NAAS 24 BUCCANEERS 21
Buccaneers' winning streak came to an end when Craig Ronaldson’s final kick of the match earned Naas a 24-21 victory in this Energia All-Ireland League Division 1B match played in artic conditions on the synthetic all-weather pitch at Tullow Rugby Club on Saturday.
This fixture, the only one played in Division 1B at the weekend, was moved from Naas where their Forenaughts ground was under snow.
Due to the change of venue and the icy weather, the attendance was understandably a modest one as Naas made the brighter start. The Pirates conceded an unnecessary penalty with a push at an up-and-under and Sam Cahill opened the scoring with the placekick. Will Reilly made a smashing break for Buccs up the centre but home skipper Paul Monahan’s tackle forced a knock-on when a try seemed likely. West then also made ground up the centre but when the ball went loose Naas fastened on to it to clear the danger.
Saul O’Carroll then made huge ground with a splendid 50/22 kick to the left and, following the lineout, Buccs moved forward but Kelly knocked on. However, Naas did not clear their lines effectively and the Athlone side applied composed pressure that was finished off by Cian McCann for a try between the uprights. Hanley’s conversion gave the Pirates the lead 7-3 for the only time in this contest.
The Cobras responded with Will O’Brien making ground on the right and, when the ball was moved infield, Charlie Sheridan escaped McCann’s clutches to run in for a try at the posts with Cahill adding the conversion. Buccs had the next opportunity, initiated by a penalty to the right and followed by a maul, but Stepheni Lombard knocked on in the tackle when the ball was switched infield.
Misfiring Buccs then conceded two penalties for holding in quick succession. Josh O’Connor was caught in possession while an overhit West pass put Danny Qualter in trouble. Cahill landed both placekicks to give the hosts a 16-7 lead at halftime.
Deficit Retrieval Falls Short
Following the change of ends, Naas infringed at a ruck near halfway and following the penalty to touch the Pirates went through a considerable number of phases close to the Kildare side’s line. This pressure resulted in the Naas No 8 Eoin Walsh being sin-binned. Ciaran Booth led the resultant Buccs attack but young McCann, in an eventful outing, was held up over the Naas line. However, O’Connor counter-attacked from the Naas clearance with Lombard carrying the move on and earning another penalty that was punted to the left corner. This time Buccaneers pressure was rewarded when O’Connell powered over for a try which Hanley converted to leave just two points between the teams, Naas 16-14 to the good just before the hour mark.
The Shannonsiders have been finishing strongly in recent outings and looked to be getting on top after a below par opening half display. O’Connor and Lombard were soon making inroads again and McCann, Shane Layden and Reilly combined smartly in a very promising move that forced a penalty for offside. However, Buccs spurned the very kickable position and opted to work the line where they infringed as they endeavoured to get their maul going. In hindsight, the penalty should have been slotted over and the lead regained at this key stage of the game.
This proved a highly costly decision as, despite Qualter winning the resultant lineout, Buccs were caught in possession near halfway from where Naas kicked the ensuing penalty to the left corner. From there Naas moved the ball patiently and eventually found Donal Conroy in space wide on the right and he dotted down for an unconverted try to push the Kildare club’s advantage to 21-14.
Oisin Dolan replaced Lombard at this stage while his former clubmate Nato Kiripati was introduced at hooker for Naas. Reilly nailed his opposite number Oscar Crawley at the back of a scrum to win a penalty that was punted to a highly promising position on the left but Buccs knocked on at the lineout. However, they applied fierce pressure on the Naas put in and mauled forward where both Martin Staunton and Booth were held out. But possession was retained and then the ball was moved slickly to the right where O’Connor applied a composed finish for his eight try of the campaign. Hanley added an excellent conversion to tie the scores at 21-21.
The momentum was now with the Athlone side and Stephen Mannion made terrific yardage before sending a skipped pass to O’Connor who looked like adding to his try tally but Sheridan’s hand trip slowed his impetus and Conroy shunted him into touch close to the Naas line.
The Cobras were not done yet and a break by Fionn Higgins yielded a penalty that Craig Ronaldson was unable to convert. Fullback Higgins then saw an ambitious drop goal effort fall short while the elusive Sheridan’s mazy break was halted by O’Connor’s firm tackle. Then, in the final move of this lively encounter, referee Andrew Fogarty deemed rather harshly that Booth was not back 10 metres when he tackled following a tap-and-go penalty. With the last kick of the match, substitute Ronaldson's conversion went over and Naas ended Buccaneers impressive winning sequence.
Although disappointed that the first half of the league was bookended by defeats, Buccaneers go into the festive break with a five points lead at the top of the league table, a position that the Athlone club would have been more than happy to accept at the commencement of the season.
BUCCANEERS:- M.Hanley; J.O’Connor, S.Layden, S.Mannion, S.O’Carroll; H.West, W.Reilly; J.Kelly, S.Lombard, M.Staunton (captain ); R.Byrne, D.Qualter; S.O’Connell, C.McCann and C.Booth. Replacements:- O.Dolan (for Lombard ), C.Fokam, F.McDonnell, R.O’Connor, T.Shine and O.Burgess.
Buccaneers to Host 5km Run on New Year's Day
Kick out the cobwebs after the festive season with a 5km run on New Year’s Day in aid of good causes. Buccaneers Rugby Football Club is hosting a 5km event on January 1 with the proceeds being shared between the club’s youth's section and St Hilda’s Services.
You can run, walk or crawl and entry is €10 or only €20 for a family group. Registration for the event will take place in the Lower Deck at The Bounty from 11am on the day with the run commencing at 12 noon. All support will be greatly appreciated.