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Galwegians Stun Buccaneers With Comeback Victory

Galwegians Stun Buccaneers With Comeback Victory

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.

Both sides had personnel changes for this much-anticipated duel. Callum Boland returned in the centre for the hosts who also handed starts to Billy Henshaw and Martin Staunton, while 'Wegians were short three backs – Ciaran Gaffney, Caolin Blade and Jerome Harimate – from their last outing.

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Apart from a breeze which blew from the Bounty end, conditions were ideal and a lively tussle unfolded in which the performances and fortunes of both teams transformed as the contest progressed.

Buccs hit the ground running and Staunton took an early hit on halfway to send back rower Luke Satchwell racing forward where he outfoxed John Cleary to touch down for a try inside two minutes. Alan Gaughan converted before being short with a seventh minute penalty attempt.

Conroy's break for the visitors two minutes later was dealt with by Shane Layden. Diarmuid Higgins then snaffled possession following a 13th minute penalty to touch on the left and after going through a sustained spell of good interplay, Eoghan O'Reilly (pictured below) raced in on the right for a try which Gaughan also converted.

The try-scoring winger was soon busy defending with a tackle on Barry Lee and O'Reilly was involved again on 23 minutes when quick hands got the ball to him wide on the left but his offload to Evan Galvin was not sufficiently precise and the young flanker knocked on. This was a real try-scoring opportunity missed.

It was virtually all one-way traffic at this stage and the Blues were forced to bring down a dangerous maul but Gaughan missed the fairly straight-forward 27th minute penalty.

However, the out-half made amends four minutes later when his teasing diagonal kick was mishandled by Cleary – so often the tormentor of Buccs – and the harrying Henshaw gratefully accepted the gift to scurry in for an unconverted try in the right corner.

Six minutes from half-time, referee Leo Colgan had enough as Galwegians' penalty count mounted and he sin-binned Brian Murphy for hands in a ruck. Gaughan stroked over the penalty and Buccs were 22-0 to the good. Game surely done and dusted?

Not just yet, and when a Buccs clearance failed to make touch on the right 'Wegians made the most of a rare home error in the opening period with Lee's terrific offload to Brian McClearn (pictured below) creating a gap for the lock to rumble through for a try in the final move of the half.

Although replacement Aidan Moynihan did not add the conversion, this score in hindsight proved crucial for Matt Brown's table toppers.

Galwegians were much more urgent and industrious on the restart as they set about retrieving a bad situation. It was now their turn to enjoy some territory and home scrum half Mark Dolan was sent to the sin-bin on 45 minutes where he was joined by Galwegians replacement Doron McHugh four minutes later.

Kolo Kiripati put in some big hits now to keep Buccs' defensive wall secure but then became the fourth visitor to the sin-bin after the midlanders did not retreat ten metres from a 55th minute penalty. Moynihan's resulting penalty was the first score of the half.

Buccs had a real let-off when Murphy's 58th-minute pass to Gary O'Brien was forward and when the hour mark passed, it seemed that Galwegians chances were gone having made little impact on the scoreboard.

However, 'Wegians territory was rewarded on 64 minutes when McHugh barrelled through for a try which Conor Lowndes converted to make it 22-15 on the scoreboard.

Two minutes later, though, the try-scoring prop seemed to go from hero to zero when he incurred a second yellow card and, consequently, also saw red as the Tribesmen were reduced to 14 players for the remainder of the game.

Buccs, at last, responded to the second half challenge and snipes by Dolan, Gaughan, James Tormey and Henshaw seemed to reestablish their momentum.

However, in one of these surges forward, possession was wrestled free from the hosts and Lowndes, the talented Connacht Under-20 scrum half, darted down the left flank for a 73rd minute try (pictured below) which he also converted to bring 'Wegians level at 22-all.

This stung the Pirates and they battled back into the visitors' danger area, spurning one penalty award against the breeze to opt for a lineout in the right corner. A second penalty soon followed and Buccs pressed from an uncontested scrum before a third infringement – in a more favourable position – saw Gaughan go for goal.

The Athlone native, who won the man-of-the-match award, kept his composure to slot over what looked to be the winning score with 82 minutes on the clock.

However, despite having an extra player, Buccs failed to retrieve possession from the restart and Galwegians punished them with a swift counter attack to the right where Conroy squeezed in for a bonus point try in the corner.

This was the first time in the match that the visitors led and with the last kick of the match, Lowndes rubbed salt in home wounds with a splendid conversion to complete an amazing comeback and seal a memorable 29-25 triumph.

Buccs, who looked in fine form in the opening half, were utterly devastated by the outcome against their arch rivals.

The losing bonus point was poor consolation to Tony Dolan's charges, particularly in light of the two notable wins over Garryowen and Shannon that preceded this game, and they must now use the four-week league break to regroup and revitalise.

Referee: Leo Colgan (IRFU)