MU BARNHALL maintained their fantastic winning streak when defeating Buccaneers 34-10 in their Energia All-Ireland League match played at bitterly cold Parsonstown, Leixlip, on Saturday. The west Dublin club strengthened their grip at the top of Division 2A in the process while Buccs remain in eighth position. The homesters fielded a settled side while the understrength midlanders had a handful of alterations including a couple of late changes with Conor Kenny being pulled by Connacht at the eleventh hour and Callum Boland not recovering from illness in time to play. Teenagers Harry O’Reilly and Darren Browne were in the front row and Ruairi Byrne returned at lock with injury ruling out Sean Masterson, Rory Grenham and Rory Moloney as well as centre Corey Reid. Darragh Corbett was unavailable due to GAA commitments so Rory O’Connor and Michael Hanley started in the backline.
A biting diagonal breeze aided the Blues at kick off and they enjoyed early territory which Buccaneers defended resiliently before the Pirates put some phases together that enabled Luke Carty make a smashing break up the centre. He then put a pinpoint crossfield ball to Ross Murphy-Sweeney who showed good composure and desire to outwit Conor Lacey to touchdown wide on the right for an unconverted 9th minute try.
With the slope also assisting their efforts, MU Barnhall continued to dominate territory and they applied growing pressure that yielded a 17th minute penalty try. Five minutes later they added three points although both touch judges deemed Adam Chester’s placekick off-target but referee Jonathan Peak indicated otherwise. The metropolitans remained on the offensive in the face of steadfast Buccs defending with the Blues pack being the superior unit in the tight. The Athlone side’s cause was not helped when Max Kennedy was sin binned for coming in from the side after 32 minutes. Barnhall opted for a scrum from the resultant penalty and Rob Holt broke away to wrong foot the defence to notch an unconverted try.
Despite being temporarily depleted, Buccaneers looked like getting to halftime just ten points adrift. But MU Barnhall displayed splendid continuity from their own 22 using the width of the pitch before Matthew Alborough dived over in the right corner for their third try. Although the try was not converted, the Leinster outfit now had a useful 20-5 advantage at the interval.
The third quarter was evenly contested with Buccs going closest to scoring but Brendan McSorley made a vital recovery of possession just metres from the home line. The next score was going to be crucial and, following a bewildering penalty award by the referee (who over-indulged in lectures in a match absent of malice) after a terrific Buccs tackle, MU Barnhall got territory and lock McSorley was a key figure at the other end of the pitch when he secured a bonus point try for the homesters on 67 minutes. Chester duly added the straight-forward conversion.
Buccs rallied and Darren Browne raced away following a slick lineout move with Christian Maulaulau to scamper in for an unconverted 74th minute try wide on the right but the visitors simply could not add to their tally. Meanwhile MU Barnhall, as they had done in the first half, finished the second with a final move try, Lacey touching down in style and Chester’s conversion completing the 34-10 scoreline.
MU Barnhall, coached by former Connacht front-rower Adrian Flavin, are going places on the field of play and indeed also off it. They have a massive population in their catchment area and have close on 900 playing members, about a third of them adults. They are a very well-drilled outfit, led smartly on-field by captain Tom McKeown at No.8 while scrumhalf Holt was most impressive. It is now almost a season and a half since they last tasted defeat in the AIL and a change of fortunes since Buccaneers only previous visit to Parsonstown when the Shannonsiders recorded a 45-18 victory enroute to the Division 2 title in 2007/8.
Depleted Buccaneers, bedevilled by injuries and absentees, battled commendably and refused to throw in the towel. Martin Staunton put in a typical stalwart effort for the losers for whom Byrne and Evan Galvin toiled ceaselessly in the forwards exchanges. Frankie Hopkins put in a fine stint at scrumhalf and Carty also had good moments for the outgunned midlanders.
MU BARNHALL:- E.Quinn; M.Alborough, M.Gianetti, D.Hudson, C.Lacey; A.Chester, R.Holt; G.Brooks, G.Murray, D.Bellanova; D.Murphy, B.McSorley; P.Nalty, D.Thomas and T.McKeown (captain). Replacements:- N.Veltom (for Thomas, 55 mins), B.McCarthy (for Gianetti, 50 mins), R.Mullen (for Alborough, 60 mins), M.Corcoran (for Murray, 70 mins), L.Franzoni (for Bellanova, 70 mins) and D.Thomas (for McKeown, 73 mins).
BUCCANEERS:- M.Hanley; Eoghan O’Reilly, R.O’Connor, S.O’Carroll, R.Murphy-Sweeney; L.Carty, F.Hopkins; H.O’Reilly, D.Browne, M.Staunton; R.Byrne, M.Kennedy; S.Kroupa, E.Galvin (captain) and C.Maulaulau. Replacements:- D.Adamson (for Browne, 31 mins), R.O’Meara (for O’Reilly, 31 mins), D.Browne (for Adamson, 47 mins), S.O’Connell (for Kroupa, 65 mins), D.McNamara and A.Wynne.
Referee:- Jonathan Peak (IRFU).