Buccaneers U-20’s edge closer to top of League
Buccaneers edged to within 5 points of league leaders St Mary’s College, when they overcame a very physical Navan side in the JP Fanagan Leinster U20 Premier League at Balreask Old in Navan on Sunday. The starting pack saw two changes from the previous week, with Fergus Galvin moving to his more familiar role in the second row where he linked up with Jack Scouler and Cathal O Grady starting at blindside flanker. The backline was unchanged and Bradley Nealon made his first appearance for the club from the bench.
Weather conditions were pleasant even if the pitch was understandably heavy and it was clear from the very outset that the match would be a real arm wrestle. Navan have been a bit inconsistent through the season, but they boast a strong pack and a very dynamic hard running back line. Buccaneers set up to come up fast in defence and stifle the Navan possession and running threat. The opening score came off a Buccaneers error when the ball was brought back after a clearance from out-half Mikey Byrne. The Navan lineout was clean, and they showed early physical intent to maul over the visitors’ line for the opening try on 5 minutes. With the conversion missed, Buccaneers needed to regroup quickly. Wing Danny Ennis then left the field on 10 minutes with a bad shoulder injury, and Nealon entered the fray for his debut. Possession ebbed and flowed, and Buccaneers looked a bit out of sorts but a penalty from Stephen Mannion brought up the first points mid-way through the half. It was to be the last score and the home team had a 5-3 advantage at the break.
The second half saw Buccaneers take more of a grip on the game and they began to dominate the set piece exchanges where again the lineout and scrum were a real platform. 10 minutes in, and after a number of dominant phases of scrums, Darren Browne took matters in his own hands, and with a dink tap and go, he powered over for a try. Mannion missed the difficult conversion, leaving the home team very much in contention. As the clock entered the final quarter, Buccaneers needed a score to reflect their possession and it came with 10 minutes left. Off another well executed lineout, Byrne took the ball, neatly dummied the cover, and cantered over for a fine try. On this occasion, Mannion nailed the conversion. With a 10-point advantage, Buccaneers kept a strong discipline and closed out the game. The final whistle was a relief as not many teams at this grade can come away from Navan with a win. The Buccaneers bench, rotated on through the second half, were all key contributors and each brough a fresh energy when introduced.
It was a game of two halves, and Buccaneers need to find a greater level of game management and consistency from the off. Encouragingly however is the realization that the squad have more to offer and training on Thursday night will have an added zip and focus. Best of the backs on the day was Nealon who had a fine debut and was unlucky not to get on the scoresheet. All of the pack were strong and delivered as a unit. The win brings Buccaneers to within 5 points of leaders St Marys College who visit Dubarry Park at the end of January. Before that, Buccaneers travel to local rivals Galwegians / Oughterard at Crowley park next Sunday. This really is a key game and an opportunity for Buccaneers to avenge the start of season qualifier loss to the same opposition. It will be very tight and a real test of character, but the group are building nicely and if they demand more consistency, they have enough quality to keep the winning momentum going another week.
BUCCANEERS:- R Venter; D Ennis, D Mulvihill, S Mannion, H Balsiger; M Byrne, N Horan; C Daly, D Browne (Captain), H O’Reilly; F Galvin, J Scouler; C O Grady, M O’Neill and L Winnett. Replacements:- C Forkin, L Laoshvilli, K Connolly, G Catarino, D McNamara, B Nealon, R Dempsey and E Gallagher.