BUCCANEERS 25 UCD 20published:Jan 07 2013
BUCCANEERS came from 14 points down to defeat University College Dublin 25-20 in a thrilling Ulster Bank League Division 1B encounter at Dubarry Park on Saturday. But, in front of a decent attendance that included IRFU President Billy Glynn, the Pirates had to do it the hard way as a wonderfully spirited and sustained collective effort earned the midlanders a fifth successive victory in this match sponsored by GANLY’S of Athlone. Two settled squads boasted a plethora of recent Ireland U-20 graduates and thus a ding-dong contest was anticipated. Those who came along to the Athlone venue despite the pre-match downpour were not disappointed. Buccs had just one change in their starting line-up with Daniel Qualter returning for Rory Byrne while Mata Fifita, signed last summer, was included for the first time albeit on the bench. Buccs opted to face the wind and rain in the opening half and College were quick to harness the elements as they pegged the hosts back from the kick off. The Students were helped by some sloppy home play and James Thornton slotted over two softly-conceded penalties inside the opening 8 minutes. During this period Buccaneers lost lock Qualter after only 7 minutes with a shoulder injury. It could have been worse as Thornton was off-target with a drop goal attempt following a wayward clearance by Billy Henshaw who made amends with some shuddering tackles. Jack Carty’s ambitious 11th minute penalty went close and it yielded a five metre scrum after a UCD defender knocked on in his own in-goal area but that went awry as did a subsequent close-in lineout. The visitors repeatedly made ground with solid use of the strong downfield breeze but Buccs tackling throughout was tenacious and committed, best exemplified by Garreth Halligan who somehow denied James Tracey’s drive for the home line after 19 minutes. The wily Buccs hooker then succeeded in holding up his opposite number as a UCD try seemed inevitable. Fifita made his long overdue debut on 27 minutes and was involved instantly only to concede a penalty for not releasing. Thornton duly converted but Buccaneers had the better of the exchanges and territory until halftime when they trailed 0-9. Nevertheless, home supporters would have been confident that their standard bearers would step up on the resumption but the Students had other ideas when they grabbed a tonic try just a minute after the restart. Andrew Boyle swooped on to a loose Carty up and under to hare 60 metres upfield before Callum Boland stopped his progress. However, the UCD fullback had support from Eoin Joyce and the No.8 barged over for a try on the left. Thornton’s conversion attempt was the outhalf’s only blemish but College now had a healthy 14-0 advantage. Three minutes later Carty lofted a diagonal kick to the left where Mark McCrea chipped over two defenders but the pacey Boyle scampered across to prevent a seeming certain home try. Carty eventually opened Buccs’ account with a 49th minute penalty but Thornton replied within three minutes to maintain UCD’s promising cushion. Two minutes later, Buccs pressure on a UCD lineout forced a knock-on and, from the resultant scrum, the Pirates surged forward before Mark Dolan, Fifita and Boland combined to send Alex Hayman thundering through for a 54th minute unconverted try. A further three minutes of pressure yielded a penalty when the visitors did not release and Carty comfortably converted. Then, on the hour mark, Buccs attacked strongly and with UCD seeming to be watching the combined threats posed by Kolo Kiripati and Fifita, Carty wrong-footed them by going on his own and breaking the joint tackles of Boyle and Joyce to dive over between the goalposts for a smartly-taken try. Carty’s conversion nosed Buccs into the lead for the first time 18-17. Then a key incident looked like swaying matters back in favour of the visitors when Kiripati was yellow-carded following a flagging by a touch-judge after the powerful No. 8’s run in anticipation of the ball had swatted Boyle aside as the visiting fullback seemed to try to thwart the home captain’s angle. Thornton made light of the delay in kicking the resultant penalty to edge UCD back into the lead 20-18 with 16 minutes remaining. But this setback merely galvanised Buccaneers whose spirit and resilience never wavered. Although the wind was now less of an influence following further rain, they continued to take the game to the Students who did not deal with a teasing Carty chip into the middle where David Heffernan fastened on to the ball to make serious yardage. Several pairs of slick handling later and Henshaw was grounding the ball wide on the right for a splendidly-taken 70th minute try, equalled by a super touchline conversion from Carty. This put Buccs 25-20 ahead and they fearlessly and fervently defended that five points lead to a protracted final whistle. UCD upped the ante to throw virtually everything bar the kitchen sink at Buccaneers. The homesters kept their line intact until the talismanic Kiripati returned to the fray but, just at that moment, James Tormey was banished to the sin bin for offside although he appeared to be on his own goalline when deemed to have infringed. So the Pirates had to roll up their sleeves again as UCD launched a sustained onslaught that constantly threatened but never manage to breach the home line. College somehow managed to retain possession until 85 minutes elapsed but only once got to the line when the final pass to Tracey was forward and duly spotted by the touch-judge who had drawn the ire of home fans earlier. In another code, this was a “Roy of the Rovers” display by Buccaneers. They initially made life difficult for themselves, then had to endure two yellow cards in the dramatic final quarter, but were not found wanting. They kept their shape and never relented in graft or desire whilst some of their moves were of the highest order in a superb second half performance when tackling by the Pirates was awesome. UCD too played their part in this rip-roaring contest with fullback Boyle proving a constant menace. For Buccs diminutive scrumhalf Dolan put in a gigantic contribution to richly merit being named ‘AUDI ATHLONE Man of the Match’. Fifita redeemed himself after his initial error and Carty also did well in a decent home backline effort. Kiripati was again the heartbeat of the pack where Byrne excelled following his earlier than anticipated introduction. Tormey did well in the lineouts and the cagey Halligan rolled back the years with a vintage display. But this was truly a wonderful team mix of effort and endeavour as Buccs move ever closer the top two Ballynahinch and Dublin University. BUCCANEERS:- C.Boland; B.Henshaw, C.Finn, A.Hayman, M.McCrea; J.Carty, M.Dolan; M.Staunton, G.Halligan, P.Reilly; D.Qualter, J.Tormey; D.Heffernan, L.Satchwell and K.Kiripati (captain). Replacements:- R.Byrne (for Qualter, inj. 7 mins), J.Roets (for Reilly, blood sub 12-25 mins), M.Fifita (for Finn, 27 mins), J.Roets (for Staunton, 55 mins), C.Finn (for Hayman, 61 mins), E.O’Brien and R.Taylor. U.C.D:- A.Boyle; S.Coghlan-Murray, A.Cummiskey, J.Coghlan, B.Daly; J.Thornton, L.McGrath; J.Tracey, R.Byrne (captain), K.Moloney; E.MacMahon, B.Cawley; D.Kenny, M.McGroarty and E.Joyce. Replacements:- C.Gilsenan (for McGroarty, h-t), R.Harrison, A.Clarkin, R.Shanley and S.Murphy. REFEREE:- Will O’Connor (IRFU).