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Buccaneers Beat Blues In Six-Try Thriller

Buccaneers Beat Blues In Six-Try Thriller

Buccaneers and Garryowen served up a six-try thriller in which Buccs held their collective nerve to claim a 25-22 Division 1B victory at sun-soaked Dubarry Park.

The Pirates were worthy of the spoils for they were the more ambitious side overall and then displayed steely resolve to hold on in a frenetic finish.

Both teams made changes from their opening day fixtures. Garryowen made three alterations with Buccs having five personnel plus some positional changes for this Dubarry of Ireland-sponsored match played in warm sunshine.

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The hosts had first benefit of a breeze that was a growing influence as the game progressed. Mark Dolan led out Buccaneers in the absence of injured captain Alex Hayman, for whom Conor Fitzgibbon proved an able deputy in the centre, with Shane Layden starting at full-back.

Hooker Garreth Halligan was lured back from a brief retirement with Jacob Walshe coming in at loosehead prop. Connacht's Mata Fifita also made his first start at blindside flanker.

Tony Dolan's men were  utterly transformed from the dismal display at Malone and came hurtling out of the starting blocks.

Ex-Garryowen back Alan Gaughan and Callum Boland almost combined in unorthodox fashion to unlock the visitors' defence in the opening minute. It took Buccs just a further three minutes to do that after Garryowen failed to make touch with a clearance from a scrum.

Rory O'Connor gathered possession on the right to launch a counter attack that was excellently finished by inside centre Fitzgibbon for an unconverted try on the left.

Virtually from the restart, Fifita secured good ball and the Pirates were swiftly raiding again where Layden deftly dummied and surged forward before offloading to Halligan who darted in for a superb seventh minute try on the left which Gaughan converted for a 12-0 lead.

Four minutes later, the Light Blues were in trouble again but Buccs lock and man-of-the-match Josh O'Rourke knocked on when closing in on the try-line.

Jamie Gavin opened Garryowen's account with an 18th minute penalty after Buccs were guilty of not releasing, but within two minutes Buccs replied with Gaughan stroking a place-kick over.

A sublime 70-metre kick to touch by Boland put Garryowen on the back foot again and Buccs continued to pressurise them with the impressive Fifita powering forward to force a penalty.

Mark Dolan's quick tap and go was halted just short of the line but, as Garryowen had not retreated ten metres, Gaughan drilled over the resulting penalty for an 18-3 advantage.

It could have been even worse for Garryowen by half-time as Lorcan Bourke failed to deal with a teasing Gaughan chip ahead but the home out-half overran the loose ball and a gift-wrapped try against his former club went a-begging.

Garryowen grabbed a lifeline early in the second period when James Tormey was, somewhat harshly, sin-binned after 51 minutes. Aaron McCloskey drove forward and seemed to take the wrong option when holding onto possession but the Limerick side recycled possession from right to left where winger James Frawley got in for a try which Gavin converted.

As the exchanges became more physical, Billy Henshaw had to be alert, quick and brave to prevent a Garryowen score. Nonetheless, the visitors continued to turn the screw while they had temporary numerical superiority.

A quick break from the back of a 61st minute scrum was capitalised on by the Munster-capped Barry O'Mahony for a try that narrowed the margin to 18-15.

But with Tormey back to the fray, Buccaneers again got a foothold in opposition territory where Gaughan punted a penalty to the left. From the lineout, Buccs retained possession until Fifita rampaged hard up the middle and, from his pass, Dolan cutely outfoxed the Garryowen defence to ghost in at the posts for a 65th minute try which Gaughan converted.

The visitors continued to battle and Frawley somehow evaded two Buccaneers defenders in a tight space to dot down for his second try in the right corner, Gavin's fine conversion tightening the arrears to 25-22 with nine minutes remaining.

Buccs answered back with some more good work that yielded a kickable 75th minute penalty but Gaughan's effort against the wind lacked conviction.

Although Garryowen finished with a determined salvo to make it a nervous finish for the home support, Buccs maintained their composure, discipline and work-rate to the very end and deservedly held on for their maiden league win.

* One minute's silence was observed before kick-off in memory of Buccaneers club member John Brennan and Garryowen junior coach Joe Hassett who both died recently.

Referee: Oisin Quinn (IRFU)