BUCCANEERS consolidated their top four berth in the Energia All-Ireland League Division 2A with a resounding 60-3 victory over Rainey Old Boys at Hatrick Park, Magherafelt, on Saturday. Boosted by a full complement of their Academy players, Buccs were in full flow from start to the premature finish against demoralised opponents in front of a decent attendance on a blustery afternoon at the neatly appointed venue.

The Pirates made five changes for the long trip north with Will Reilly starting at scrumhalf and a quartet including a full new front row – Sam Illo, Declan Adamson and Charlie Ward — coming into the pack where Danny Qualter returned at lock. Henry Bryce was a surprise inclusion on the bench. Buccaneers dominated from the off but found Rainey in resilient mood early on, a missed 13th minute Michael Hanley penalty being the closest they came to scoring. But they opened their account just two minutes later when, after Shane Jennings outjumped Connor Fitzsimmons to claim possession, Tabo Maree and Illo continued the move before Reilly and Hanley sent the ball right to left where Stephen Mannion finished strongly for a try converted by Hanley.

Rainey were already finding Buccs tempo difficult to deal with and Maree pilfered possession five minutes later with Oisin McCormack being involved several times as the Pirates attacked in numbers. Adamson came closest as the midlanders piled on the pressure before skipped passes by Reilly and Hanley sent Jennings over in the right corner for a 20th minute unconverted try.

Virtually all the play was inside the hosts’ half and it was little surprise that the home defence was breached again when Ciaran Booth broke from the back of a ruck to power past three Rainey players for a 33rd minute try which Hanley converted. A rare blot on Buccaneers performance came in the final move of the half when the Ulster side made their first incursion into the visitors’ 22 where Qualter’s sluggish tackle earned the lock ten minutes in the sin bin. Scott McLean slotted over the penalty to leave the Magherafelt team 19-3 adrift at the interval.

A rain shower and rainbow heralded the second half as Buccs went in search of a bonus point try which arrived within two minutes of the change of ends. Shane Layden made a couple of snipes before linking with Reilly whose chip ahead was neatly side-footed past the final defender by McCormack who grounded the ball between the uprights making Hanley’s conversion elementary. A super drive shortly afterwards yielded a penalty which Hanley converted to put the Shannonsiders 29-3 to the good.

Confidence had drained from the homesters who were now facing the elements. Evan Galvin won clean lineout ball following a penalty punted to the right corner and another smashing maul careered over the Rainey line where Illo claimed his first Buccs try. Hanley converted this 53rd minute touchdown. Straight from the restart, Galvin claimed possession and Ruadhri Fallon’s splendid diagonal kick was fastened onto by Josh O’Connor whose mazy running left four defenders mesmerised and he sent Mannion racing away for his second try.

Hanley’s conversion and an intercept unconverted try from his own ten metre line by the ever-alert Fallon stretched Buccs lead to 48-3 after 57 minutes. Another impressive drive by the Pirates followed six minutes later and Mannion did well to hold on to a daisy-cutter pass which set another series of phases close to the Ulster side’s line. Eoin O’Reilly then spun a long crisp pass to Layden who showed typical desire to barrel over for an unconverted try.

Fallon showed his GAA prowess when leaping to claim a clever diagonal kick by Hanley and the young fly-half’s smart offload sent Layden scampering away for his second try in quick succession. Hanley completed Buccs tally with a fine touchline conversion. Buccaneers could possibly have notched a tenth try but referee Henry Richmond whistled a very premature end to the proceedings after this score with the Athlone team 60-3 ahead.

This was the total performance that this young Buccaneers squad have promised on occasion with their slick, fast-moving style reminiscent of Connacht under Andy Friend. They were utterly in control all through and, unlike in some other matches, were ruthless in virtually all their scoring opportunities. It was an all-round team display with everyone contributing, being constantly in the face of their opponents and maintaining their energy and endeavour to the end. The front five dominated the set pieces and the effervescent backrow trio tormented their opponents. Mannion and the rejuventated Layden excelled in the centre, the halfback duo dictated Buccs lively tempo and enterprise while the back three were always probing for openings. This facile win keeps the midlanders very much in the play-offs hunt but the crushing defeat (allied to Nenagh Ormonde’s surprise big win against Ballymena) means Rainey Old Boys are firmly rooted at the bottom of the league. They have endured a torrid campaign which has left them bereft of confidence and now staring relegation in the face.

RAINEY OLD BOYS:- C.Fitzsimmons; M.Mulholland, D.McMurray, A.Brown, K.McIlroy; S.MacLean, J.Bloomfield; T.O’Hagan, B.McCulloch, F.Quinn; A.Bratton (captain), R.McCusker; C.Smyth, M.McCusker and J.Bresland. Replacements:- C.Smyth (for R.McCusker, 45 mins), J.McCusker (for Bratton, 50 mins), M.Nevin (for Quinn, 58 mins), A.Donaghy (for Bloomfield, 70 mins), F.Quinn (for O’Hagan, 70 mins) and A.Nevin.

BUCCANEERS:- M.Hanley; S.Jennings, S.Layden, S.Mannion, J.O’Connor; R.Fallon, W.Reilly; C.Ward, D.Adamson, S.Illo; T.Maree, D.Qualter; O.McCormack, E.Galvin (captain) and C.Booth. Replacements:- M.Staunton (for Illo, 55 mins), D.Murray (for Maree, 58 mins), R.Grenham (for Adamson, 61 mins), E.O’Reilly (for Reilly, 61 mins), H.Bryce (for Hanley, 61 mins) and M.Hanley (for Mannion, 70 mins).

Referee:- Henry Richmond (IRFU).