Buccaneers have qualification for the Connacht Junior League Semi-Finals in their own hands next weekend after an unconvincing but nonetheless crucial 16-6 win away to Monivea at the Castle Ground last Sunday. A repeat performance against Westport, who are also challenging for the play offs, will not be good enough and Buccaneers face a big week that will define their season.

On a bitter cold but dry day that was perfect for rugby, Buccaneers were forced to change the entire starting backline from the previous week due to illness and other commitments and the disruption was clearly a factor in the ensuing display. Colin Daly returned to captain the team, with Jensen Nagle, Cameron Rooney-Digan and Ross Murphy-Sweeney making their first league starts. Rory Grenhan made a welcome return as hooker with Liam Doyle packing down at No8 in an otherwise unchanged pack from the previous week.

With both packs making plenty of errors, and both sets of backs happy to kick the ball at every opportunity, the first half was a dour affair. Buccaneers couldn’t find any rhythm or gear, and it took until injury time for Murphy-Sweeney to finally take the initiative and back himself with a fine break just short of the Monivea line. Buccaneers worked the ball well through the phases and Cathal O’Grady charged over the line for the only try of the half which was converted by Gerard Fallon. In the closing stages of the half, Monivea also had two players sent to the bin for separate incidents of deliberate offside and the teams entered half time with the visitors 7 points up and lots of reflection needed.

The second half however played out much the same with a high penalty count for both sides. Buccaneers were the better side and defensively never looked like they would concede, but it required centre Andy Evans to score 3 well taken penalties against 2 penalties for the homesters to see out the game with an important win on the road.

Coaches Paul Byrne and Benny Gilligan will take the positives. It was a solid defensive performance with Robert Teape particularly effective in the centre channel which had been a problem. The young backs who started will have learned from the outing and the squad were very resilient in managing the significant number of changes that were forced on the team. Man of the match was reserved for prop forward Sean O’Connell. Sadly, Sean had laid his grandad to rest the previous day, but in typical fashion wanted to play for his club in a key fixture, and he was a force in the scrum and loose.

Buccaneers now welcome Westport to Dubarry Park next Sunday in the final league fixture of the campaign. Results elsewhere may ensure a semi-final place for Buccaneers, but a win at home will guarantee it and third place in this highly competitive league. The group have worked hard over the last few months and, with players returning from last week, will hope to have enough to see the campaign out and reach the semi-finals.

BUCCANEERS:- Jensen Nagle; Cameron Rooney-Digan, Harry Balsiger, Robert Teape, Ross Murphy-Sweeney; Gerard Fallon, Colin Daly [capt]; Sean O’Connell, Rory Grenham, Cedric Fokam; Sam Kroupa, Fergus Galvin; Cathal O’Grady, Brian McDonnell and Liam Doyle. Replacements:- Trevor Thomson, Sean Flynn, Ross Flanagan, Michael McHale and Andrew Evans.