Pirates put Sligo to the sword to recapture League title
Buccaneers 63-21 Sligo
Buccaneers captured their first Connacht Senior League title since 2007 when they continued their immensely promising start to the season with a comfortable victory over Sligo at Strandhill on Friday night.
The Pirates claimed a rich bounty of 177 points and 26 tries as new head coach Brett Wilkinson stuck to his word in utilising 38 players in the process to give his squad game-time to stake claims for starting berths ahead of the Ulster Bank League.
With no floodlights at the north-western venue, the match kicked off ahead of the scheduled time and Buccs already had a number of tries in the bag by the time some of their supporters accessed the ground.
Buccs started with just five of the players who had helped demolish Galwegians for this tricky tie but the Athlone side quickly settled to the task on hand against a Sligo outfit not yet as advanced in their preparations for the AIL campaign.
Rory O'Connor capitalised on a half-break by Ben Carty to open the scoring with an early try and Ronan Farrell quickly followed up with a second from outside the 22 after the Pirates had gone through a series of phases.
O'Connor continued his rich vein of try-scoring when he broke from halfway to steam in for Buccs' third (and his fifth of the season) before Sligo opened their account with a mauled try.
Despite an injury to Callum Boland, Buccaneers' swift movement again unlocked the Sligo defence when Graham Lynch scooted in for a try while, following a scrum on the right, possession was switched to the left where Shane Layden steamed in for Buccs' fifth touchdown of the first half.
Carty, operating at out-half on this occasion, converted all five tries to put his side in a strong 35-7 lead at the interval.
On the restart the beefier home pack caused some discomfort for the young Buccs forwards and James Foley and Paul Gallogly were sin-binned in quick succession for slowing the ball.
With a temporary two-player advantage, Sligo were soon awarded a penalty try and for a brief spell it seemed that maybe the hosts would spoil the occasion for their visitors with the score now 35-14.
However, Buccs promptly struck back with their high-tempo game carving open Sligo as Sam McCormack capped his first appearance of the season with a try at the posts.
Sligo battled on to be rewarded with their third try, scored in the right corner, to make it 42-21. But Buccs went from double to treble scores with a strong finish that yielded a further trio of tries.
Carty dotted down at the posts following more enterprising play and Eoghan O'Reilly finished off further exciting wing-to-wing endeavour with a try.
Teenage Corkonian Foley, who has displayed incredible commitment (as have his chauffeuring parents!), rounded off the nine-try haul in the final move of the match and fly-half Carty maintained his 100 per cent return from conversions to complete the 63-21 tally that confirmed that the title was destined for the midlands.
Carty and Lynch dovetailed neatly at half-back and O'Connor's pace and poaching ability ensure he is a strong contender for AIL selection.
A youthful pack, ably led by Martin Staunton, fared reasonably well with Scott Flanagan, Ruairi Byrne and Farrell prominent.
Connacht Branch president Gerry O'Donnell presented victorious captain Staunton with the magnificent league trophy after the match with Buccs, who are also Cup holders, now top of the crop in the province.
BUCCANEERS - S Layden; R O'Connor, C Boland, A Hayman, E O'Reilly; B Carty, G Lynch; M Staunton (captain), S Flanagan, R Grenham; R Byrne, J Foley; S McCormack, R Farrell and P Gallogly Reps: D Fagan for Boland (inj 30 mins), C McGrath for Flanagan, R O'Meara for Grenham, G Fallon for Lynch and B Farrell for R Farrell.