Seconds battle to Plate success
BUCCANEERS 17 NUI GALWAY 14
BUCCANEERS SECONDS forged a hard-earned 17-14 victory over NUI Galway in the Cawley Cup Plate final played at windy Loughrea RFC on Sunday. Although the Pirates had the greater share of territory and possession they did not make the most of it in a performance that was below par on their recent displays. However, they showed great resolve and endeavour to turn matters around having trailed 14-0 at half-time.
Aided by the strong breeze blowing from end to end, NUIG took a 5th minute lead when Sean O’Grady slotted over a penalty. Despite facing the elements, Buccs spent a lot of time in the College half but lacked precision when in promising positions. The Students found it difficult to make inroads into the Pirates territory but then edged 9-0 ahead when O’Grady added a brace of penalties in quick succession either side of the half-hour mark. Five minutes from the interval, Buccs defenders were caught too far forward for a kick ahead and NUIG then put their best move together switching play smartly from right to left where David Burke got in for an unconverted try. The Athlone side finished the half held up over the College line, trailing 0-14 but it could have been worse as Fergal Conway’s mazy run did not add to the Students’ tally.
Buccs made some changes at the interval with Darren Touhey and Mattias O’Neill both making impacts and adding energy. The Shannonsiders had greater purpose and industry now and it took staunch defending by NUIG to hold Sean O’Connell up over their line. But Buccaneers won possession from the clearance and Ross Murphy-Sweeney weaved his way through for 46th minute try which Andrew Evans converted. Eleven minutes later O’Neill won a College lineout and streaked down the left flank, somehow not putting a foot in touch, to touchdown near the corner. Gerard Fallon added a sweet conversion to level the scores at 14-14.
The Pirates applied fierce pressure regularly close to the College line but the Students were valiant and disciplined in their defending, somehow holding out the re-energised Buccs despite Graham Lynch, Touhey and Cathal O’Grady all getting tantalisingly close. Eventually, NUIG buckled and skipper Fallon landed a fine late penalty to give his team the lead. College, coached by Colm Rigney, threw caution to the wind in the dying embers of the game and worked their way upfield but found Buccs defence in uncompromising mood as the Pirates held on for their narrow but merited victory.
This match was a serious workout for Buccaneers ahead of next Sunday’s Junior Cup final joust with Connemara. Subs Touhey and O’Neill could be late bolters for that duel while Daly and O’Connell were also influential in the keenly contested forwards battle. Fallon steadied his crew at fly-half with Robert Teape and Murphy-Sweeney the pick of the backs. NUIG had stalwart efforts from Oisin Halpin, Charlie Clarke and Alex Blake. The trophy was presented after the match to victorious captain Fallon by Adrian Leddy of the Connacht Branch.
BUCCANEERS:- A.Evans; M.McHale, R.Murphy-Sweeney, R.Teape, C.Rooney-Digan; G.Fallon (captain), G.Lynch; C.Fokam, Cian Daly, S.O’Connell; M.Tallon, F.Galvin; C.O’Grady, J.Scouler and L.Doyle. Replacements:-M.O’Neill (for Doyle, h/t), D.Touhey (for Scouler, h/t), E.O’Carroll (for Evans, 51 mins), J.Scouler (for Galvin, 63 mins), S.Flynn (for Fokam, 65 mins), L.Doyle (for O’Grady, 65 mins), N.Harney, S.Kroupa and K.Connolly.
NUI GALWAY:- F.O’Griofa; C.MacCuarta, R.Cleary, F.Conway, D.Burke; S.O’Grady, A.Blake; M.O’Griofa, O.Soden, P.Smyth; T.McCabe, F.McCall; D.Robb, C.Clarke and O.Halpin. Replacements used:- D.Johnson, S.Sheahan, C.Tuite, M.Prendergast and L.Melia.
Referee:- John Quinn (Connacht).