In-form Old Wesley inflicted a 42-17 defeat on understrength Buccaneers in their Energia All-Ireland League Division 1B game played on a bright afternoon at Energia Park, Donnybrook, on Saturday. This was the Pirates heaviest defeat in this season’s AIL as the city side, on the back of four successive victories, make a late run for the promotion playoffs. Their bonus point win moves them up to fourth, just one point behind second placed neighbours Old Belvedere in a top four comprised of four south Dublin clubs.

Orrin Burgess, Fergus Galvin and Leo MacFarlane joined Danny Qualter and Stephen Mannion in the treatment bay while Sam Illo and Harry West, who featured last time out, were not available. The midlanders’ seven personnel changes saw fit again skipper Frank Hopkins start at scrumhalf with Charlie Ward and evergreen Martin Staunton propping U-20 hooker Oisin Dolan. Regular hooker Matthew Victory switched to No.8 with two rookies Cian McCann and Fionn McDonnell sited in the second row. Tom Shine and Conor O’Shaughnessy lined out in the backline among the many personnel and positional changes. Old Wesley had just three changes, Josh Pim and Shane Cawley starting in the pack and Tom Larke returning at fullback.

Despite their weakened squad, Buccs began promisingly and most of the opening quarter of an hour was contested inside the home half where the midlanders went close to scoring on a couple of occasions. However, Old Wesley’s defence held firm and in only their second attack of the game they opened the scoring. Buccs held out initially but when the ball was moved to the left Josh Pim slipped off a soft tackle to find a gap and touchdown after 15 minutes.

The hosts almost notched a second three minutes later but Hopkins tackle forced Sam Burns to knock on while at the other end Dolan was tackled after a fine break. Following a penalty for a high tackle by Will Fay, the Shannonsiders exciting attack looked like gaining due reward on 24 minutes when Shine dotted down wide on the left but Shane Layden’s pass was a shade forward.

The home side then countered via a penalty to the left and, following the lineout, a neat reverse pass sent Burns in for a 27th minute try at the posts. Good recycling by Old Wesley yielded their third try on 36 minutes, the busy Cathal Kelly applying the finishing touch. Eoin Monahan’s three conversions gave them a 21-0 lead before Buccs finally gained reward for their endeavours when McCann burst through for a try converted by Michael Hanley to reduce their arrears to 21-7 at halftime.

Three home tries in six minutes early in the second half killed the game as a contest. The first followed a 43rd minute scrum to Buccs on their ten-metre line when two Pirates got in a tangle dealing with an untidy pass. Alex Molloy booted the ball ahead and had the strength to hold off Hanley in the chase to secure a bonus point try. Four minutes later Howard Noonan’s break made 40 metres along the right flank where quick support by Fergus Jemphrey yielded his side’s fifth touchdown and Monahan maintained his 100% success rate from conversions. Swift movement by Old Wesley saw Nathan Randles notch a 49th minute try with replacement outhalf Ian Cassidy landing the conversion to stretch their advantage to 42-7.

A humiliating defeat loomed but to their credit the depleted Pirates continued to battle and McCann’s relentless efforts were rewarded with his second try on 57 minutes. Mark Earle was unable to add the conversion. Old Wesley twice came close to adding to their tally but the Buccs defence was more resilient at this stage. Victory was held up just short of the line as the Athlone side probed through their pack when perhaps they would have profited had the ball been switched to the unmarked Josh O’Connor on the opposite flank.

They finally got reward when Ward stretched over the line on the left while Hanley’s conversion was off-target. The referee finally lost patience with Old Wesley’s penalty count and Fay was yellow-carded in this incident. Buccs then went in search of a bonus point that could yet prove crucial in the closing stages that had looked unlikely but a premature end to the proceedings denied them that opportunity.
McCann, such an exciting prospect, was Buccaneers best performer on a difficult afternoon with Victory also prominent in the forwards as were Earle and Hopkins in the backline.

OLD WESLEY:- T.Larke; N.Randles, A.Molloy, F.Jemphrey, S.Burns; E.Monahan, B.Stephens; Harry Noonan, Howard Noonan, C.Gleeson; R.Pim (captain), S.Cawley; C.Kelly, J.Pim and W.Fay. Replacements:- D.O’Connor, S.Kenny, D.Motyer, L.O’Neill, I.Cassidy and K.Kavanagh.

BUCCANEERS:- C.O’Shaughnessy; J.O’Connor, S.Layden, M.Earle, T.Shine; M.Hanley, F.Hopkins (captain); C.Ward, O.Dolan, M.Staunton; F.McDonnell, C.McCann; R.O’Meara, C.Walsh and M.Victory. Replacements:- J.Kelly (for Ward, 24 mins), G.Daly (for Dolan, inj. 30 mins), F.Murray (for Staunton, 52 mins), J.Nagle (for Shine, 52 mins), D.Bolger (for Daly, 52 mins), T.Shine (for Hanley, 52 mins), C.Ward (for Kelly, 57 mins), R.Murphy-Sweeney (for O’Shaughnessy, 65 mins), M.Hanley (for Hopkins, 70 mins) and M.Staunton (for O’Meara, 70 mins).

Referee:- Padraic Reidy (IRFU).