Buccaneers 13 Naas 36
BUCCANEERS lost for the first time this season when going down 36-13 to Naas in the opening round of the All-Ireland League Division 1B played at Dubarry Park. Naas, the physically stronger and more settled side, merited their win albeit the final margin did not fully reflect the endeavours of a depleted Pirates crew.
On a glorious sunny afternoon conditions were near ideal for players and spectators alike, a crossfield breeze being the only quandary for the teams. Buccaneers had four AIL debutants in their starting XV including teenage duo Michael Hanley and Colm Reilly at halfback, while Torin Rensford and Owen Treacy were stepping up a level in the home pack.
The visitors were quickly into their stride and Peter Hastie finished off smart early play for an unconverted try after just two minutes. Buccs replied almost immediately with a Callum Boland snipe but Peter Osborne got across to deny Rory O’Connor grounding the centre’s chip ahead. A wild Tolofua tackle on Rensford yielded a penalty which Hanley converted sweetly from the ten metre line to open Buccs account at the end of the first quarter.
The Athlonians were then punished when a clearance went directly into touch. This gave Naas a foothold on the right and, when possession was transferred to Andrew Ellis, the imposing winger swatted his way through a number of porous tackles for a soft 26th minute try which Osborne converted from left of the uprights for a 12-3 lead.
Seven minutes later Rory Moloney’s rampage forward earned a penalty just inside the opposition’s 22. Reilly snappily tapped and hared over the line to catch the visitors’ napping and Hanley duly converted this enterprising try. This score instilled belief and energy in the homesters but they were to rue not being able to add a brace of tries in a lively finish to the half. A clever angled kick by Reilly forced the Kildare men to concede a lineout close to their line. O’Connor quickly threw the ball in to Boland but the combined efforts of Fionn Higgins and Ross Bailey-Kearney held him out. Then in the dying embers of the half, when Boland sent O’Connor scurrying forward again in The Bounty corner, Murphy did just enough to force the home winger into touch with the line in his sights. Half-time arrived with Naas 12-10 to the good.
Two minutes into the second half, another high tackle earned a penalty which Hanley calmly struck between the posts to put Buccaneers 13-12 ahead. However, five minutes later, John Sutton was singled out for a visit to the sin bin as Buccs brought down a maul close to their line. Naas promptly added further discomfort when Osborne broke from the base of a scrum to dive over for a 49th minute try which he also converted.
Referee Oisin Quinn finally flashed yellow to Naas just before the hour mark when he binned Coyle due to an accumulation of infringements by the visitors. But it was Naas who struck for the next score when the powerful Ellis careered through for his second try. Osborne converted this bonus point try and he added a 70th minute penalty to ease his side further ahead 29-13.
Shortly afterwards, Rensford was yellow carded for a clumsy tackle (yet Naas had five penalties for high tackles awarded against them but, despite two chats with their captain, no sin binnings resulted which puzzled home fans ) and in the final minute Cillian Dempsey was mauled over the line for a try converted by Osborne that completed Naas’ 36-13 winning margin. Depleted Buccs can take heart from their efforts and, had they got a better return from their first half try opportunities, the outcome might have been different. Moloney was the outstanding player on the field, earning the Audi Athlone Man of the Match accolade. The home pack battled to the bitter end while a backline that featured assistant coach Aidan Wynne in the centre and a number of other players operating out of position will have learned from this experience. Here the youthful and compact duo of Reilly and Hanley warrant commendation.
BUCCANEERS:- G.Lynch; R.O’Connor, C.Boland, A.Wynne, D.Corbett; M.Hanley, C.Reilly; M.Staunton, J.Sutton, N.Farrelly; T.Rensford, E.Galvin; O.Treacy, R.Moloney (captain ) and S.Meagher. Replacements:- H.O’Reilly (for Farrelly, 32 mins ), N.Farrelly (for O’Reilly, 49 mins ), H.O’Reilly (for Farrelly, 71 mins ), E.Maher (for Treacy, 47/57 mins ), T.McGann (for O’Connor, inj. 69 mins ), R.Flanagan and F.Hopkins.
Referee:- Oisin Quinn (IRFU ).
Buccs away to Banbridge
BUCCANEERS have a first ever meeting with Banbridge when the teams duel at Rifle Park on Saturday next. This All-Ireland League Division 1B game kicks off in the northern venue at 2.30pm.