U-17s capture league title


Although conceding height and weight in virtually every position, Buccaneers U-17s put in a tremendous display to overcome Corinthians 15-10 in a thrilling Connacht League final played at The Green, Creggs, on Sunday. A big crowd witnessed a compelling encounter that was in the balance right to the final whistle.

Buccs had first advantage of the strong breeze and following an excellent 50/22 by Kyle Mahon they almost made an early breakthrough but Diarmaid Lyons could not control the ball in the tackle as he attempted to touchdown after just 4 minutes. But 7 minutes later they benefitted from a knock-on when winning possession on their own ten metre line following a solid tackle. With the referee allowing sound advantage the ball was moved smartly to the left and from there Andrew Henson left a trail of Corinthians players in his wake, weaving past four attempted tackles to dot down behind the uprights. Mahon duly added the conversion for a 7-0 lead.
But the physically stronger Galway side then enjoyed growing territory against the elements but either side of a penalty that was cleared after rebounding off the woodwork they were held up over the line with Buccs putting in committed defending. However, the pressure told when Pasha Thiam charged over the line for a 24th minute try converted by Daniel Browne. Just before halftime, Buccs regained the lead. Mahon struck a beauty long-range penalty following a high tackle to give his side a slender 10-7 margin at the interval.
That advantage did not look sufficient bearing in mind the influential breeze but this Buccs side are made of stern and composed stuff and they took the game to the westerners following the change of ends. Their enterprise was rewarded ten minutes into the second half following a penalty to touch on the left. A clever lineout ploy was finished emphatically by Stephen O’Connor who burst over near the corner flag for a try. Mahon’s touchline conversion was just short against the wind.
Corinthians responded to force three penalties in quick succession, getting their signals mixed up with the first one, reduced the arrears with the second but Browne was wayward with the third. This left a gripping contest finely balanced but Buccs, playing the better rugby, finished strongly encouraged by a rampaging Paul O’Sullivan break down the right flank that brought them close to the opposition line. Despite going tantalisingly close on a number of occasions, Corinthians somehow held them out and in a frenetic finish a player on each side was red carded after a brief flare-up.
In the final move Corinthians swept downfield after gaining possession from a knock-on near their own line but Henson’s tackle inside his own half ensured that Buccaneers would not be denied their richly merited victory on a 15-10 scoreline.
The Pirates pack was surprisingly dominant at scrums despite being clearly the smaller unit. The front row trio all excelled with the outstanding Sean Glennon being the player of the match and Elliott Rooney-Digan had his best display while No.8 Kyle Byrne kept his well-drilled pack driving forward. Lyons linked effectively at scrumhalf and Henson, O’Sullivan and Mahon always asked questions of their opponents when in possession. Corinthians surprisingly withdrew Oisin Berthoz, who looked their most threatening player, midway through the second half.
The League trophy was presented on behalf of Connacht Rugby by Jim Staunton to winning skipper Byrne who, in a moving speech, acknowledged the support of his recently deceased grandfather Pat who would have been so proud of the team’s performance and achievement.

BUCCANEERS:- A.Henson; P.O’Sullivan, K.Mahon, M.Almagro, D.Burke; B.Doyle, D.Lyons; K.Blessing, S.Glennon, E.Rooney-Digan; T.Mason, T.Trainor; S.O’Connor, C.McCormack and K.Byrne (captain). Replacements:- M.Turner (for Burke,h/t), C.Hudson, I.Jocher, R.Fallon and S.Duffy.

CORINTHIANS:- D.Browne; C.Whyte, F.O’Braoinain, B.Greally, A.Laffey; L.Mullarkey, O.Berthoz; N.Briggs, O.Meehan, C.Noone; M.J.Fahy, D.Noone; P.Thiam, L.Keaveny and J.Greaney. Replacements:- M.Fallon, J.Kavanagh, R.Barratt, J.Maloney, E.Cox, J.Canavan, C.Duignan and T.Walsh.

Referee:- Cian Hough (Connacht).