BUCCANEERS U-20’s season ended in controversial fashion when they went down 16-13 to De La Salle Palmerston in a sometimes fractious Purcell Cup quarter-final contested at Dubarry Park on Sunday. Buccs had come out on top when these sides met in the league in Athlone just two weeks ago but, on this occasion, the visitors edged the verdict in a contest between two much-changed teams.

Buccs sported five changes from that recent encounter but lacked fluency for large swathes of the game against in-your-face opponents. The metropolitans were clearly up for this game and were held up on the Buccs line after 10 minutes. Four minutes later Dylan Duffy was sin-binned for a high tackle as the visitors took the game to the hosts while it took a good Kalani Kake poach to halt DLSP’s progress shortly afterwards. But Buccaneers opened the scoring, Adam O’Carroll drilling an 18th minute penalty over from the ten metre line following a scrum infringement.

However, DLSP were level within 6 minutes, Will Saunders landing a penalty from a similar distance. Just after the half-hour mark, ‘Palmo’ punted a penalty to The Bounty corner from where they got close to the home line before Ryan Keogh notched a poacher’s try which Saunders converted.

The Pirates scrum was becoming increasingly dominant and Buccs used it to apply sustained pressure on the visitors in the closing stages of the half. As the scrum offences mounted, their prop Cameron Galavan-Glynn was despatched to the sin bin. The midlanders now pinned their opponents inside the 22 and O’Carroll was unlucky not to have been awarded a try when he chased a Ewan Joyce crossfield chip. Aaron Murphy was also yellow carded in the face of the Buccs offensive and the homesters eventually made their pressure pay when Robbie Byrne outmanoeuvred the cover to dot down for an unconverted try wide on the right to narrow his side’s arrears to 8-10 at halftime.

Buccs made a couple of personnel and positional tweaks at the interval and quickly reaped reward following the change of ends. James Clarke came on at flyhalf with Joyce switching to scrumhalf while Patrick Egan was introduced at flanker. Rain greeted the second half and Yishai Avrahami looked like running in for a try but was whistled back for a penalty to his side. Buccaneers maintained their momentum and punted a penalty to the right corner. All their first-half lineouts had gone awry (how they missed their skipper Fionn McDonnell who had played with the Firsts the previous day) but they got this one spot on to maul over the DLSP line where Dylan Bolger applied the finishing touch for an unconverted 43rd minute try to regain the lead.

Bolger was then yellow carded at the three-quarters stage for a deliberate knock-on. Either side of that Saunders landed a brace of penalties, both for needless offences, to edge DLSP 16-13 ahead. In the closing stages as Buccs strove valiantly to retrieve the situation, they gained ground down the stand flank through a series of penalties to touch. This gave them the platform in the dying moments for their superior maul to drive towards the opposition line where DLSP clearly brought the maul down just short of the line. A penalty try looked the obvious decision but, mystifyingly, the referee blew the final whistle much to the joy of the travelling players who eked out a 16-13 win.

This was a frustrating and disappointing outcome for Buccaneers U-20’s to end their season. At times they promised much more than they ultimately delivered with a lack of consistency and cohesion being the main reasons. Cormac Lyons and Joyce were pick of the backs on this occasion, the front five dominated at scrums and mauls and in Jack Crampton they had the best performer of this feisty Cup tie.

BUCCANEERS:- C.Lyons; D.Duffy, T.O’Brien, Y.Avrahami, A.O’Carroll; E.Joyce, M.Glynn; C.Byrne, D.Bolger, F.Murray; C.Sheehan, L.Giles; K.Kake, J.Crampton and R.Byrne (captain). Replacements:- P.Egan (for Sheehan, h/t), J.Clarke (for Glynn, h/t), T.Finau (for Byrne, 60 mins), A.Burke (for O’Carroll, temp), A.Burke (for Bolger, 70 mins), D.McCormack (for O’Carroll), A.Oates and N.Boles.

DE LA SALLE PALMERSTON:- L.McKechnie; Z.Bourne, H.Machesney, T.Finlay (captain), F.Greany; W.Saunders, R.Keogh; C.Galavan-Glynn, S.Doran, E.Sutton; James Kenny, John Kenny; L.Troy, A.Murphy and S.Galvin. Replacements:- A.King (for Greany, temp. 36 mins), H.Grady (for Greany, 47 mins), D.Naughton (for James Kenny, 56 mins), S.Stokes (for John Kenny, 70 mins), S.Pedlow, P.McCabe and B.Gouldson.

Referee:- Siobhan Daly (Connacht).