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Galwegians Finish On Top In Tight Connacht Derby

Galwegians Finish On Top In Tight Connacht Derby

Centre Gary O’Brien struck for the decisive try while Connacht’s Shane Layden was in the sin-bin as table toppers Galwegians beat Buccaneers 12-6 in a tightly-contested Division 1B derby at Crowley Park.

On a night when the most extreme weather conditions were forecast but happily did not fully materialise, Buccaneers took on leaders Galwegians in a crunch Ulster Bank League floodlit fixture.

Despite the stiff and swirling chilly breeze, a decent crowd attended in Glenina where 'Wegians came from behind for a thoroughly deserved six-point victory to maintain their one-point advantage at the top of the table.

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Both sides had changes from the previous month's Connacht Senior Cup final in which Buccs prevailed. The midlanders' pack underwent an enforced near total transformation including the absence of their Ireland Under–20s Rory Moloney and Stephen McVeigh as well as the non-availability of Daniel Qualter, Mata Fifita and Conor Finn.

Buccs had first benefit of the elements of breeze and slope and got a near immediate opportunity to open the scoring, but Callum Boland scuffed a kickable penalty attempt. 'Wegians out-half Aidan Moynihan was also off target in the 10th minute.

At this stage, the midlanders were feeling early pressure in the scrum, facing the bulky home unit. Both sides made positive efforts to run the ball as they each counter-attacked at will with the hosts' mishandling negating an overlap.

Approaching the end of the first quarter, Buccs opened the scoring when Alan Gaughan slotted over a fine penalty from near the touchline. For Galwegians, John Cleary was probing at every opportunity while young Connacht scrum half Caolin Blade was equally dangerous.

However, 'Wegians prop and captain Jarleth Naughton was sin-binned on the half hour mark for a breakdown infringement and a Gaughan penalty edged the visitors 6-0 ahead approaching the interval. David Butler then put in a tremendous piece of work to deny his previous club a try just before half-time and keep Buccs six points clear.

On the restart, Galwegians pressed forward with their dominance in the tight. They kept Buccs penned deep in their own half and Billy Henshaw incurred a harsh sin-binning for a careless tackle when the Buccs winger was seemingly pushed from behind.

Eventually the pressure told and Blade's sniping run sent Rory Parata in for a try on the left with Moynihan adding a fine conversion to put Matt Brown's men 7-6 ahead.

Shane Layden, one of Buccs' most effective attackers, was steady all night under the high ball but he incurred a yellow card for a deliberate knock-on. Cumulative cracks were now appearing as a result of home pressure and dwindling Buccs resources.

Shortly after the hour mark, replacement Gary O'Brien broke through on the right for an unconverted try and a 12-6 advantage. Moynihan missed another penalty effort that left the margin delicately balanced but, in truth, Buccs could never make any real headway out of their own territory in the second period.

Galwegians duly went on to record a league double over their Connacht rivals and while the winning margin should really have been far more comfortable, they have regained their momentum to maintain their position at the summit as the league approaches the finishing straight.

Buccs' own aspirations of a fourth successive top four finish are now all but expired. However, the gritty manner of salvaging a losing bonus point will stand them in good stead as they prepare for the forthcoming Bateman Cup semi-final joust at home to Cork Constitution.

Referee: Gary Conway (IRFU)