Galwegians 26 Buccaneers 51

Buccaneers U-17s travelled to Galway to play Galwegians in the semi-final of the Connacht U-17 cup. Galwegians had beaten Buccaneers in the last two outings in the league, so payback was on the minds of the Buccaneers squad. Buccaneers travelled with a depleted squad with three players ruled out through injuries and two players crying off the morning of the game with illness.

Conditions in the first half were ideal for running rugby, a balmy 19 degrees with no wind. Galwegians kicked off, the opening minutes were spent with kick tennis, as both teams tried to gain territory. Buccaneers settled into the game quicker, with the forwards dominating their counterparts at rucks, presenting clean ball for the back line. The opening try was started by the forwards driving hard from the Buccs 22m to the halfway line, retaining possession along the way. After another solid ruck, scrum half Charlie O’Carroll, spotted space in the backfield and kicked. The chase from full back, Dylan Bruton, was excellent beating the cover from Galwegians for the touchdown in the corner and Charlie O’Carroll landed the conversion from the touchline.

Buccaneers started to impose themselves on the game and spent most of the first half camped in the Galwegians half, occasionally conceding a penalty much to the relief of Galwegians. The second Buccaneers try came off a planned move from the scrum, with centre Tom Sheehan causing problems to the home defence. After some excellent passing, the ball got to winger, Conor Dowling, who evaded the covering defence to score in the corner. Although O’Carroll missed the conversion, the Athlone boys led 12-0.

The Buccaneers pack dominated the skies, with hooker Eoin Naughton pinpoint accurate at lineout, hitting jumpers Evan McMickan and Callum Kelly. The engine room of James Heaslip and Rian Claffey were everywhere, hitting rucks and making bone crunching tackles on the opposition. The third try started with a lineout drive, followed by a hard run from out half Conor Naughton who drew two defenders, after a quick ruck the ball was recycled and first centre Tom Sheehan powered his way past the Galwegians defence to score beside the posts with O’Carroll on target with the conversion.

With five minutes to go before halftime, Galwegians got a foothold into the Buccaneers half, this coincided with the weather conditions changing, a strong wind and a deluge of rain appeared, making handling conditions tough and the ground becoming very slippery underfoot. The Galwegians pack tried to bludgeon their way forward but were met with some fierce tackling and counter rucking from Buccaneers. Oteaga Awhinawhi turned over a ball at a ruck and moved it quickly across the Buccaneers backline. After some slick passing, Bruton hit winger Lorcan McCormack who got a quick pass to second centre Thomas Cotton, who showed a great turn of pace, passing the Galwegians winger on the outside and beating the full back to the try line for a score under the posts. O’Carroll added the extras to this fabulous team try started from inside the Buccaneers 22m and brought up halftime with Buccaneers leading 26-0.

The rain and wind remained for the start of the second half, with Galwegians having the advantage of the new conditions. They got a flyer of a start, when loose kicking saw a rare error in the Buccaneers backfield which was pounced on by the Galwegians winger. After some lovely interplay the Galwegians second centre, Alexander Brown, ran in for a try under the posts unopposed and out half Callum Elwood converted. Buccaneers appeared to switch off for a few minutes in the opening stages of the second half, with Galwegians being the better of the teams to adapt to the changing weather conditions. After ten minutes Galwegians struck again, another defence error by the Buccaneers centres saw Colm Shaughnessy sprint through a gap, creating room to put Killian Brady into space. Fullback Bruton put in an excellent tackle on the winger; however, he couldn’t prevent the offload to Galwegian fullback Paul Sharkey who scored an unconverted try in the corner.

With the weather conditions favouring the hosts, Buccaneers had to work extremely hard to get a foothold in the Galwegian half. After some strong running by Kelly, Brandon Conroy and Nathan Downes, Buccaneers inched into the Galwegian 22m. Galwegians conceded a penalty at the ruck and O’Carroll converted. With the match at 12-29, Buccaneers started to regain superiority, with the forwards being disruptive on the Galwegians lineout, stealing some throws. After a lineout steal, the Buccaneers forwards pounded away at the Galwegian defensive line, before O’Carroll switched play to the backline where a high tackle from Stephen Connolly led to a penalty on the 22m which O’Carroll converted, stretching the lead to 12-32.

With twenty-five minutes remaining, both teams made some substitutions. Buccaneers brought on David Gavin for Claffey and Louis Clayburn for McMickan. The injection of new players helped Buccs, who exerted more pressure on Galwegians. Off a scrum on the home 10m line, Buccaneers ran a pre-planned move that saw fullback Bruton running through a gap unopposed and scoring under beside the posts. O’Carroll was on target with the conversion.

Galwegians regathered and after some good territorial kicking were inside the Buccaneers 22m where they muscled their way over, with second row Eanna McMahon being credited with the try, and Elwood added the extras.

More substitutions from Buccaneers saw Sam Radebe come on for Lorcan McCormack and Sean O’Donoghue for Conor Dowling. The new additions had an immediate impact, with O’Donoghue making a strong defensive hit on his opposite number who lost control of the ball on the Buccaneers 10m line. The loose ball was kicked through by fullback Bruton who used his soccer skills to control the ball and outpace the defence to score his third try of the day. O’Carroll added the extras and Sean Noone replaced Bruton.

Buccaneers were now leading 19-46 but weren’t finished. Following some territorial kicking Buccaneers were camped on the Galwegian 22m. After some excellent rucking going open, the play was switched to the blindside where Cotton broke a tackle before scoring in the corner for Buccaneers seventh try with O’Carroll unable to add the conversion.

With time almost up, Galwegians staged a spirited attack. A miscommunication in the Buccaneers defence allowed prop Jaynel Cordero to run in opposed from the 22m. Elwood made the conversion, and the referee blew the final whistle after a very entertaining game. Buccaneers now advance to the final to play Corinthians who beat Sligo 20-3 in the other semi-final. The final is scheduled for Sunday April 30th in the Sportsground.

Buccaneers U17:- Dylan Bruton; Lorcan McCormack, Thomas Cotton, Tom Sheehan, Conor Dowling; Conor Naughton, Charlie O’Carroll; Eoin Naughton (captain), Evan McMickan, Nathan Downes; Rian Claffey, James Heaslip; Callum Kelly, Oteaga Awhinawhi and Brandon Conroy. Subs: Louis Clayburn, David Gavin, Sean O’Donoghue, Sam Radebe and Sean Noone.

Galwegians U17:- Paul Sharkey; Louis O’Connor; Alexander Brown; Colm Shaughnessy; Killian Brady; Calum Elwood; Luke Casserly; James Keane; Gavin O’Hanlon; Stephen Connolly; Eanna McMahon; Matthew Harty; Jaynel Cordero; Tomas Fitzgerald; Senan Flynn. Subs: Sean Regan; Gabriel Sieradzki; Luke Ferguson; Miguel Rubio; Adam Quinn; Conor Gibbs; Tom Walsh and Stephen Tighe.