Vital victory annexed as Buccaneers claim crucial bonus point

BUCCANEERS 24 ST MARY’S COLLEGE 17

RUGBY with MICHAEL SILKE

Buccaneers bounced back from last week’s last gasp loss in Armagh to record a bonus point 24-17 All-Ireland League Division 1B victory over St. Mary’s College at Dubarry Park on Saturday. Buccs warranted this vital win but made heavier work of it than necessary in front of Connacht Head Coach Andy Friend. However, following three wins in their last four matches, they now lie just a solitary point adrift of the Dubliners on the ever tightening league table.

Conditions were near perfect at the Athlone venue on a lovely spring afternoon. St. Mary’s had first advantage of the diagonal breeze and began on the front foot but Buccs stood firm and then scored from their first real break after 10 minutes. Luke Carty got the ball wide via Callum Boland to late call-up Rensford and the lock thundered forward before linking with Frankie Hopkins. The scrumhalf was stopped short by his opposite number Paddy O’Driscoll but had the awareness and presence (similar to Scotland’s Finn Russell recently against Ireland ) to offload to Rory O’Connor who scooted in for an unconverted try on the right.

However, the homesters were not sharp on the restart and suddenly St. Mary’s had an overlap on the left which they capitalised on, fullback Shields running in for a 13th minute unconverted try to level. But Buccaneers were not fazed by this setback and, following a fine penalty to touch on the left, they mauled over the College line where O’Donnell grounded for a 21st minute try which was also unconverted.

Six minutes later, the Pirates repeated the dose. This time a series of threatening pick and goes followed another good lineout take. Shane Layden and Kieran Joyce were kept out but Eoghan Masterson stretched over on the right for his third try in two matches. Carty’s conversion gave Buccs a 17-5 lead. Soon afterwards Sean Masterson was sin-binned for slowing ball illegally but Buccaneers showed tremendous defensive resilience to protect their advantage until half-time.

St. Mary’s made a tonic start to the second half. After going through a number of phases following the change of ends, they sucked in the home cover and Craig Kennedy sped down the left for a 42nd minute unconverted try. Almost immediately, Buccaneers had a glorious opportunity for a perfect riposte but Eoghan Masterson’s pass in a three-on-one situation was forward and Hopkins gilt-edged try opportunity could not be taken.

Although they did not make enough use of the breeze, Buccs pressure was growing but they were caught napping on the hour mark when Marcus O’Driscoll intercepted just outside the College 22. With the Pirates pressing forward the St. Mary’s captain raced away to score between the posts and Paddy O’Driscoll’s conversion tied the scores at 17-17 to set up a grandstand final quarter.

This rejuvenated the metropolitans and Buccs became edgy but they maintained their urgency and workrate, keeping the visitors under pressure. They were rewarded seven minutes from time albeit a little fortuitously. Corey Reid’s attempted grubber kick was blocked but rebounded back to him and the young centre calmly weaved his way through to touchdown near the uprights. Carty duly converted this bonus point try that sealed Buccaneers priceless 24-17 victory.

Hugo Diepman and Nick McCarthy were prominent in the St. Mary’s pack while Kennedy was a constant threat on the wing. Rensford is getting better week by week for Buccs and the New Zealander’s contribution, particularly in the first half, earned him the AUDI ATHLONE Man of the Match accolade. After his lengthy lay-off Moloney too will be happy with his input in the forwards exchanges. Reid was lively in the home backline where Carty’s line-kicking was first rate as Buccs passed this crunch College test.

BUCCANEERS:- C.Boland; R.O’Connor, C.Reid, K.Joyce, S.Layden (captain ); L.Carty, F.Hopkins; C.O’Donnell, J.Sutton, C.Kenny; R.Byrne, T.Rensford; S.Masterson, R.Moloney and E.Masterson. Replacements:- E.Galvin (for Moloney, 58 mins ), M.Staunton (for Kenny, 58 mins ), R.Moloney (for Rensford, 65 mins ), C.Kenny (for O’Donnell, 65 mins ), R.Grenham (for Sutton, 74 mins ), G.Lynch and M.Hanley.

Buccaneers away to Malone

BUCCANEERS are away to second placed Malone in next Saturday’s All-Ireland League Division 1B fixture at Gibson Park, Belfast. Kick off is 2.30pm.

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