Galwegians’ stirring second half fight-back denied Buccaneers the Connacht derby spoils in Division 1B’s match of the day at Dubarry Park.
League leaders Galwegians came from 22 points down to win 29-25 in a dramatic finish in Athlone, with winger Colin Conroy claiming the match-winning try.
Galwegians looked in all sorts of trouble as three tries, coupled with centre Brian Murphy’s sin-binning, had Buccaneers 22-0 in front approaching half-time.
With the wind at their backs, the Pirates punctured a poor ‘Wegians defence with number 8 Luke Satchwell and winger Eoghan O’Reilly both touching down inside 14 minutes.
O’Reilly’s opposite number John Cleary then misjudged a bouncing ball to allow Billy Henshaw pick off a 32nd minute try. Murphy entered the sin two minutes later with Alan Gaughan converting the resulting penalty.
However, scrum half Barry Lee threw a lovely reverse pass to send former captain Brian ‘Beano’ McClearn over for a late try before the interval which got the visitors off the mark.
The third quarter was particularly scrappy with yellow cards for Buccaneers duo Mark Dolan and Kolo Kiripati along with ‘Wegians replacement Doron McHugh.
Gradually, the visitors’ bench began to have a say with Aidan Moynihan scoring a five-pointer and Conor Lowndes adding the extras to a 64th minute effort from McHugh.
Suddenly, Matt Brown’s wind-backed side were back in touch at 22-15 but the game took another twist when McHugh was flashed a second yellow card for a high tackle.
An injury to Galwegians skipper Ja Naughton led to uncontested scrums before Lowndes – the talented Connacht Under-20 scrum half – converted his own try to make it 22-all.
In a tense finale, Gaughan booted Buccaneers back in front but Conroy’s injury-time try, converted by Lowndes, saw unbeaten ‘Wegians pinch it right at the death.
Garryowen finished the first four-week run of matches with their third win, a 24-13 success away to Belfast Harlequins.
Head coach Conan Doyle featured at inside centre as the Light Blues built a 14-8 interval lead courtesy of three Jamie Gavin penalties and a Neil Cronin try.
In breezy conditions, ‘Quins replied with an unconverted score from Ulster prop Ricky Lutton to make it a one-point game.
The visitors produced the stronger finish, though, to stay third in the table. Out-half Gavin kicked another penalty and converted a 77th minute try from replacement prop Ben Rowley.
Garryowen’s arch rivals Shannon lifted their spirits with a much-needed 30-7 bonus point triumph away to out-of-sorts Corinthians.
Ian Sherwin’s young side have been something of a ‘second half team’ of late, but at Corinthian Park Shannon put together their most complete performance of the season to date.
A converted try from captain John Shine, on the stroke of half-time, had the visitors leading 13-7 and they kicked on over the closing 40 minutes with three more tries.
Number 8 Lee Nicholas scored the second from a close-in scrum and quick passing released left winger Stephen Fitzgerald for a 78th minute score. The bonus point followed from Greg O’Shea in injury-time.
Elsewhere, second-placed Ballymena secured their fourth victory on the trot by edging out UL Bohemians on a 30-23 scoreline at Thomond Park.
The Braidmen opened an 8-0 lead thanks to a James Beattie try and Ritchie McMaster penalty. A Rory White try helped UL close the gap to 11-10 and out-half Shane Airey had Bohs leading 13-11 early in the second half.
Crucially though, Ballymena soon took total control thanks to tries from Martin Irwin and Jordan Foster – the second of which McMaster converted.
Bohs responded with an Airey penalty, but a pinpoint kick from man-of-the-match McMaster created a second try for inside centre Irwin and McMaster followed up with the conversion. Near the end, prop Vinny O’Regan touched down to salvage a bonus point for the Limerick side.
Dublin University were back at their spiritual home this afternoon, playing on the new College Park pitch, and they marked their return with a well-judged 26-17 win over Malone.
It was Trinity’s first victory of the season and owed much to the place-kicking accuracy of Conor Kearns and Jack McDermott, who both kicked two penalties with the latter also scoring a try and two conversions.
Excellent out-half McDermott and flanker Brian du Toit scored second half tries for the students as they recovered from a 7-6 half-time deficit, watched by a partisan home crowd.
Rory Campbell – making the switch from full-back to the left wing this week – took his try haul for the campaign to four, but it was not enough to prevent Malone from slipping to their third straight loss.