An excellent first half display paved the way for Buccaneers bonus point 24-17 Energia All-Ireland League Division 2A victory over UL Bohemian at Dubarry Park on Saturday. Buccs fourth win in five outings sees them share leadership at the top of the league table, behind pacesetters Queen’s University on scoring difference and above Ballymena.

The midlanders made four personnel changes for this game, two each in the backs and forwards. Martin Staunton returned at tighthead prop and Oisin McCormack came in for the injured Tabo Maree with Ciaran Booth switching to No.8. Will Reilly came in at scrumhalf with Josh O’Connor on the right wing for this encounter which had a deferred 3 p.m. kick off due to the Ireland v Japan fixture. However, that televised international reflected in a smaller than usual attendance. One wonders why the IRFU elect to play club matches on international days?

Pitch conditions were topclass on a bright but breezy afternoon for this Glasson Lakehouse sponsored fixture. After an initial opening spell featuring many long kicks in the crossfield wind, Buccs took command with a brace of Saul O’Carroll tries in a three minute period. Following a penalty to the right, the Pirates made a number of sallies towards the UL Bohs line before play was shifted to the left where O’Carroll dived over untroubled for a 7th minute unconverted try.

Three minutes later, following a scrum near midfield a splendid Stephen Mannion break unleashed the lofty winger and O’Carroll waltzed his way past a number of tacklers before touching down near the uprights for his second try which Michael Hanley converted for a 12-0 lead.
O’Connor made a wonderful 60 metres break on 18 minutes and the Red Robins were relieved that his offload rebounded off a teammate’s head into their hands. Mannion then halted a rare UL Bohs raid with a terrific turnover but the visitors now enjoyed a promising spell but found the home defence uncompromising and they eventually settled for a 25th minute Harry Byrne penalty.

From the restart it was the Athlone side’s turn to again apply pressure which resulted in visiting prop Philip Poillot being sin-binned for bringing down a maul. Further pressure by the Pirates forwards saw the Limerick side’s pack collapse once too often and referee Paul Haycock awarded a 29th minute penalty try to the hosts.

Buccs then overthrew a couple of lineouts in promising positions but hooker Declan Adamson redeemed himself when he thundered through in the final move of the half after receiving a neat pass from Shane Layden to notch a bonus point unconverted try wide on the left that gave Buccaneers a healthy 24-3 advantage at the interval.

The oft overused adage ‘a game of two halves’ was certainly true on this occasion. UL Bohs, who were second best for large swathes of the first half, readjusted at the break and were a more feisty and competitive outfit thereafter as glorious sunshine greeted the second half. For their part, Buccs probably had an air of complacency, perhaps feeling that the job was done. Against teams from Limerick that mindset should be avoided at all costs!

Buccs withdrew both Ruadhri Fallon and Evan Galvin early in the second half, both precautionary due to injuries, and this may have contributed to their not really getting going after the change of ends.

The visitors were now forcing the pace, spending goodly periods in the home half, but found Buccs resolute and disciplined until fullback Darragh O’Gorman joined the line wide on the right for a 54th minute try which Byrne converted. Disappointingly, Buccaneers offered little attack wise in this half and never got any real momentum. Lock Byrne was yellow carded late in the contest and UL Bohs capitalised on their numerical superiority to earn a penalty try that yielded them a losing bonus point on the 24-17 scoreline.

The midlanders excelled in the first half with slick handling, quick support play and strong work by their forwards. But their second half performance paled in comparison, being a repeat of their opening day display against Cashel. Discipline was much better but greater consistency must be the next stepping stone for a side that is improving. Buccs will be disappointed that they missed an opportunity to improve their scoring difference in this game on a weekend when fancied duo Queen’s University and MU Barnhall both came acropper.
Saul O’Carroll was a worthy winner of the AUDI ATHLONE Man of the Match accolade and, had more possession come his way, he would surely have helped himself to a hattrick. Mannion and Hanley were other backs to impress while Byrne had his best outing to date in the pack where Galvin was influential until injured.

Meanwhile, UL Bohemian recovered well from a difficult first half and they can take heart from their gritty showing in the second period that yielded a losing bonus point.

BUCCANEERS:- R.Fallon; J.O’Connor, S.Layden, S.Mannion, S.O’Carroll; M.Hanley, W.Reilly; J.Kelly, D.Adamson, M.Staunton; R.Byrne, D.Qualter; O.McCormack, E.Galvin (captain) and C.Booth. Replacements:- E.O’Carroll (for Fallon, 48 mins), C.McCann (for Galvin, 50 mins), S.O’Connell (for Kelly, 55 mins), K.Kiripati (for Adamson, 55 mins), J.Kelly (for Staunton, 72 mins) and E.O’Reilly.

UL BOHEMIAN:- D.O’Gorman; J.Murray, P.Clancy (captain), J.Johnson, J.McNamara; H.Byrne, A.Kiely; P.Nesbitt, K.O’Shea, P.Poillot; E.Sweeney, J.Traynor; C.Nesbitt, D.Rowesome and M.Ibanez. Replacements:- O.Fagan (for Johnson, h/t), C.Botha (for O’Shea, h/t), I.Condell (for Rowesome, h/t), K.Regan (for P.Nesbitt, 64 mins), J.Johnson (for Kiely, 70 mins), P.Staff (for C.Nesbitt, 72 mins), P.Nesbitt (for Regan, 78 mins) and K.Regan (for Rowesome, temp. 28/38 mins).

Referee:- Paul Haycock (IRFU).