Bonus point away win keeps Buccs in third place


BUCCANEERS maintained their grip on third position in the Energia All-Ireland League Division 2A with an impressive 34-20 bonus point victory away to Old Crescent at Takumi Park, Rossbrien, on Saturday. The midlanders, whose bus was among traffic held up on the motorway due to a fatal motor accident, did not let the 90 minutes delay affect them and they hit the ground running to build up a 20-3 lead by the first water break.

The Pirates made three changes, one enforced, from their win over Nenagh Ormonde. Rotation saw Sean O’Connell start at tighthead prop and Eoin O’Reilly at scrumhalf replacing Martin Staunton and Adam Flanagan respectively. Injury ruled out Rory O’Connor with Saul O’Carroll being a late call up on the left wing.

The now 4 pm kick off meant that the teams avoided a heavy shower at the original kick off time. This made the ball somewhat greasy but otherwise pitch and weather conditions were near ideal on a sunny crisp late afternoon.

Buccs pushed the home pack off their own their scrum to earn a 3rd minute penalty which Michael Hanley slotted over from the right but, within a further three minutes, the visitors were culpable in a similar situation and Ronan McKenna duly levelled the scores. Just as swiftly Old Crescent conceded another penalty, again at a scrum, but dissent brought the placekick into their half and Hanley comfortably added the points for a 6-3 lead after 9 minutes.

When Buccaneers won yet another penalty five minutes later, skipper Evan Galvin directed to go to touch on the right. Following the lineout, the Athlone standard bearers made a number of forays towards the home line before Hanley’s crossfield kick changed the direction of play to the opposite flank where O’Carroll gathered the ball unchallenged to touchdown for a 14th minute try. Hanley added an excellent touchline conversion.

The Pirates were soon raiding down the left wing again with Ruadhri Fallon leading the charge and he chipped ahead before being tackled late, for which home winger Jack O’Mahony was yellow carded, and Shane Layden maintained his chase to grab a 22nd minute try with Hanley’s conversion putting Buccs 20-3 to the good and seemingly well in control.

But the midlanders then did not deal with the restart and the hosts were soon applying pressure which saw O’Connell sin-binned before Dan Hurley finished off this good spell by the homesters for a 26th minute try which McKenna converted. Buccaneers had a sloppy spell and were swiftly down to 13 players for a period when Ruairi Byrne was yellow carded as they attempted to stem the home tide. John Toland capitalised on Buccs discomfort to score an unconverted try that narrowed Old Crescent’s arrears to 20-15 after 35 minutes.

But Buccaneers struck back just before halftime. Thomas McGann intercepted and broke down the right wing before chipping over the last defender and winning the race to touch down for his side’s third try. Hanley maintained his impressive place-kicking as he landed an excellent touchline conversion to give Buccs a 27-15 advantage at the interval.

Bonus point away win keeps Buccs in third place

Scores were harder come by in the second half with Shane Jennings unlucky when his kick ahead, after reading a wayward Old Crescent pass in midfield, was hit a shade too strongly after 50 minutes. But his side’s yellow card woes soon resurrected when O’Reilly was despatched to the sin bin two minutes later. Again Buccs dug deep to display their defensive resilience before they secured their try bonus point on the hour mark. Youngsters O’Carroll, Jennings and Fallon all combined to make ground up the left flank where the wily Layden was shadowing to finish the move in style. Hanley maintained his 100% place-kicking success with a smashing conversion to push Buccs 34-15 ahead.

With the floodlights now on, Buccaneers continued to press forward and earned two close-in lineouts but both throws went awry. Old Crescent had the final say when, after Jennings became the fourth Pirate to walk the yellow card ramp in the final minute, the Limerick side earned a final move unconverted pushover try to complete the 34-20 scoreline.

There were plusses and minuses in this Buccaneers performance with the bonus point victory being the major plus, particularly rewarding as Old Crescent had completed a double over the Athlone outfit when the clubs last met in the AIL. Their young side is steadily improving and becoming more cohesive with O’Carroll and debutant Cian McCann being impressive on their first outings. Hanley put in a man of the match contribution and Layden is getting his mojo back. Galvin and Booth drove the pack on with Declan Adamson having another strong showing in a solid front row.

However, the accumulation of yellow cards must be addressed, even though not one has been for malicious intent and some looked innocuous. Focus on opposition restarts is another area that can be improved but, overall, Buccs mentors should be relatively pleased with the performances of their charges to date apart from the opening quarter at Ballymena.

For their part, Old Crescent have yet to recapture the form of their previous campaign with their young side still without a win. But they have been competitive in most fixtures to date and will surely break their duck shortly.

OLD CRESCENT:- J.Higgins; J.O’Mahony, C.Monaghan, D.Casserly, D.Hurley; R.McKenna, G.Fitzgerald; J.Considine, N.Hardiman, T.Gormley; P.Monaghan, C.Reale; J.Toland, K.Madden and K.Doyle (captain). Replacements:- M.O’Hanrahan (for O’Mahony), G.Coyne (for Madden), C.O’Reilly (for Gormley), J.Hurley (for Casserly), K.Madden (for Toland) and M.Rickard (for Hardiman).

BUCCANEERS:- R.Fallon; T.McGann, S.Layden, S.Mannion, S.O’Carroll; M.Hanley, E.O’Reilly; J.Kelly, D.Adamson, S.O’Connell; R.Byrne, D.Qualter; C.Booth, E.Galvin (captain) and T.Maree. Replacements:- C.McCann (for Maree, inj. 16 mins), M.Staunton (for McCann, temp. 23/33 mins), S.Jennings (for McGann, 45 mins), R.Grenham (for Adamson, 66 mins), A.Flanagan (for O’Reilly, 66 mins), M.Staunton (for O’Connell, 66 mins) and T.McGann (for O’Carroll, 70 mins).

Referee:- Shane Kierans (IRFU).