On a perfect Saturday for rugby, Buccaneers U-20’s hosted Queen’s University U-20-s in what we hope will become an annual event between two top class rugby academies. Referee Michael Honan was excellent all day and his first task was to oversee one minute’s silence for Aisling Murphy R.I.P. Buccaneers U-13’s squad joined in this mark of respect also.

Buccaneers set the pace early by playing all the rugby in the opposition half and Longford winger Jack Finn scored his try after a fine passing movement. The Pirates were excellent in defence with the energetic Jim Connolly and Nato Kiripati hitting tackles in every area of the pitch to quench any Queen’s counter attacks. This entire friendly game was a fast and furious encounter with rampaging tight head prop Kieran Egan setting the tone and being rewarded with a try after one of his many 20 yard rampaging
runs. The powerful high energy performance of the man from Belmont has the senior team management already thinking and talking about Kieran’s future AIL career. Buccaneers were leading at half time 14 – 5 helped by the trusty boot of Dylan King who converted both tries.

Scrumhalf Adam Flanagan brought all the skills and experience he has gained with the seniors to his U20’s game. On Saturday against the Students from Ulster, Adam showed great maturity and patience as he bossed the game by building phases though choosing wise attacking options. Buccs U-20’s debutant Luke Duane from Connemara RFC was excellent, chasing kicks and reading the game very well at 11 and 9. At one stage both half backs with King at 10 were Connemara men who are playing with Buccaneers U20’s to gain experience and improve their rugby skillset while playing against top level opposition at their own age and physicality. The talented Loughrea RFC back Mark Glynn showed great experience as he dealt with the Queen’s attacks and launched his own for Buccaneers to gain territory. The athletic always alert Kilbeggan man David Colgan’s fine play was rewarded with an interception in the centre which led to a try as was fellow Offaly man Cameron Rooney-Digan who showed all his strength and skills to touchdown.

In the second half our only try scorer was the powerful Athlone hooker Evan Gallagher, despite many line breaks by Orrin Burgess, Gavin Daly and Cian McCann. The powerful and deceptively fast man of the match broke the gain line every time he was on the ball and Cian was rewarded with a first half try. Sean Flynn from Ferbane showed all his renowned evasive silky skills when he joined the action.

South African back three player Ruan Venter completed our duo from Ballinasloe as both himself and Ben Daly brought great bravery, enthusiasm and athleticism both sides of the ball. Ruan was unlucky not to score his first try while Ben anticipated the students kicks very well at fullback. Luke Balsiger and Fionn McDonald were excellent at set piece and in the loose both were a real thorn in the side of the students showing all their fitness and rugby technical abilities in attack and defence. Our powerful player in the centre from Letterkenny RFC Orrin Burgess was unlucky not to score late in the second half after a 50 yard run to set up a grandstand finish only for Queen’s to steal the ball and break out themselves and score the match winning try from their own try line.

With many frontline players unavailable for selection due to playing with the Buccs AIL team and having players involved in January with Senior schools cup games, Buccs U-20’s management were able to get game time for our extended squad. This initiative of playing AIL club opposition will be continued with a curtain raiser against Old Crescent on March 5th. U-20’s Training continues at 7:30pm on Friday nights at Dubarry Park.

Buccaneers Academy:- 1. Jim Connolly, 2. Evan Gallagher, 3. Kieran Egan; 4. Fionn McDonnell, 5. Cian McCann; 6. Nato Kiripati, 7. Gavin Daly, 8. Luke Balsiger; 9. Adam Flanagan, 10. Dylan King; 11. Luke Duane, 12. Orrin Burgess, 13. David Colgan, 14. Jack Finn and 15. Ben Daly. Replacements:- 16. Oisin Donoghue, 17. Keelan Connolly, 18. Ronan McDonagh, 19. Cameron Rooney-Digan, 20. Mark Glynn, 21. Sean Flynn and 22. Ruan Venter.

Queen’s University Academy:- 1. Niall Carville, 2. George Coen, 3. Oscar Egan; 4. Paddy Eames, 5. Connor Neary; 6. Ciaran McCarthy, 7. Harry McMeekin, 8. Kian Mullholland, 9. Josh Patterson, 10. Angus Christie, 11. Lucas Steadman, 12. Peter Heasley,
13. Cameron Gillanders, 14. Callum Adair and 15. Niall Bermingham. Replacements:- 16. Dan Orubo, 17. Max Kennedy, 18. Andrew Lawther and 19 Will Cusack.

Referee:- Michael Honan.