Putting in a magnificent all-round squad performance, Buccaneers scored a superb 35-7 bonus point victory over fancied Old Wesley in their Energia All-Ireland League Division 1B encounter at Dubarry Park on Saturday. Buccs were surprisingly dominant for vast swathes of this match, sponsored by ‘Oliver Carty & Family’, played in near perfect weather and pitch conditions.

The homesters made three personnel changes from the side that lost narrowly away to City of Armagh in the opening round. In the pack Ciaran Booth came in at No.8 with Darragh Murray switching to blindside flanker while Steveni Lombard debuted at hooker. Shane Jennings got the preference at fullback against the visitors whose only change from their 37-7 win over Naas saw James O’Donovan and Eoin Deegan swop positions in the centre.

On a mild afternoon, an early solid Josh O’Connor tackle set the tone, winning a penalty which Michael Hanley stroked over after just 4 minutes. Shane Layden followed that up with another thumping tackle and a break by Oisin McCormack engineered a spell of promising pressure. A high tackle on Layden earned another home penalty which Hanley slotted for a 6-0 lead after 9 minutes.

Buccs were dominant in the opening quarter and unlucky not to add to their tally. Old Wesley made their first real venture into the home half on 23 minutes, Ian Cassidy drilling the ball downfield to relieve intense pressure. Jennings possibly had too much time to deal with it and erred badly in endeavouring to secure possession. The chasers swooped to move the ball to Alex Molloy and the fullback burst through for a try totally against the run of play. Cassidy’s conversion put the metropolitans in the lead.

But this setback did not upset the Pirates as they quickly attacked again and, following further good home pressure, Jennings atoned for his earlier mishap to power over for a 28th minute try which Hanley converted. The metropolitans then gained some ground through penalties but found the Athlone side relentless in defence. The midlanders finished the half as they had spent the majority of it, on the offensive, and Hanley landed his third penalty to give Buccaneers a 16-7 halftime lead.

The hosts now sensed a bonus point try was a real possibility and they applied fierce pressure in the closing stages, winning a number of close-in penalties as Old Wesley had a series of scrum wobbles. Eventually, referee Stuart Douglas despatched Harry Noonan to the sin bin. Buccs opted for yet another scrum and, in the final move of the game, Will Reilly spotted a gap of Red Sea proportions in the opponents defence to sail in for his side’s fourth try. Mannion’s conversion was the final act as he completed the 35-7 scoreline.

This performance possibly even bettered the promotion winning display at Queen’s and every player from 1 to 21 contributed. Jennings was a worthy winner of the AUDI ATHLONE Man of the Match award for which he had keen competition from Matthew Burke, who already looks a considerable asset, and the marauding Murray. Apart from their fortuitous try, Old Wesley (who topped this division last season) did not or rather were not allowed to play to their expected levels in front of former IRFU President and Ireland U-20’s manager Phil Orr in what was a quick-moving and very entertaining match played before a fair attendance.

BUCCANEERS:- S.Jennings; J.O’Connor, S.Layden, S.Mannion, S.O’Carroll; M.Hanley, F.Hopkins; M.Burke, S.Lombard, M.Staunton (captain); R.Byrne, F.Galvin; D.Murray, O.McCormack and C.Booth. Replacments:- D.Browne (for Lombard, 30 mins), R.Fallon (for Hanley, inj. 45 mins), W.Reilly (for Hopkins, 50 mins), S.Lombard (for Browne, 53 mins), S.O’Connell (for McCormack, 54 mins), J.Kelly (for Staunton, 60 mins), D.Browne (for Lombard, 68 mins) and F.Hopkins (for Layden, 72 mins).

OLD WESLEY:- A.Molloy; T.O’Callaghan, J.O’Donovan, E.Deegan, D.Poff; I.Cassidy, K.Kavanagh; Harry Noonan, Howard Noonan, S.Kenny; W.Fay, I.McGann (captain); S.Pim, J.O’Hare and R.Pim. Replacements:- D.MacLean (for O’Hare, h/t), J.Miller (for Kavanagh, 53 mins), B.Short (for Howard Noonan, 68 mins), B.Daly (for Cassidy, 68 mins), M.Kearney (for Poff, 78 mins) and F.Tierney.

Referee:- Stuart Douglas (IRFU).