, L Jordan, S Kelly, D Grealish, A O’Malley, A Browne, M Cawley, G Gaughan, P Applegreen, F Nic Ruairi, S Geraghty, G Moran, E Pollington, T McNulty and C Moran. Replacements used:- M Burke and R Coyne.