Cashel 38 Buccaneers 43
Buccaneers inflicted a first home AIL defeat of the season on Cashel when the teams met in the final round of the Energia All-Ireland League at Spafield on Saturday with the midlanders winning a high-scoring encounter 43-38. This Division 2A promotion play-off dress rehearsal was played out with most of the leading cast absent from both teams, neither side wishing to show too much to their opponents. Nevertheless, with some places still up for grabs on Saturday week, an entertaining contest unfolded in the glorious warm sunshine. Twelve tries, evenly shared by the teams, contributed to the 81 points tally, a ratio of one point per minute (a feat unlikely to be repeated on April 23 ).
Buccs had only five starters from the team that defeated Ballymena last week while the Reds also used their preferred XV sparingly. The homesters opened the scoring following a crossfield kick and then a maul that was finished off by Brian O’Connor after just five minutes with Dan O’Neill adding the conversion. Buccs responded within 3 minutes following a gallop by Cian McCann up the left before the ball was moved from left to right where Tom Shine and Jensen Nagle combined to send another youngster Harry Balsiger in for a try in the right corner. Michael Hanley converted that touchdown and also Tabo Maree’s score just three minutes later after the South African blocked an attempted clearance and was swiftest to react to pounce for a try. The scores were coming fast and furious at this stage, Brendan Crosse notching an unconverted try for the hosts to narrow their arrears to 14-12 after just 16 minutes.
Skippered on the day by Ruairi Byrne, the Pirates then struck for a brace of tries in quick succession, Rory O’Connor’s pass sending Harry Hughes over on 23 minutes and then a clever angled kick by Eoin O’Reilly was swooped on by Balsiger for his second try four minutes later. The scrumhalf made a super tackle to deny the Munster side a try just before halftime by which time he was in the sin bin for a careless tackle. Buccaneers were well worth their 26-12 lead at the interval.
Buccs made a number of substitutions at the break but Cashel made the perfect start following the change of ends, Aidan Butler finishing off a great 41st minute drive. Diarmuid Gallagher should have added another soon afterwards but stepped on the touchline while at the other end Balsiger was denied a hat-trick when the scoring pass was a shade forward. But the Shannonsiders stretched their advantage to 33-19 after 49 minutes when Nagle’s pace saw him get to Stephen Mannion’s clever chip and the young fullback dotted down at the posts.
The homesters narrowed the arrears when Crosse crossed the line for the second time following a series of scrums at the three-quarters stage and six minutes later there was just two points between the teams. Adam Dunne picked off a Maree pass in midfield and, although his progress was halted, Phil Ryan was up in support to grab a try. The game had become scrappy at this stage and Buccs concentration and workrate had slipped. Dunne had better luck when reading Shine’s offload and he raced through for a 68th minute converted try that put the Tipperary standard bearers 38-33 ahead.
But Buccaneers’ response was just what was needed. Mannion, who had come on for the second half in the flyhalf berth, kicked ahead and outpaced home fullback Joshua O’Dwyer to score a 74th minute try between the posts. He duly converted and then drilled a late penalty to secure a narrow but deserved 43-38 victory that will be a confidence booster for the midlanders ahead of the play-off at the same venue on Saturday week.
CASHEL: J O’Dwyer; O O’Suilleabhain, A Dunne, J O’Rourke, D Gallagher; D O’Neill, M Hickey; C O’Donnell, M Kelly, T Allen; B O’Connor, B Crosse; L Shine, A Butler (captain ) and A.O’Connor. Replacements used: J Blair, P Ryan, H O’Donoghue, J Pickering and M McCormack.
BUCCANEERS: J Nagle; H Balsiger, T Shine, R O’Connor, H Hughes; M Hanley, E O’Reilly; J Kelly, D Browne, M Staunton; D Murray, R Byrne (captain ); C McCann, K Kiripati and T Maree. Replacements: S Krupa (for Kiripati ), F Galvin (for Murray ), S O’Connell (for Staunton ), S Mannion (for Hanley ), K Kiripati (for Krupa ), R Murphy-Sweeney (for O’Connor ) and M Staunton (for Maree ).
Referee:- Sam Holt (IRFU ).