In contrasting weather conditions to the previous afternoon, Buccaneers and new alliance Galwegians/Oughterard served up a competitive and finely balanced J.P.Fanagan Leinster U-20 Premier League 2 qualifier at Dubarry Park on Sunday. Played on the west pitch, which was being used for the first time this season, the visitors edged the verdict 13-12 and both clubs now qualify for the league proper.
On a positively balmy sunny day, conditions were perfect for this contest in which defences dominated. Buccs opened the scoring with an excellent 13th minute try. Danny Ennis made the initial break and Mark Tallon surged forward before Nathan Horan put in a clever chip over the defence. Fergus Galvin secured possession to send Harry Balsiger racing past three defenders for a try converted by Stephen Mannion.
The westerners opened their account following a penalty to the right corner after half an hour. A smart lineout move caught the hosts off-guard and impressive duo Nicholas Lawless and Ben McGuinness linked slickly with the lock showing good footwork to score in the corner. Matt Farrell was unable to convert so there was little between the teams at the interval with the Pirates 7-5 ahead.
A forward pass denied the visitors an early second half try but they were soon ahead. They were awarded a 50th minute penalty for an off the ball tackle and, with the home defence nodding off again, McGuinness seized the opportunity from a quickly tapped penalty to race in for his second unconverted try. But Buccaneers responded swifty and, following several good drives forward, Harry O’Reilly got over for a 55th minute try on the left that Mannion was unable to convert.
However the midlanders lead was short-lived with Farrell finally finding the range with his fourth kick at goal to edge Galwegians/Oughterard 13-12 ahead on the hour mark. Neither side could add to their tallies in a keenly contested final quarter and, on scoring opportunities countback, the visitors probably deserved their victory. Buccs were too often sluggish in moving the ball but the major part of their downfall was arguably the referee’s interpretation at scrumtime. Here the Athlone team had a clear and obvious superiority, yet time and again were penalised for unfathomable reasons. Liam Winnett and Mathias O’Neill were busy in the home pack with wings Balsiger and Ennis pick of the backline.
BUCCANEERS:- J.Nagle; D.Ennis, D.Mulvihill, J.Downes, H.Balsiger; S.Mannion, N.Horan; C.Daly, D.Browne (captain), H.O’Reilly; F.Galvin, M.Tallon; C.O’Grady, M.O’Neill and L.Winnett. Replacements:- R.Venter (for Mulvihill, inj. h/t), G.Caterino (for Galvin, h/t), K.Connolly (for Tallon, 52 mins), F.Galvin (for O’Grady, 73 mins), A.Obono (for Daly, 76 mins), R.Dempsey and M.Byrne.
GALWEGIANS/OUGHTERARD:- D.Reddan; M.Farrell, K.Smith, L.Cronin, B.Murphy; A.Cunningham, P.Butler; C.Duff, N.Lawless, M.Agbo; B.McSweeney, B.McGuinness; S.O’Sullivan, L.Smyth and S.Joyce. Replacements used:- E.Shekete, C.Gleeson, O.Finn, M.Archer and K.Waterman.
Referee:- Peter Gaughan (Connacht).