BUCCANEERS disappointing start in the Energia All-Ireland League continued with a fourth straight defeat when going down 45-19 to Old Belvedere in their Division 1B game played in front of a decent attendance at Dubarry Park on Saturday. Underfoot conditions were remarkably good considering the biblical downpours in recent times for this fixture sponsored by Dubarry of Ireland.

The Pirates made three personnel changes from the game at Highfield. With Michael Hanley unavailable, Stephen Mannion manned the fly-half role with Conor O’Shaughnessy switching to fullback and Orrin Burgess starting on the right wing. Fit again James Kelly returned at loosehead prop and Gavin Daly came in at blindside flanker. Old Belvedere fielded a settled side and, assisted by the breeze, promptly pinned Buccs in their own half.

They gained early reward with an 8th minute Michael O’Kennedy try which he was unable to convert. In a very lively opening sequence, Josh O’Connor made a splendid break carried on by O’Shaughnessy but the Belvo cover snuffed out the danger. Buccs were losing turnovers at this early stage and then lost a lineout near their own 22 from which the visitors profited with Calum Dowling punishing the hosts with a 25th minute try on the left.

The game was decided in the final quarter hour of this half with the metropolitans scoring 3 tries in this period, all converted by O’Kennedy. Frankie Hopkins made a super try-saving tackle on Jayden Beckett and then Daniel Hawkshaw made a fine turnover to temporarily stem the tide. But slick recycling by Old Belvedere steadily made inroads with their captain Peter O’Beirne finishing off this impressive sequence for a 31st minute try at the posts.

The visitors secured their bonus point try following more neat handling and running with Fionn McWey sending hooker Dowling in for his second try four minutes before the interval at which stage Old Belvedere enjoyed a handsome 26-0 advantage.

Buccaneers came more into the game following the change of ends and Belvo’s Jacob Barrett was yellow-carded for an untidy tackle after 52 minutes. A highly promising home move two minutes later was spoiled by the final pass being throw directly into touch. Shortly afterwards when O’Connor lost possession after making a good recovery Jack Keating pounced for a 58th minute try in the right corner against the run of play, O’Kennedy adding the conversion for a whopping 33-0 lead.

To their credit, Buccaneers kept working and finally got reward for their efforts. Hopkins robbed possession to set this team moving forward and Mark Earle powered through for a 65th minute try converted by Mannion. This was quickly cancelled out when referee Henry Richmond harshly awarded a 70th minute penalty try to the visitors and also despatched the Pirates skipper to the sin-bin. Belvo were soon touching down again with a swift counter-attack down the right flank being finished by Joseph White.

Five minutes from time Leo MacFarlane was alert to snaffle possession to send Hawkshaw bursting forward and he sent another substitute Oisin Dolan in for a try which Mannion converted. Two minutes later, another ill-judged tackle by Barrett earned him a second visit to the sin-bin and with it a red card. Hawkshaw then showed desire and strength to make good ground before off-loading to Hopkins for a third home try, the skipper’s quickly taken conversion rebounding off the woodwork.

Buccs now piled forward and were decidedly unfortunate not to snatch a fourth try that would have earned them their first league point of the season while Old Belvedere’s 45-19 victory saw them move up the league table. Despite the endeavours of Hopkins and Audi Athlone Man of the Match Matthew Burke, Buccs looked ragged and disorganised at times but they can take heart from continuing to battle, epitomised by their encouraging final quarter effort.

BUCCANEERS:- C.O’Shaughnessy; O.Burgess, D.Hawkshaw, M.Earle, J.O’Connor; S.Mannion, F.Hopkins (captain); J.Kelly, M.Victory, S.O’Connell; F.Galvin, D.Qualter; G.Daly, C.Walsh and C.McCann. Replacements:- M.Burke (for O’Connell, 26 mins), S.O’Connell (for Kelly, 52 mins), O.Dolan (for Walsh, 63 mins), F.McDonnell (for Galvin, 66 mins), L.Balsiger (for Daly, 71 mins), L.MacFarlane (for Earle, 71 mins) and R.Murphy-Sweeney.

OLD BELVEDERE:- J.White; J.Keating, J.Beckett, M.O’Kennedy, G.Nugent; D.Wilkinson, P.O’Beirne (captain); A.Howard, C.Dowling, H.Flood; P.Dowling, F.McWey; J.Doyle, T.Mulcair and K.Thatcher. Replacements:- P.O’Dwyer (for Nugent, 45 mins), J.Barrett (for Howard, 45 mins), N.Moelders (for Flood, 45 mins), C.Bird (for O’Dwyer, inj. 50 mins), H.Flood (for Doyle, 55 mins), C.Cunningham (for C.Dowling, 63 mins) and B.Dooley (for McWey, 63 mins).

Referee:- Henry Richmond (IRFU).