Buccaneers RFC 31 V St Mary’s College RFC 24
Energia AIL Division 1B
Saturday 28th January 2023.
Part good, part not so good, but to come from 21-3 down and end up with a losing bonus point, away to the league leaders, can’t be bad and tells a lot, about this team. This was in spite of losing charismatic and inspirational captain, Ronan Watters after 33 minutes. We also lost lively, attacking fullback, Mark Fogarty (12 minutes), and quicksilver centre, Ryan O’Loughlin (34 minus) to injury. Okay, there were errors, still too many penalties, and lapses of concentration, but there was sparkle, there was courageous determination, fitness, and there was skill. They need consistency and they may not be quite there yet, but will be, no doubt. It has to be realised too, that over half the Buccaneers team were either in Connacht development or academy contracts. The St Marys’ rucking was good today against hefty opposition, and as ever, the scrum was strong against a monster pack. As required, the team stood toe to toe. The front row, as well as scrummaging, worked hard all round, with Adam commendable as ever, Tommer coming back to his best and both Dan and Jack strong when introduced. Our two hookers put in heavy sweat shifts today and will be glad of a Sunday rest. The two lads in the row, Liam and Harry rowed in with their hard shift, Harry starting today, took his chance well. From the time of Ned Carmody and Nicky Corrigan, St Marys have always had a top class back row and so it continues. Daniel Leane was superb, he was multi-locational, while doing the hard work in lineouts and mauls, he is a very fine player, with skill, pace and hard graft. Ethan Baxter is a true open-side, he is impervious to peril as he whirrs around like a Tasmanian-devil. He had an active afternoon. Niall Hurley gave a top-class display, he is a clever, brave player and his positional play is excellent, he has that knack of being where he is most needed and then doing the right thing, he had a high tackle rate, carried well, and made a notable contribution to the game.
The halves kept the game moving well today, with Richard Fahy is settling in well now and gave a good service today to vital Deano, who kept variation on the game and his deft chip led to Conor Hickey’s excellent try.
Every game, Mick O’Gara is there, quietly doing the right thing, taking the heavy hits, skilfully moving on the ball as exigencies dictate, or carrying the ball with venom; or sealing his corridor. Today he was at his best, and scored two vital tries, with élan. He is a treasure and was worth a king’s ransom today. He was awarded the SoftCo MoM Award.
His partner Ryano was working well and showing his prestidigitation to promising effect, but had to part early just after a half hour due to injury, he was replaced by Conor Hickey, who fitted in snugly and used his footballing skills to good effect to score a quality try. Both wingers were active today as they went looking for work in attack and covered well in defence. Stephen Kilgallen moved to full back when injury forced off Mark Fogarty and later Ryano. Adam McEvoy then, normally a scrumhalf, covered as a winger and did all asked of him.
On a drizzly afternoon, Buccs kicked off. Buccs have a really big well drilled team with an exceptionally muscular maul and effective lineout. Their kicking game is first class and their defence tight. From that kick off the visitors clearance kick was blocked. A defensive ruck was formed and the ball cleared to near the 22. Unfortunately, a maul was formed from the lineout, then a series of pick and drives, the ball went out and was kick-passed to the far, right wing O’Connor who ran in for a try, converted. 7-0. Two minutes later Mick O’Gara made it 7-3 with a neat penalty. On only seven minutes an offside penalty gave them a lineout on five metres out and they mauled a try, converted, 14-3. On the half hour mark, from a Buccs lineout on the St Marys 22, Buccs broke and their 8 taking an impressive counter-flow vector, broke the Marys defence, to score a converted try: 21-3. A few minutes later, Marys won a Buccs scrum, Niall Hurley picked from the base and fed it out; after several probes, Deano did his speciality chip and, Conor Hickey now on, used his footballing skills to tap the ball over and win the race to touch down. We had been coming more into the game and deservedly drew nearer, 21-10. Half Time
Second-Half, St Marys kicked off and within a minute, from their own 22, Buccs made a break to near the visitors’ line. They recycled the ball and another kick-pass followed, again to right winger O’Connor, who beat the defence to score in the corner, 28-10. Marys became more and more competitive, and on the hour mark had a lineout on the Buccs’ 22. An effective maul ensued that was illegally brought down, a penalty to the corner followed. From the take and ensuing ruck, Richard Fahy fed the dynamic Mick O’Gara who dived in under the cover, 28-17. Five minutes later Buccs took a penalty 31-17. And on 72 minutes, Buccs gave away a penalty for not releasing, when trying to run out from their own line. From 12 metres out, daring, Daniel Leane took a quick tap and was just stopped short, it was recycled and at Mk2, Mick came hurtling in again and scored at the posts. 31-24, earning the losing bonus. Marys were now on the trail, and worked hungrily to get that draw or win. However, it was not to be and so it ended. 31-24.
There is a considerable break now until 18th February before our next AIL game. Although we may lose some of the momentum, it will give a chance to players, hors de combat to get back. Although, it is not likely that stars out, like Michael McCormack, Niall McEniff and Craig Kennedy will be ready. It will also allow refinement of moves and plays. The pieces are slotting in with the dedicated work of Sean Cronin and colleagues; and Ronan has built a real team bond. There seems to be a special camaraderie within this group. It is heartening to note the number of senior players attending the J1 games. Every game you will see Club Skipper Ronan, Hugo Conway, Mark Fogarty and Craig Kennedy and often Harry MacDonald and others, in support of their colleagues. Often we forget that these lads are amateurs and we can be over critical, impatient or demanding of them. Being amateurs and not spending working days practising, they are bound to make slips.
We must all embrace our future together, as we face changes in many ways. We often forget too, that the president Gareth, and his entire committee, who work almost full time for us, are amateurs, as are DoR Alan, and his rugby committee. Maybe we should thank them now and then.
That break in AIL, well use it to think about getting more involved in your club and spread the load, there are so many skills needed. Also you can practise your singing and chanting Marys-Marys-Marys , but whatever it may be, resolve to get to every remaining AIL game and meantime you might attend a couple of junior games; they are very entertaining and more skilful than you may think, they are a really vital part of the club and rugby football. Be ready, so when we face Naas on the 18th you will come and Roar on Ronan.
Team (12 rolling changes)
15 M Fogarty, 14 H Conway, 13 R O’Loughlin, 12 M O’Gara,11 S Kilgallen, 10 C Dean, 9 R Fahy, 8 R Watters (Capt.), 7 E Baxter, 6 D Leane, 5 L Corcoran, 4 H MacDonald, 3 T O’Reilly, 2 S O’Brien,1 A Mulvihill. R Halpin, Dan Lyons, J Reidy Walsh, N Hurley, A McEvoy, C Hickey.