Bonus point win moves Buccs up to third


BUCCANEERS made a swift return to winning ways when they proved too strong for Nenagh Ormonde in their Energia All-Ireland League Division 2A match played at Dubarry Park, Athlone, on Saturday. The midlanders 26-14 bonus point victory moves them up to third place while the Tipperary club are just one spot off the bottom. This fixture, sponsored by Dubarry of Ireland, also commemorated the late John McCormack from Toomevara who played initially with Nenagh before later playing with Athlone following his transfer there due to work.

Buccs, smarting from their loss away to Ballymena, made three changes with James Kelly starting in the front row in place of the unavailable Charlie Ward while Thomas McGann and Adam Flanagan replaced Ross Murphy-Sweeney and Eoin O’Reilly respectively in the backs. Nenagh, whose Tipperary derby against Cashel fell victim to Covid-19, rejigged their pack with Ben Armitage coming in at hooker and captain John O’Flaherty switching to No.8 in place of former Buccaneer John Hayes who was ruled out through injury.

Even though the visitors had been inactive the previous week, they made the better start in ideal conditions and aided by an influential breeze in front of a decent attendance. They took a 2nd minute lead with Fionn McGibney’s penalty punishing a high tackle by Tabo Maree. The Nenagh outhalf doubled the advantage to 6-0 with a 19th minute penalty earned when Flanagan was deemed guilty of a late tackle.

Buccs were distinctly sluggish for the opening quarter away to Ballymena and it took them almost as long on Saturday to get some real momentum, eventually initiated by a turnover by Evan Galvin. Now it was the hosts turn to apply pressure but they took a wrong option following a lineout on the left close to the Ormonde line. However, they maintained territory and Maree’s 27th minute charge for the line was held up short but Michael Hanley changed the direction of attack with a smartly lofted diagonal ball to the right corner where McGann did well to notch a try. Hanley added an excellent touchline conversion to edge the Pirates 7-6 ahead.

But almost immediately McGibney’s third successful penalty nudged the Hoops back into the lead on the half-hour. Five minutes later Shane Layden powered forward through a number of tackles in which James Finn came off second best. The young centre was forced off and his enterprising play was a loss to the visitors. Following a typical Martin Staunton shunt forward, Buccs earned a penalty that was punted to the Bounty corner. Danny Qualter soared highest to win lineout ball and Ciaran Booth thundered through the cover for an unconverted try that gave Buccaneers a 12-9 advantage at half-time.

Both teams began to ring the changes after the break but Buccs were now becoming more dominant as the contest progressed. 12 minutes into the second half, the Shannonsiders switched play from flank to flank before Rory O’Connor weaved his way in for an excellent try which Hanley converted. Nenagh had a chance to reduce the arrears five minutes later but McGibney’s penalty kick rebounded off an upright.

Buccs looked like scoring a fourth try on 59 minutes after Ruadhri Fallon’s nifty footwork sent O’Connor away but on this occasion the home winger was held up over the line. With ten minutes remaining a promising raid by the Pirates came to nought when the final grubber kick was hit a shade too strongly. However, the bonus point try finally arrived on 74 minutes after the home pack did the necessary work at a scrum from which O’Reilly peeled away to combine smartly with ‘AUDI ATHLONE Man of the Match’ Hanley. From his pass McGann arced in at pace for a try which Hanley duly converted.

Nenagh Ormonde gained some consolation with a final move unconverted try by Patrick Scully who skipped past two defenders to touchdown wide on the right. The Munster side, after a promising start, were second best in most facets with the yellow clad hosts getting a firm grip on the forwards exchanges. The O’Flaherty brothers and the abrasive Rob Buckley toiled earnestly in the pack to stem the tide with McGibney, Finn (until injured) and Peter Coman doing their utmost in the backline.

But Buccaneers were the slicker and sharper outfit in this joust in which their pack became more dominant the longer the contest progressed. Here Qualter, Maree and Booth were highly effective and the front row trio in which Kelly made the most of his start really got a grip on the proceedings. Galvin and Ruairi Byrne also played their parts in this well balanced victory. In a lively backs unit, Hanley continues to flourish while another youngster Fallon is a quality prospect and McGann showed his potential with a brace of tries.

The sporting match proved a fitting tribute to the late John McCormack and it was good that not everything about club rugby relates to the AIL and that memories and traditions were revived on this occasion. After the match Nuala McCormack presented the Cup that commemorates her late husband John to victorious Buccaneers captain Evan Galvin.

BUCCANEERS:- R.Fallon; R.O’Connor, S.Layden, S.Mannion, T.McGann; M.Hanley, A.Flanagan; J.Kelly, D.Adamson, M.Staunton; R.Byrne, D.Qualter; C.Booth, E.Galvin (captain) and T.Maree. Replacements:- E.O’Reilly (for Flanagan, h/t), S.O’Connell (for Kelly, 62 mins), D.Browne (for Adamson, 62 mins), R.Murphy-Sweeney (for O’Connor, inj. 64 mins), K.Kiripati (for Maree, 71 mins), J.Kelly (for Staunton, 71 mins) and K.Kiripati (for Galvin, temp. 15/18 mins).

NENAGH ORMONDE:-P.Coman; W.Coffey, C.McMahon, J.Finn, P.Scully; F.McGibney, N.Irwin; C.Muldoon, B.Armitage, C.Ryan; K.O’Gorman, K.O’Flaherty; J.O’Keeffe, R.Buckley and J.O’Flaherty (captain). Replacements:- D.Dunne (for Muldoon, 28 mins), C.Moylan (for Finn, inj. 35 mins),C.Muldoon (for Ryan, 48 mins), N.O’Gorman (for B.Armitage, 48 mins), C.Ryan (for Dunne, 68 mins), M.Armitage (for K.O’Gorman, 68 mins) and P.Reinsford.

Referee:- John Carvill (IRFU).