BUCCANEERS suffered their first home AIL defeat of the season when going down 15-13 to MU Barnhall in a hard-fought Energia All-Ireland League Division 2A tussle at Dubarry Park on Saturday. Buccs built up a 13-0 lead by half-time despite playing against the elements but, as has too regularly been the case in this campaign, the Pirates did not put two good halves together and missed out on another victory that would have set them up nicely for next Saturday’s top of the table joust away to Queens University. MU Barnhall, who were late and slow coming out prior to kick-off, got their season back on track with a much-needed win based on a greatly improved second half effort.

The homesters made three changes to their starting XV for this contest. Shane Jennings came in for the injured Saul O’Carroll on the left wing while, with Oisin McCormack unavailable, Brian McDonnell made his first AIL start in the back row. Charlie Ward returned at tighthead prop. Meanwhile Ruaidhri Fallon and Michael Hanley reverted to their more familiar roles at fullback and flyhalf respectively (where both looked more comfortable) on a sunny but showery and cold afternoon in front of a decent sized attendance.

Buccs had much of the early possession but, facing the elements, did not enjoy a great deal of territory in the opening exchanges. When they got forward they forced the Kildare side offside and Hanley drilled over the resultant 12th minute penalty. Shortly afterwards Will Reilly had to put in a key tackle on Adam Chester as the Blue Bulls threatened while Ciaran Booth incurred a stern lecture from referee Colm Roche following a flagging by a touch judge. The referee was again in discussion with the touch judge after 28 minutes when Thomas McGann was late tackled after he had chipped Conor Lacey and the visitors’ left winger was duly sin-binned.

Buccs punted the resultant penalty to touch and Ruairi Byrne won clean lineout possession which he transferred to Evan Galvin and the Pirates skipper slipped a neat pass to Darren Browne who surged through to touch down for a try in the Bounty corner. Hanley kicked an excellent touchline conversion to put the midlanders ten points to the good. MU Barnhall responded and, following a penalty to the right corner, had great territory but Danny Qualter stole their lineout and Reilly made an excellent clearance to relieve the danger. In the final moments of a stop-start half, Buccs earned another penalty right on the halfway line and, with the final action of the half, Stephen Mannion boomed over a superb penalty to give Buccaneers a 13-0 advantage at the interval.

MU Barnhall then dug deep to protect their slender advantage and gradually got to grips with the home side’s scrum although Buccs continued to have the better of the lineouts. The hosts were flat in a disappointing second period that lacked a spark and they never really got into their stride despite the endeavours overall of Qualter, Galvin, Reilly and Mannion. However, the losing bonus point keeps Buccaneers in second place on the league table, albeit now seven points adrift of next Saturday’s opponents.

One minute’s silence was observed before kick-off in memory of Ray McLoughlin and Theresa Connaughton.

BUCCANEERS:- R.Fallon; T.McGann, S.Layden, S.Mannion, S.Jennings; M.Hanley, W.Reilly; J.Kelly, D.Browne, C.Ward; R.Byrne, D.Qualter; B.McDonnell, E.Galvin (captain) and C.Booth. Replacements:- M.Staunton (for Kelly, 47 mins), C.McCann (for McDonnell, 54 mins), E.O’Carroll (for Jennings, 59 mins), A.Flanagan (for Reilly, 65 mins) and S.O’Connell (for Ward, 65 mins).

MU BARNHALL:- E.Quinn; S.Sexton, S.Higgins, D.Dooley, C.Lacey; A.Chester, C.Duggan; G.Brookes, G.Murray, C.Turley; R.Doyle, C.O’Brien; P.Nalty, S.Stokes and T.McKeown (captain). Replacements:- C.Duff (for Murray, 47 mins), D.Bellanova (for Turley, 47 mins), J.Hannon (for Lacey, 69 mins), N.Veltom (for Nalty, 70 mins) and T.Lambe (for Duggan, 72 mins).

Referee:- Colm Roche (IRFU).