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Pirates Prevail Despite Three Yellow Cards

Pirates Prevail Despite Three Yellow Cards

Buccaneers again set up a nervous finish for their supporters before overcoming Shannon 27-17 in Saturday’s Ulster Bank League Division 1B duel at Coonagh.

Three yellow cards in the final quarter meant that the Athlone side had to dig deep to defend their advantage as Shannon sensed the chance to snatch an unlikely victory from the jaws of defeat.

The midlanders were leading 27-5 approaching the hour mark and looking like securing a bonus point victory before things began to unravel for them in a crazy ten-minute period.

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However, Tony Dolan's charges managed to nail down the hatches on the Pirates' ship in the closing stages for a fully deserved win.  
 
Buccaneers made three changes – all enforced – from their fine win over Garryowen. Conor Finn returned at centre in place of Callum Boland, who was on GAA duty with Doon.

In the pack, Garreth Halligan was unavailable with teenager Conor Morrissey making his first Ulster Bank League start at hooker, while another rookie Evan Galvin came in at wing forward for the injured Mata Fifita.

Shannon had five changes from their narrow loss to leaders Galwegians, the most notable being the returns of Ireland Under-19 winger Greg O'Shea and captain John Shine in the back row with Munster's Luke O'Dea available for bench duty.

Buccs had the first advantage of a breeze from the city end straight down the pitch and they were promptly on the offensive with Shane Layden's raid earning a penalty for not releasing and Alan Gaughan duly opened the scoring with the place-kick.

The home restart failed to go ten metres and at the resulting scrum, Shannon were in bother – a portent of things to come for them – but Gaughan missed this penalty. However, the home side strayed offside on six minutes and the Buccs out-half put the visitors 6-0 ahead.

But, from a lineout four minutes later, Shannon made headway and O'Shea somehow wriggled free to notch an unconverted try that left a couple of Buccaneers defenders with red faces.

Jacob Walshe almost forced a gap shortly afterwards, just before Layden again and Finn had snipes that set up Gaughan in a promising position and the out-half showed good strength and desire to surge over for a 15th minute try which he also converted.

Three minutes later, he was hindered in the air when jumping for a garryowen but, following his penalty to touch on the left, Shine intercepted to make serious ground before being stopped.

After 23 minutes, Conor Fitzgibbon dealt with a David O'Donovan grubber kick and then he regained possession to set Rory O'Connor scampering free from his own half past a couple of defenders for an excellently-taken try which Gaughan converted to widen the margin to 20-5.

It was nip and tuck for the remainder of the opening half with Rory O'Connor doing just enough to shunt O'Shea into touch and then lock James Tormey, who had flown in from America that morning, turned over possession inside his own 22.

Layden made another darting break on the left before Fitzgibbon's tackle stopped Geoff Ryan's attack in its tracks while, with the final kick before the interval, Gaughan missed a kickable penalty.
 
Armed with a 15-point buffer, Buccs took the game to Shannon from the restart and piled on increasing pressure with Layden again and Mark Dolan testing the resolve of the defence close to the home line. Shannon somehow survived this sustained spell with full-back O'Donovan hoofing the ball downfield six minutes in.

However, Eoghan O'Reilly fastened onto possession and created mayhem in the home defence with a mesmerising run before popping a delightful pass to Walshe (pictured below) and the prop was just not going to be stopped. Gaughan kicked a smashing conversion from the left touchline for a 27-5 scoreline.

The injured Gaughan was replaced by Ger O'Connor, who came on at scrum half with Dolan switching to the out-half position.

With both sides now ringing the changes, Buccs were not as efficient as they had been earlier while Shannon rallied following Shine's 56th-minute pushover try which Tadhg Bennett converted despite Rory O'Connor getting a hand to the ball.  

Buccs back rower Luke Satchwell incurred the first yellow card of the game for an offside infringement on 61 minutes. Four minutes later, Kolo Kiripati was sin-binned for a wild tackle on O'Dea and suddenly, matters were not so comfortable for the Pirates.

Soon afterwards, Shannon punted a penalty to the right corner and after securing lineout possession, another pushover effort saw replacement Liam Cronin touch down in the 66th minute. Bennett was unable to convert from close to the touchline, leaving it 27-17.

In the closing minutes, Layden was caught in possession and had strong claims for a relieving penalty but Scott Flanagan – on the pitch a mere six minutes – then slowed possession. The replacement hooker became the third Bucc to visit the sin-bin.

Shannon though missed out on the consolation of a losing bonus point, as the usually reliable Bennett missed a straightforward penalty kick.

Referee: Richard Kerr (IRFU)