Sligo 5 :: Buccaneers 22
A very strong Buccaneers side, containing four current AIL players, out-half, Simon Rolleston, club captain and No. 8, Aadrian Hanley, hooker, Gareth Halligan and second row, James Wilson, a product of Sligo’s under-age system, were clear-cut winners in this Connacht Junior 1 league game played in Hamilton Park on Sunday last.
This game underlines the farcical situation in this competion, whereby players who normally play in a league which is several standards higher than Connacht Junior 1, i.e. AIL Division 2, are allowed to participate in an AIL qualifying league, which is only of academic interest to them, but which is of critical importance to the junior clubs in the province. Indeed it will be interesting to see the composition of the team which Buccaneer’s will field in their next AIL Division 2 game against Bective Rangers on December 1st., but it can be regarded as probable that three, if not all four of the above named quartet, will play in that game. Certainly the liklihood of more than one of these players playing again in the Connacht Junior League this season is extremely remote.
The week-end’s rain ensured that the game was played in a virtual quagmire. To their credit both sides did their utmost to overcome the conditions and in the process served up some entertaining and enterprising fare. Sligo were without Peter Mullan, Gary Conneally and Julian Rippon, but welcomed back hooker, Ross Mannion for his first game of the season. Mullan’s line-out play and leadership were missed, and the re-arranged pack saw Adrian McHale revert to the second row and Ronan Gillespie move from No. 2 to his favourite loose-head position. Unsurprisingly, Sligo could never cope with their bigger, stronger and more experienced opponents up front, as Buccaneers’ victory was fashioned by a dominant pack and a quality out-half in Rolleston, who controlled the game from the pivotal No. 10 position.
The winners opened strongly and only a forward pass denied them a try after 4 minutes. They took the lead after 7 minutes when the powerful Halligan crashed over for a try, but Rolleston failed to add the points. This score roused Sligo and an inspirational break from scrum-half, Billy Leahy, set the backline in motion, and Cathal Culhane touched down for the equalising score. Full-back, Kakaber Machiditze was just wide with the difficult conversion.
Buccaneers enjoyed a period of supremacy after this, but some persistent infringements in the rucks were correctly penalised by the vigilant referee, John Montayne [Leinster Branch], so the Sligo line remained intact. In the 24th minute Machiditze had an opportunity to put his team ahead, but was off target with a 30 metre penalty. At this juncture, Mark Boland replaced Thomas Darcel, who was having difficulty coping with his physically imposing opposite number.
After 32 minutes Buccaneers regained the lead, and again their AIL players were in the vanguard. Halligan made the initial break and linked with club captain, Adrian Hanley,who burst through to score, with Rolleston converting. A great surging run from Mark Boland gave Sligo hope, but centre Stuart Dorran just could not link with the supporting Adrian McHale, when a try seemed likely. Just before the break Sligo’s tight head, Joe Kelly, was forced to retire due to injury, and was replaced by Ross O’Boyle.
Within 10 minutes of the restart, Sligo went further in arrears. Following a fine line-out take by James Wilson for the winners, Sligo went offside in the ensuing maul, and out-half, Rolleston expertly landed the kick. Buccaneers were now intent in rubbing salt into the wounds, and in the 57th minute, Rolleston again demonstrated his class as he split open the defence with a seering beak and touched down under the posts, and then landed the simple conversion. Buccaneers now led by 22-5. To their credit, Sligo fought to the end, and were unlucky not to add to their tally in the closing stages as Billy Leahy and Kakaber Machiditze both were just held up. In the final analysis it is surely significant that all of Buccaneers’ scores from their AIL trio, Halligan, Hanley and Rolleston, and it was simply a bridge too far for Sligo to have to compete against such top quality and experienced opponents.
Sligo’s most impressive performers on the day were David Greene, Ronan Gillespie, Billy Leahy, Adrian McHale and Simon Coulter.
Silgo: K. Machiditze, C.Culhane, S. Dorran, G. Foley, T. Darcel, R. Burrows, B. Leahy, R. Gillespie, R. Mannion, J. Kelly, A. McHale, T. Coulter, J. Sweeney, J. Livingstone [c.] , D. Greene. Subs: M. Boland for T. Darcel, R. O’Boyle for J. Kelly [inj.], A. Williams for R. O’Boyle.
Buccaneers: R. Walsh , J. Geraghty, P. Murphy, J. O’Connell, C. Molloy, S. Rolleston, D. Griffith, G. McGinn, G. Halligan, S. Stapleton, S. O’Rourke, J. Wilson, A. Hughes, A. Hanley, C. Watters.
Referee: Mr. John Montayne [Leinster Branch]
More photos from the match can be found here.