A final move Robbie Byrne try earned Buccaneers what could prove to be a vital bonus point in their 29-12 Connacht U-20 League victory over Galwegians at wet and windy Dubarry Park on Sunday. This was a closely fought tussle with little between the teams for 70 minutes but the Pirates finished the much stronger, the superiority of their pack finally gaining reward on the scoreboard with a brace of late tries.

Galwegians had first benefit of the elements on a pitch that stood up remarkably well to its second fixture on the day but it was Buccs who had the better of the early exchanges. However, the visitors first spell in the home 22 gained reward when they went through composed phases that were finished off by Noe Bonfanti for an unconverted 17th minute try wide on the left. The light blues then dictated territory for a period but found the home defence in a mean mood. The Pirates eventually got a foothold in the Tribesmens’ half and their growing pressure yielded a levelling try just before the interval. A fine Buccs maul following a penalty to the left saw Patrick Egan touchdown wide on the left for an unconverted try to leave the teams tied 5-5 at halftime.

Galwegians saw an early second half penalty rebound off an upright before both teams had a player yellow carded in separate incidents for infringements. Wegians prop Niall O’Neill was first to visit the sin bin on 49 minutes and he was joined there by the hosts’ Egan two minutes later.

Wegians regained the lead on 52 minutes, a series of penalties pegging Buccs back and Liam Angermann surged over near the posts ensuring Patrick Nash’s third placekick would finally be on target. The greasy and breezy conditions made handling a lottery and errors occurred on a regular basis as Buccs struggled to get a rhythm going despite their pack having a decided edge on the visitors’ unit.

But they stuck to their task and put in a strong final quarter, finally harnessing both the wind and the dominance of their forwards. Andrew Quinn’s line-kicking steadily made ground and his penalty just after the hour mark found a super touch on the left. Fionn McDonnell continued his impressive lineout work to set up a Pirates maul that was brought down but substitute Quinn, now operating at scrumhalf, pounced on the loose ball for a 63rd minute try which he converted to level the scores 12-12.

Another great drive following a scrum yielded an eminently kickable 67th minute penalty which Quinn untypically missed but he made no mistake in a similar situation just two minutes later, his sweet strike giving Buccs the lead for the first time. The Pirates set up camp deep in the opposition half for the final ten minutes. Egan grabbed his second try following another penalty to the left on 76 minutes and a bonus point try that had not looked likely up to that stage suddenly looked possible as the westerners pack simply could not contain the home unit anymore.

A yellow card to Liam Cloherty encouraged Buccs even more and their endeavours were rewarded when No.8 Byrne got over at the posts for their fourth try. Quinn converted both late tries to seal the 29-12 victory.

It took the Athlone side longer than necessary to capitalise on their obvious superiority in the forwards setpieces while, in the prevailing weather, their persistence in opting for long throws at lineouts in the opening half was a folly. Buccs recent fixtures gave them an extra advantage over the visitors and they will improve further on this display. Jack Clarke and Quinn were pick of the backline while McDonnell, Egan and the imposing Finian Murray led a dominant pack as the Pirates made a winning start to this new look league.

BUCCANEERS:- C.Lyons; D.McCormack, Y.Avrahami, C.Smerdon, P.O’Leochain; J.Clarke, N.Loughnane; C.Byrne, D.Bolger, F.Murray; R.Goldin, F.McDonnell (captain); J.Crampton, P.Egan and R.Byrne. Replacements:- O.Dolan (for Bolger, inj. 31 mins), A.Quinn (for O’Leochain, h/t), T.McClain (for Murray, 50 mins), L.Giles (for Crampton, 57 mins), K.Maher (for Loughnane, 60 mins), T.Finau (for C.Byrne, 64 mins), O.Donoghue and E.McDonnell.

GALWEGIANS:- J.Munn; H.Lynch, E.Brady, C.Brady, H.Duffy; P.Nash, H.Walsh; N.O’Neill, F.Casserly, N.Bonfanti; P.Kelly, B.McHugo; L.Angermann, D.Keane and J.Quinn. Replacements used:- R.Smith, I.O’Malley, L.Cloherty, J.Burke, M.O’Dwyer, K.Barrett, J.Allnutt and J.Monroe.

Referee:- Keith Haverty (Connacht).