BUCCANEERS JUNIORS commenced their season with a richly deserved 15-11 victory over Monivea in their opening Cawley Cup Pool One game played under the Dubarry Park floodlights on Friday night. Buccs squad was very young but eager and committed as they came from behind to take the spoils on a rain-lashed night.

In the slippery conditions a couple of knock-ons granted early territory to Monivea before an offside gave the visitors a penalty to open the scoring after 5 minutes. Monivea then missed an easier placekick ten minutes later but, from the restart, they got possession and chipped over the cover for an unconverted try in the right corner to lead 8-0.

But the Pirates began to grow into the contest in the second quarter and Andrew Evans was narrowly off-target with a long-range penalty while Michael McHale was unlucky not to latch on to a Monivea tap down from an Evans punt for touch. Cian Daly was sin-binned due to Buccs conceding a number of penalties but the homesters kept their momentum building even during the hooker’s absence. They were rewarded just before the interval when they drove over the Monivea line following a penalty to touch in the left corner where Koronato Kiripati grounded the ball. Evans was unable to add the touchline conversion but this timely try narrowed the lively Pirates arrears to 8-5 at half-time.

The more seasoned Monivea side edged further ahead with a 42nd minute penalty but Buccaneers were now forcing the pace and looked the more threatening with ball in hand. Their pressure yielded a penalty in front of the posts as the game entered the final quarter and Evans made no mistake with the placekick. A deliberate knock-on by a Monivea player when Buccs were in a promising position warranted a yellow card as the midlanders continued their efforts to unlock the Co. Galway side’s defence.

It was fitting that Evans decided this match and he did so in real style with a try worthy of winning any game. There were just five minutes remaining when the fly-half collected possession inside his own half from where he darted and dodged, weaving his way through a bamboozled Monivea defence leaving a handful of players trailing in his wake before touching down between the uprights for a superb solo try. He duly added the conversion to put Buccs 15-11 ahead.

But the Pirates did not deal with the restart and had to battle into added time to keep their line intact and earn a deserved victory that will instil confidence and belief into this mainly young squad. Outhalf Evans was the outstanding player on view, looking more comfortable in this role than at fullback the previous week, and Ben Porter made strong carries in the centre. Buccs lorded the lineouts including five of Monivea’s in the first half! Rory Kilgarriff did well in this regard as did Fionn McDonnell when introduced. Cian Daly and Cathal O’Grady fared well in the front row battles. Overall Buccaneers were the more enterprising and pacey outfit.

BUCCANEERS:- R.Venter; M.McHale, D.Mulvihill, B.Porter, A.Kenny; A.Evans, Colin Daly; C.O’Grady, Cian Daly, J.Kelly; M.Tallon, R.Kilgarriff; K.Kiripati, D.Fitzgerald and R.Flanagan. Replacements:- F.McDonnell (for Flanagan, 53 mins), N.Harney (for Kiripati, 53 mins), H.Stewart (for Kenny, 64 mins), H.Balsiger (for Mulvihill, 64 mins), E.Friel (for Colin Daly, 64 mins) and T.Thompson (for O’Grady, 76 mins).

MONIVEA:- E.Hogan; D.Gavin, D.Collins, K.Divilly, C.Forde; J.Gilmartin, D.Collins; P.Feeney, M.McDonnell, A.Divilly; D.McHugh, P.Cannon; C.Lane, D.Briggs and F.Killarney. Replacements:- R.Coughlan, G.Fitzmaurice, K.King, L.McCarthy and P.Cooley.

REFEREE:- M.Goode (Connacht).