Buccaneers 15 :: Sligo 12
Sligo U-14 rugby team played Buccaneers U-14 in the semi-final of the Connaught League on Sunday last.
This game was originally scheduled to be played in Hamilton Park, Strandhill, but the pitch there was declared unplayable due to recent heavy rain. A decision was then taken to switch the game to Dubary Park, Athlone, home to Buccaneers R.F.C. It must be said that the playing surface that this game played on was anything but suitable for playing rugby.
Right from the kick-off the indications were that this was going to be a tough, low scoring game. Both teams got stuck-in; with neither side prepared to concede any ground in very difficult playing conditions. Conditions ensued that classy rugby was not going to be seen. Ball handling and delivery was fraught with danger, resulting in errors made on both sides. The end result was penalties conceded.
The opening score of the game came after 7 minutes of play. Sligo worked the ball towards the Buccaneers 22 metre line when fullback Kieran Blake collected and passed to his left to second row player Diarmuid Oâ€™Dowd-Hill. He in turn carried before passing outside to the speeding winger James Mullen. As is often the case with this type of movement Mullenâ€™s run was unstoppable and he crossed the tryline at speed to register the first try of the game. The conversion from Blake left the score 7 â€“ 0 to Sligo.
Buccaneers piled on the pressure from the kick-off. They werenâ€™t going to give in that easily. They rucked and mauled to good effect, something they did throughout the game. Their opening try came from such play. From close to the Sligo 22 metre line their centres quickly moved the ball along the left of the back-line where Sligo cover was sparse. Sligo backs had already been sucked infield. The left winger showed his speed to score a good try in the corner. The difficult conversion was unsuccessful to leave the score 7 â€“ 5 to Sligo.
It was now nip and tuck for the remainder of the first half. Another profitable passage of play from Sligo came close to half time when team captain, Will Weaver, playing at out-half, delivered a good pass to second centre Michael Martin. He in turn delivered a telling pass to the in rushing Kieran Blake wide on the right who crossed the try line near the corner flag. The difficult conversion was unsuccessful to leave the score at half time 12 â€“ 5 to Sligo.
The second half commenced with Buccaneers exerting considerable pressure on the entire Sligo team. Indeed Sligo rarely got out of their own half of the pitch such was the pressure they were under.
This pressure resulted in a second try for Buccaneers scored on the right near the corner flag after 5 minutes. The score was now 12 â€“ 10 to Sligo but the pressure was really on as Buccaneers began to grow in confidence and move in for the kill.
Rare incursions over the half way line by Sligo came to nought as Buccaneers defended tigerishly and when in possession of the ball they moved it quickly across the backline. Opportunities now opened up which often resulted in penalties conceded by Sligo. A third try resulted after conceding such a penalty when in a quick thinking movement the ball was passed along the left hand side and the try line was breached again. The unsuccessful conversion left the score 15 â€“ 12 to Buccaneers. Try as they may Sligo could not register another score and it was to stay like this for the remainder of the game.
The league is now over for this panel of players but the big prise, the cup, is yet to come and there is no doubt that they will have a big say in the outcome of that competition. With the right attitude and application there is no reason to prevent this talented squad from going the whole way when that time comes along.
Sligo: Kieran Blake, Enda Roche, Michael Martin, Eoin Flanagan, James Mullen, Will Weaver (Capt.), Enda Gavin, Philip Moriarty, Martin Davey, Matthew Davey, Jonathan Draper, Diarmuid Oâ€™Dowd-Hill, Sean Donnelly, Robert Smith, Martin Clarke.
Replacements: James Rooney, Ben Spelman, Patrick Saba, David Verdon, David Heffernan, Caomhan Lyons, Jack Kennedy, Brian Simon, Ryan Coyne.
More photos from the game can be found here.