RAINEY OLD BOYS emerged comfortable winners over Buccaneers in the first ever meeting of the two clubs in the Energia All-Ireland League at Hatrick Park, Magherafelt, on Saturday. At the compact neat venue, the Co. Derry side got the scoreboard working early on their way to a 34-10 Division 1A victory. On a sunny afternoon, conditions were near perfect for this fixture.
Both teams made changes from their opening day defeats. Buccs had five alterations, four in the pack where Rory Moloney returned after suspension, the more experienced duo Rory Grenham and Matthew Murphy were installed in the front row and Max Kennedy debuted at lock in place of the unavailable Ruairi Byrne. Eoghan O’Reilly, who came on as a second half substitute against Queen’s University, started on the right wing on this occasion. Rainey made one personnel change in a much realigned backline with Ciaran Devlin coming in at fullback while Joshua McAuley and Matthew Millar came in to their backrow.
With the sun at their backs, the homesters opened the scoring when Kennedy was penalised after eight minutes, Andrew Magrath converting. Six minutes later, Callum Boland put in a try-saving tackle but when the ball was recycled Buccs infringed again and Magrath added the points. In between, Corey Reid had made a threatening break for Buccs but held on to possession in the tackle and Rainey were grateful for a relieving penalty.
The Ulster side were fortuitous after 18 minutes when a home player slid feet first to a grounded Buccaneers defender which should have yielded a penalty to the visitors. However referee John Carville allowed play continue and Rainey profited with a penalty try for a 13-0 lead by the end of the opening quarter.
The Pirates then had an opportunity to get on the scoreboard but Michael Hanley was off-target with a kickable 20th minute penalty. Eight minutes later a wild pass in midfield caused consternation in the midlanders ranks as Rainey hacked the loose ball forward. Boland won the race with Magrath to secure possession but Shane Layden’s attempted clearance was blocked down by Jason Bloomfield, who then reacted swiftest to ground the ball for an opportunist try. Magrath duly slotted the conversion.
Buccs ignored a straight-forward 34th minute penalty when punting to touch on the left but came away empty-handed following the lineout and were trailing 20-0 at half-time. They made a tonic start to the second half with the lively Boland making a terrific break and, in the follow up play. Evan Galvin surged over at the right corner for an unconverted 43rd minute try.
Rainey had left a 17-3 interval lead evaporate at Nenagh and the handful of Pirates supporters briefly hoped of a repeat. Buccs got a quick opportunity to add to their tally with a 47th minute penalty following a high tackle but again elected to kick to touch to no avail. Eight minutes later, Rainey forced a penalty in front of the visitors’ posts and opted for a scrum. Their big pack drove relentlessly to the line where the alert Bloomfield pounced for his second try with Magrath again adding the conversion.
Three minutes later the northerners notched a bonus point try. There appeared to be a clear case of crossing in the build up but centre Magrath made the most of play being allowed to continue to run in for a try between the uprights, his conversion giving Rainey a 34-5 advantage. Buccaneers belatedly came alive in the final ten minutes when their wingers eventually got some possession. O’Reilly took a smart throw-in to Saul O’Carroll who returned possession to O’Reilly and the winger weaved his way past a number of defenders for an excellent but unconverted try wide on the left to reduce the arrears to 34-10.
Shortly after this 71st minute score, a quick tap and go by Frankie Hopkins saw the scrumhalf career through the home rearguard but he lacked sufficiently swift support and a real try chance was missed.
Rainey Old Boys were fully deserving of their victory with centre Magrath, scrumhalf Bloomfield and especially hooker Bradley Roberts being particularly influential. As last week, Buccs did not always help their cause and they need to be more pragmatic. A number of kickable penalties were spurned and their developing team, in which youngsters O’Carroll and Sam Kroupa made their AIL debuts, needs to keep the scoreboard ticking over.
The Shannonsiders also need to suck in the opposition much more as there is a somewhat rushed tendancy to get the ball wide without getting past the gainline. Ironically, O’Reilly and Darragh Corbett looked really threatening in possession but saw far too little of the ball. Tackling, an area where the Pirates are generally effective, was disappointing in this outing with players regularly falling off the tackle. A lack of bulk in the pack is a problem but with some tweaking the players have the skillset and potential to reverse these early season setbacks.
Christian Maulaulau looks a promising addition and Martin Staunton and Galvin battled to the bitter end in the forwards exchanges. Boland was pick of the backline that could have delivered more if the wingers had got better service.
RAINEY OLD BOYS:- C.Devlin; A.Donaghy, C.Fitzsimons, A.Magrath, M.O’Neill; M.Connolly, J.Bloomfield (captain); A.McSwiggan, B.Roberts, F.Quinn; J.Bresland, R.McCusker; A.Harbison, J.McAuley and M.Millar. Rolling substitutes:- K.Donaghy, C.Hume, M.McCusker, M.Mulholland and M.Poskitt.
BUCCANEERS:- C.Boland; E.O’Reilly, S.Layden (captain), D.Corbett; M.Hanley, F.Hopkins; M.Murphy, R.Grenham, M.Staunton; T.Rensford, M.Kennedy; E.Galvin, R.Moloney and C.Maulaulau. Replacements:- S.Kroupa (for Kennedy, 15 mins), S.O’Connell (for Murphy, 34 mins), D.Browne (for Grenham, 40 mins), M.Kennedy (for Moloney, 44 mins), R.Grenham (for Kennedy, 62 mins), S.O’Carroll (for Reid, 62 mins), R.Murphy-Sweeney (for Hanley, 72 mins), M.Hanley (for Layden, inj. 75 mins) and C.Reid (for Rensford, 75 mins).
Referee:- John Carville (IRFU).