ENERGIA All-IRELAND LEAGUE DIVISION 1B
Buccaneers 15 – Naas 21
Match Report: Mark Herbert
Photos: Michael Linehan
The 2023/2024 Energia All-Ireland League Division 1B continued last Saturday afternoon, with Naas travelling to Dubarry Park in Athlone to face Buccaneers. They left with a hard-fought win, with the foundations for the victory laid by a sterling performance by the pack. Buccaneers thrive on dominating up front, but they were certainly second best in that department here.
Naas played with the advantage of the wind at their backs in the first half, they enjoyed the majority of possession in the opening stages of the game, and came mightily close to opening the scoring after nine minutes. From a line-out win, Naas set up a driving maul which took play close to the Buccaneers line and when it was stopped David Benn broke free and dived for the line. However credit to the Buccaneers defence they managed to hold up him, and an incident at the conclusion of this play, saw Dermot Blake show a yellow card to the Naas player and award Buccaneers a penalty to clear their lines.
Four minutes later the home side were in front and Naas will be very disappointed with the concession of this score. When Josh O’Connor received the ball on the right wing, just inside half-way, there appeared to be no danger for the visitors. However as the winger cut inside, a series of missed tackles saw him break clear and he raced away to score a try. The conversion was missed by Michael Hanley, but the home side led by five points to nil.
Naas responded after 25 minutes. Buccaneers were penalised for a side entry and Bryan Croke dispatched the subsequent penalty to touch. From the line-out Naas set up a driving maul, and when this was stopped the pack remained patient and went through a series of phases. They pounded away at the Buccaneers defence, finally getting over when Conor Doyle crashed over from close range. Sam Cahill added the conversion and Naas were in front by 7-5.
The remainder of the half had a very stop/start nature to it, with a number of handling errors by both sides, but Buccaneers did have a chance to reclaim the lead just on half-time when they had a five-yard line-out. However Muiris Cleary did brilliantly to steal this and Naas were able to clear, with the referee blowing the half-time whistle soon afterwards.
Buccaneers were in front within 50 seconds of the restart. Naas were penalised for holding on in a ruck, and from 35 yards out Michael Hanley slotted the subsequent penalty to make it 8-7 to the home side. But the visitors completely took over for the next twenty minutes. They camped inside the Buccaneers 22 and were rewarded with a try after 48 minutes. When Cian McCann was penalised for not rolling away the referee showed him a yellow card, and awarded Naas a penalty under the posts. It was a certain three points but Naas elected to go for the jugular. Neil O’Hanlon took a tap penalty and when he was tackled the ball was quickly recycled to scrum-half Derry Lenehan. A lovely reserve pass by him to Muiris Cleary caught the Buccaneers defence unawares, and there was no stopping the Naas wing-forward as he powered over. Sam Cahill added the conversion and Naas led by 14-8.
They were further in front on 56 minutes. A big carry by Francisco Bartorelli put the Buccaneers defence on the back foot, and great hands by Bryan Croke, Fionn Higgins and Conor Doyle quickly moved the ball out to the right wing, where David Benn was waiting. He put his head down, driving for the line and finished in style. A superb conversion from the sideline by Sam Cahill made it 21-8 in favour of Naas.
Buccaneers stormed back into the attack in a bid to rescue something from the game, and although Naas had a let off after 64 minutes when Cian McCann knocked on with the try-line at his mercy, in general the visitors dealt comfortably enough with the best efforts of the home side. Naas however did receive a big set back on 75 minutes, when Bryan Croke was shown a red card for a high challenge on Tom Shine. While there is no doubt that he made contact, he was a little unlucky in that the Buccaneers player was ducking at the time, and there was certainly no malice in the tackle.
The home side exploited the extra space created by the sending off, as after eighty minutes Cian McCann managed to get over from close range. Michael Hanley added the conversion, but soon afterwards the referee blew the full-time whistle, with Naas winners by 21 points to 15.
There is no doubt that this victory for Naas was totally deserved. As stated the pack were outstanding and it would be unfair to single anyone out, as they all played their part. With six games remaining in the league there is certainly a lot to play for. Barring a big collapse Naas appear to be safe from relegation and can now push on in their efforts to secure a play-off spot. Naas currently lie in seventh place with 33 points, but are just four points behind Old Belvedere who occupy second spot on 37 points. It certainly makes for an intriguing conclusion to the season. Next up for Naas is a home fixture against Blackrock College on Saturday, February 10th. Kick-off is at 2.30pm and as always all support will be greatly appreciated.
Buccaneers: Harry West, Josh O’Connor, Shane Layden (capt), Mark Earle, Orrin Burgess, Michael Hanley, Leo McFarlane, James Kelly, Matthew Victory, Sam Illo, Fergus Galvin, Ryan O’Meara, Cathal Walsh, Gavin Daly, Cian McCann. Replacements: Oisin Dolan, Charlie Ward, Martin Staunton, Fionn McDonnell, Tom Shine, Conor O’Shaughnessy.
Naas: Fionn Higgins, Donal Conroy, Charlie Sheridan, Craig Ronaldson, Sam Cahill, Bryan Croke (capt), Derry Lenehan, Conor Doyle, Neil O’Hanlon, Adam Coyle, David Benn, James O’Loughlin, Cillian Dempsey, Muiris Cleary, Eoin Walsh. Replacements: Francisco Bartorelli, Stephen Lackey, Conor McVerry, Paul Monahan, Peter Osborne, Ben Noone.
Referee: Dermot Blake.