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Buccs Claim Connacht Derby Spoils

Buccs Claim Connacht Derby Spoils

Despite playing with only 14 men from the end of the opening quarter, Buccaneers put in a storming and sustained effort to outpoint Galwegians 12-6 in a gritty Ulster Bank League 1B encounter in front of the biggest crowd of the season at Dubarry Park.

This spirited victory, in total contrast to their previous outing at UCC, elevated the Hendre Marnitz-coached midlanders to top of Division 1B ahead of Saturday's matches.

Conditions were perfect for playing and spectating with the floodlit kick-off for this game encouraging a big attendance who got a typical derby, passionate and unrelenting to the very end, and full value for the modest admission fee.

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Teenager Diarmuid Higgins started at tighthead prop for the Pirates who welcomed back Jack Carty at out-half with Adam Kennedy switching to centre and Conor Finn also made his first start on the left wing where he was in direct opposition to his brother Paddy.

Incidentally, both clubs' Presidents had sons in the respective back-lines, Carty for Buccs and Tadhg Leader for 'Wegians.

Concerns about Buccs' scrum were raised inside the opening minute, pressure from Galwegians yielding a penalty that Leader converted for an early lead.

Minutes later, referee Sean Gallagher penalised Shane Layden for a lunging tackle inside the visitors' 22. Buccs levelled after nine minutes when the westerners infringed at a scrum, Carty duly slotting over the penalty.

Captain Kolo Kiripati then gave a hint of what was to follow with a rampaging charge that lifted the home fans, but Buccs were in trouble again at scrum time shortly afterwards. Leader's place-kick was off target though.

The most contentious incident in the game occurred in the 21st minuts, this time Layden being the victim of a rash challenge with David Heffernan, after consultation with an assistant referee, being deemed guilty of a spear tackle in the ensuing play.

The Buccs flanker received a straight red card. Leader again failed to convert the penalty but now Buccs had a real uphill battle on their hands.

However, this setback seemed to get the hosts' dander up and they piled forward, forcing a 30th minute penalty that Carty landed to take the lead.

Five minutes later, the combined forces of Martin Staunton and Eoghan Grace tempted 'Wegians to go offside and Carty added his third penalty, a real beauty to give Buccs a 9-3 advantage at the break.

Within a minute of the restart, Carty scuffed a central penalty and nine minutes later he made a better attempt from a similar position but shaved the wrong side of the left upright to leave the game still finely balanced.

Buccs continued to dominate but a 57th minute lineout went awry and suddenly 'Wegians gained their first real foothold in the home half during the second period.

This yielded four successive five-metre scrums for the visitors with depleted Buccs defending heroically. Kiripati, leading like a captain should from start to finish, suddenly came driving out with possession to lift the siege.

A melee followed this with Barry Lee somewhat fortunate that, following a conference of the match officials, he incurred only a yellow card for a foul on Carty.

Buccaneers now pushed forward again and were camped on the 'Wegians 22 line, only for disciplined defending to deny them further progress.

Teenager Higgins put in a crunching tackle on Brian Murphy as 'Wegians rallied before Leader converted a close range penalty to set up a nail-biting final six minutes.

But Buccs responded well and their pack will savour squeezing their opponents at a 76th minute scrum on the left and Carty judged the resultant penalty perfectly to complete the scoring at 12-6.

Then in added time, his clearance under pressure went to the one Galwegian that home fans did not want anywhere near the ball, as dangerous full-back and skipper John Cleary hared from 22 to 22 before he was nailed and with it went the visitors' last chance.

This may not have been a game for the purists but it was real edge of the seat stuff, broadcast live online via the Irish Rugby TV cameras.

As expected, no quarter was asked or given but Buccs collectively worked harder throughout and their endeavours gained due reward.

Buccs' tackling was immense and their will and heart a joy to behold, epitomised by Kiripati's man-of-the-match contribution with rousing breaks, thundering tackles and never a step backwards.

Grace, Daniel Qualter, Layden and Mark Dolan also put in serious shifts but, in reality, this was a true team display by Buccaneers. Cleary and Leader mainly caught the eye for Galwegians.

This game doubled as a qualifier to be Connacht's representatives in the semi-final of the prestigious Ulster Bank Bateman Cup competition.

Buccaneers now have home advantage against Munster Senior Cup winners Garryowen at Dubarry Park in next Saturday's All-Ireland semi-final.

Referee: Sean Gallagher (IRFU)