CLONTARF 29 BUCCANEERS 14
Head coach Dave McAllister brought his new look Buccaneers U-20s squad to Castle Avenue for their first away fixture of the season, losing 29 -14. But the scoreboard didn’t totally reflect the evenly match contest against a very well drilled and organised Clontarf coached by former Connacht player George Naoupu.
This contest was a contrast in rugby styles, with Clontarf’s controlled rigid play exposed on occasions by the free swashbuckling style of the Pirates due to lack of time together training as a team. The Shannonsiders gameplan was to put in an energy sapping Barbarians style performance with every player getting to showcase their individual skillset in blistering sunshine on the hard 4g astro pitch. In the sultry weather this was best epitomised by Keith Devaney’s display.
The Athlone side’s scrum was solid with Dylan Bolger, Aaron Burke, Charlie Byrne, Fionn McDonnell and Luca Giles winning the scrummage contest most of the time. On the 15th minute mark Buccs were hit by a double blow, when promising outhalf Mj Sa’olele had to retire with a serious knee injury in an attempt to prevent Clontarf’s first try from a defence-splitting slick backs training ground move in which the referee ignored calls of crossing by the Buccs captain Yishai Avrahami.
7-0 down and under the kosh Buccs tackled hard to prevent the flood gates opening. The midlanders defence held firm with man of the match Patrick Egan and his mobile back row partners of John Dunican and Oisin Donaghue relishing every tackle. Their combination of true grit and determination in every contact set the tone and pitched the defensive line at a level of intensity that the Clontarf boys would have seldom encountered epitomised by the contribution of Abu Saka.
A steal followed by a high-speed breakout 50m run by Caleb Smerdon should have resulted in an equalising try but for the off-loading pass not connecting with the support player running at top speed. The resulting scrum led to a Clontarf penalty and a kick to the corner where the home side’s pack showcased their superior strength with their most effective weapon of the day, their lineout maul scoring the first of its four tries to lead 12-0 at half-time.
Minutes into the second half the comeback looked possible as energetic scrumhalf Andy Quinn speeded up the pace of the attack with quick short passes to his battering-ram forwards Lochlann Mechann, Andriu Oates and Marcos Encinas resulting in skillful hooker Ethan Agaimalo using his strength and footwork to touchdown. Kicker Quinn landed the touchline conversion leaving the score 12-7. Some excellent crossfield kicks from outhalf James Clarke got the swashbuckling Shannonsiders into scoring positions with wingers Leon Cassidy and Cian Daly coming close to scoring, while Cormac Lyons was a constant problem for the home defence every time he ran at them. Flanker Sam Davis came very close to scoring at the death after an excellent kick through from Quinn.
Ultimately the deciding factor in the contest was the well-organised Clontarf lineout maul which resulted in three second half tries in the corner for the hosts. Smerdon got a well-deserved try assisted by Eanna McDonnell and converted by Quinn, leaving the scoreboard 29 -14 to the very hospitable hosts.
BUCCANEERS squad:- Andriu Oates, Cian Daly, Patrick Egan, Dylan Bolger, Charlie Byrne, John Dunican, Oscar Boggs, Sam Davis, Keith Devaney, Aaron Burke, Fionn McDonnell, Caleb Smerdon, Nodari Guliashvili, Yishai Avrahami (captain), Cormac Lyons, Andrew Quinn, Leon Cassidy, Abu Saka, Cayden Harris, Eanna McDonnell, James Clarke, Mickey Cruise, Loclan Meechan, Oisin Donohoe, Steven Joyce, Luca Giles, Marcos Encinas, Donagh McCormack, James Dillion, MJ Sa’olele, Tevita Finau and Ethan Agaimalo.
Referee:- Alain Rolland (Leinster).