NUIG Women opened their Connacht League account on Friday with a dogged bonus point loss to Buccaneers on Friday night.
Two points separated the two teams 5-3 on full-time in Athlone’s Dubarry Park, NUIG unlucky not to come away with line honours denied a try after camping deep in Buccs territory halfway through the first and sending a penalty wide 13 minutes from the end.
That said, Buccaneers would have felt the more aggrieved surrendering four table points on home turf had they wound up adrift of the students in the finish.
NUIG launched into the game in heavy conditions on Dubarry buoyed by a confident demolition of Connacht newcomers Castlebar the week before. Buccaneers had the benefit of a league encounter under their belt already this winter and lingering memories of their Connacht Development Cup title only six months ago.
Katie Kilbane opened the account 22 minutes in with a penalty, and loose forward skipper Louise Fitzgerald, front rower Sharon Moran and fellow tight-fiver Rita Breen led the charge back into Buccs territory at the restart.
Mele Koropati for Buccaneers toiled well for the hosts, her voice rising above most others rallying her troops, but a failure to hoof the ball out of trouble meant NUIG rarely found themselves in their own half. To Buccs’ credit, they denied NUIG two near-certain scores and hit the break three points down.
The second half continued in much the same vein with most of the action confined to the ruck and maul, the set-piece and the fringe. Greasy conditions underfoot and the odd light rain squall meant running rugby would likely wait for another day.
Buccs turned over NUIG possession 12m from the visitors’ line and wasted no time is putting it through two sets of hands to expose weak tackling and a numbers advantage for the game’s only touchdown.
Kilbane’s educated right boot meant NUIG enjoyed some ascendancy in field position but a high-tackle 12 minutes from the finish forced her from the field. Buccaneers did everything they had to do to preserve the two point advantage on a night where tries were never forthcoming.
The Connacht Womens competition upped the ante this winter graduating from development status to Under19 rules. The new format allows for contested scrimmaging and with a few more clashes under their belts both sides look well-positioned to upset the once-rampant Sligo applecart on their day
By Luke O’Donnell