BUCCANEERS were brought back to earth after recent heady victories when a late Conor Botha try edged UL Bohemian to a deserved 17-14 victory at a very windy UL Arena, Limerick, on Saturday. In an overall disappointing Energia All-Ireland League Division 2A encounter Buccs were never allowed to get into their anticipated flow and here the credit must go to the voracious work of the Red Robins pack.


Buccaneers made four changes, all enforced, for the trip to Limerick. Shane Jennings and Josh O’Connor were both injured in the big win over Dolphin replaced by Harry Balsiger and Rory O’Connor on the respective wings. Sam Illo was not available but Charlie Ward returned at loosehead with Martin Staunton switching to tighthead. More crucially Buccs were disrupted on the morning of the game when selected hookers Declan Adamson (injury) and Darren Browne (ill) were ruled out with late call-ups to Rory Grenham to start and Koronato Kiripati for the bench.

UL Bohs had first benefit of the strong, cold breeze blowing from goal to goal but Buccs had the first threatening break when O’Connor did well to claim a home clearance and set up a move carried on by Ciaran Booth and Oisin McCormack. However, the Limerick side were soon on the offensive with a fine maul bringing them close to the Pirates line. They maintained this spell of pressure and were rewarded when Dave Kinnane surged over close to the posts for a 16th minute try converted by Harry Byrne.

Buccaneers began to grow into the contest with Darragh Murray prominent early on. A penalty at the end of the opening quarter was punted to the left and, following the lineout, the Athlone side mauled impressively over the home line with McCormack applying the finishing touch for a 22nd minute try. Michael Hanley added a splendid conversion against the testing elements. A sniping break by Colin Ryan was UL Bohs best effort in the second quarter which was relatively featureless and so the teams remained deadlocked 7-7 at half-time.

Just two minutes after the change of ends, Will Reilly made a splendid break from the back of a scrum on the UL Bohemian ten metre line and the scrumhalf arced in at pace for a super solo try on the right. Hanley added another fine conversion and it seemed that, now with the aid of the considerable breeze, that the midlanders would kick on. But they too never really harnessed the elements and suffered a setback when Booth, who had been thundering into tackles, was yellow-carded for a no arms effort on 50 minutes. UL Bohs swiftly profited, helped by an apparent collision between Hanley and O’Connor and the Red Robins made the most of the space now afforded to them when moving the ball right to left where Kiwi Ben Swindlehurst touched down for a 54th minute unconverted try. The unfortunate O’Connor’s injury saw him replaced by Thomas McGann on the left flank.

A high tackle by young Balsiger, who escaped with a lecture, also proved costly as it gave the homesters a foothold inside the Buccs 22 from the resultant penalty. With possession won from the ensuing lineout, a clinical UL Bohs maul (that would surely have impressed sideline mentors Tommy O’Donnell and Paul O’Connell) saw them drive over the Pirates line for South African Botha’s match-winning 76th minute try. Byrne’s conversion attempt rebounded off an upright, leaving just three points between the teams with time ebbing out.

But Buccs could not salvage a late winner as UL Bohs, as they had done for much of the match, controlled possession and simply put the ball up their collective jumpers until the final whistle. This hard-earned victory greatly eases the majority of relegation fears they may have harboured. Waterford man Jay Traynor and veteran Ian Condell were towers of strength and guile in their forwards unit with Ryan and Alan Kiely pick of their backline. At half-time it seemed that the Red Robins had made precious little use of the breeze but Buccaneers were equally culpable in the second half, albeit UL Bohs denied them possession and space for long spells. Overall it was a somewhat flat performance by the Pirates for whom Booth and Hanley were prominent while other positives on an otherwise disappointing outing include a losing bonus point and the returns to first team action by Ryan O’Meara and Frankie Hopkins.

UL BOHEMIAN:- O.Fagan; J.Murray, P.Clancy (captain), B.Swindlehurst, C.Ryan; H.Byrne, A.Kiely; P.Nesbitt, K.O’Shea, J.Burton; D.Kinane, J.Traynor; I.Condell , C.Nesbitt and E.Sweeney. Replacements:- K.Reagan (for P.Nesbitt, 22 mins), D.O’Connor (for C.Nesbitt, 52 mins), C.Botha (for Burton, 52 mins), J.Moylan and J.Johnson.

BUCCANEERS:- R.Fallon; H.Balsiger, S.Layden, S.Mannion, R.O’Connor; M.Hanley, W.Reilly; C.Ward, R.Grenham, M.Staunton; D.Murray, D.Qualter; O.McCormack, E.Galvin (captain) and C.Booth. Replacements:- T.McGann (for O’Connor, inj. 54 mins), F.Hopkins (for Reilly, 54 mins), R.O’Meara (for Staunton, 54 mins), R.Byrne (for Murray, 64 mins), K.Kiripati (for Grenham, 64 mins), M.Staunton (for Ward, 64 mins) and D.Murray (for Qualter, 73 mins).

Referee:- Barrie O’Connell (IRFU).