All Ireland League – Buccaneers 35 Old Wesley 7
Old Wesley travelled to Athlone to take on Buccaneers in Dubarry Park in Round 2 of the AIL Division 1B on the back of an impressive win over Naas in Donnybrook the previous week.
On a lovely day for rugby the teams took to the field with Old Wesley fielding an unchanged side from the week before and Buccaneers including a number of Connacht Contracted and Academy players.
It was clear from the kick-off that this was going to be a tough encounter against a big, strong and skilful Buccaneers team. From the outset Buccaneers went on the attack and had the best of the opening exchanges. Their large pack started to win good ball for their lively backs to attack and on 5 minutes, after a period of sustained pressure, they were awarded a penalty, which was converted by their neat out-half Michael Hanley. Buccaneers continued to put the pressure on and the Wesley scrum started to come under pressure, however the defence stood firm. Then on 10 minutes Buccaneers were again awarded a penalty on the 22, which Hanley slotted. to make it 6-0.
It was at this stage that Wesley began to win some good ball through Sam Pim and Josh O’Hare and gain a foothold in the Buccaneers half, however the aggressive Buccaneers defence resulted in a couple of knock-ons and loose passes, which saw Wesley losing the initiative. As Buccaneers continued to press the Wesley defence stood firm and an excellent tackle by Ian Cassidy on his opposite number saw him come away with the ball. He then kicked the ball down field to the opposition 22, which saw Howard Noonan sprinting after it and when he didn’t give up the chase and the Buccaneers winger failed to gather the ball on the ground Noonan was there to go down and secure the ball. O’Hare then carried it on and passed to Will Fay who carried the ball to within 5 meters of the Buccaneers line. From the ensuing ruck the ball came out to Alex Molloy, on the blindside, who dummied and went over in the corner to score. Cassidy converted with an excellent kick from near the touchline to put Wesley into a 7-6 lead.
From the kick-off Buccaneers went on the attack again and despite some gallant defence their full back, last season’s Irish under 20 three quarter and Irish 7’s international, Shane Jennings broke through to score close to the posts, which was duly converted by Hanley to leave the score 13pts to 7pts with 26 minutes gone. Wesley then gathered the ball from the restart and went on the attack only for the ball to be knocked on. However, from the resulting scrum Wesley were awarded a penalty which saw Cassidy kick to the corner. Unfortunately, Wesley knocked on in the lineout and from the scrum Buccaneers were able to clear their line.
Buccaneers then started to apply more pressure and following a break by Shane Jennings deep into first half injury time, Wesley strayed off-side which resulted in Hanley putting Buccaneers into a 16-7 lead at half-time.
During half time Josh O’Hare was forced to leave the field due to injury which saw the introduction of our new recruit from Australia, Dom MacLean. Old Wesley started the second half well with Maclean showing a fresh pair of legs and making a number of strong carries. He was well supported by Will Fay and the Pim brothers. Wesley continued to apply the pressure but despite good continuity, the Buccaneers defence stood firm and eventually resulted in a turnover which Buccaneers tried to run out from their 22. This resulted in a strong tackle by Ian Cassidy on his opposite number, which saw Hanley needing to leave the field with a shoulder injury.
As the game entered the final quarter Buccaneers stated to regain control and following a long relieving kick, deep into the Buccaneers 22 by Alex Molloy, Shane Jennings decided to run the ball out of his 22 and cut through the Wesley defence to bring the ball to the Wesley 22, before passing to the impressive Oisin McCormack, which saw the wing forward sprint unopposed to score. Stephen Mannion (son of Noel), who took over the kicking duties added the points.
Wesley then started to empty the bench and seemed to up their game and Wesley’s ‘Man of the Match’ Will Fay made a great break and was well supported by MacLean and Reuben Pim, before Wesley were forced into touch just 5 meters from the Buccaneers line, but the lineout was won by Buccaneers.
It was at this stage that Buccaneers regained the ascendancy, and following sustained pressure, that saw Sam Pim and then Harry Noonan receive yellow cards, Darren Brown and Will Reilly crossed for two late tries, one of which was converted by Stephen Mannion to complete the 35 – 7 scoreline.
The overall ‘Man of the Match’ was the Buccaneers fine full back Shane Jennings, who was the stand out player on view. If Buccaneers can keep this team together throughout the season, they will cause many problems for the rest of the teams in Division 1B.
Old Wesley scorers -Alex Molloy, try; Ian Cassidy, con.
Old Wesley team:- Alex Molloy, David Poff, Eoin Deegan, James O’Donovan, Tom O’Callaghan, Ian Cassidy, Keith Kavanagh, Harry Noonan, Howard Noonan, Sam Kenny, Will Fay, Iain McGann (c), Sam Pim, Josh O’Hare, Reuben Pim. Replacements: – Finn Tierney, Michael Kearney, Brian Short, Dom Maclean, Josh Miller, Ben Daly.