BUCCS INCH CLOSER TO PROMOTIONpublished:Mar 15 2017
UCC 13 BUCCANEERS 12
BUCCANEERS wonderful unbeaten run stretching all the way back to the second round of the Ulster Bank League last September came to an end at The Mardyke, Cork, on Saturday where a massively committed University College, Cork, edged this compelling Division 1B encounter by the minimum on a 13-12 scoreline. Buccs had the majority of possession and territory but lacked their usual precision and resourcefulness, but the losing bonus point claimed keeps them firmly in control of their own destiny.
The midlanders made four changes, three enforced, for this game. In the pack Evan Galvin replaced the red-carded Rory Moloney in the backrow while Ruairi Byrne started at lock for the injured Simon Meagher. Conor McKeon returned after a lengthy injury lay-off in place of Callum Boland whose hamstring injury incurred against Dolphin ruled him out. The other change in the backline saw Eoin Griffin start in the centre instead of Alex Hayman while a realignment of the backline saw Luke Carty starting at fullback and Shane O’Leary anchoring the fly-half berth. UCC made just one change, Darragh Moloney replacing Eddie Earle at lock.
A gorgeous sunny afternoon and a firm sod meant conditions were near ideal, apart from a diagonal breeze that favoured the visitors in the opening half. Buccs made all the early running but several promising raids floundered mainly on knock-ons. Such was the early pressure by the Pirates that a score seem inevitable but it was UCC who opened the scoring in their first foray into the Athlone side’s 22 after 11 minutes. The Students won good lineout ball following a penalty that brought them inside Buccs half and a lovely reverse pass in midfield eventually led to College having the extra man out wide where Kevin O’Keeffe applied the finishing touch for a try which he also converted from wide on the right.
Buccaneers continued to press forward but spoiled good approach work time and again and Paul Kiernan robbed Griffin in front of the home posts as another attack went awry at the end of the opening quarter. The Pirates also got no return on a series of penalties kicked to touch on the left. Playing away from home it would have been more prudent to kick for the posts, get your scores and sow doubts in your opponents’ minds. UCC forays into Buccs territory were much rarer but they forced a 26th minute penalty which O’Keeffe converted to edge them 10-0 ahead. However, the Pirates finally got their picking and driving working to better effect in the closing stages of the half and Galvin burrowed over at the posts for a try which Carty converted with the final act of a lively first half.
Buccaneers rejigged their forces for the second half with Mata Fifita coming in at centre and Shane Layden switching to fullback while Shane Delahunt replaced John Sutton at hooker. However, difficulties at scrum and maul continued and O’Keeffe landed a 53rd minute penalty for the Students as Buccs penalty count mounted. The Athlone side persisted with ill-advised kicking in the third quarter particularly against a College side ever willing to run the ball back. Eoghan O’Reilly came on for Rory O’Connor and Frankie Hopkins replaced McKeon before the hour mark while Carty returned to action instead of O’Leary at outhalf for the final fifteen minutes.
The Athlone side finally got some reward for their sustained endeavours when retaining possession more sensibly and substitute O’Reilly finished off growing pressure for a 69th minute try but Carty’s conversion from wide on the right did not curl as anticipated in the breeze and shaved the wrong side of the far upright. With just a solitary point now separating the teams, Buccaneers applied intense pressure and were camped in the home 22 for long spells of the final quarter. But they just could not unlock a fiercely committed defensive effort by the Students, who put their bodies on the line.
Buccs had a lot in common with Ireland’s performance the previous night. Loads of possession and territory but poor execution once inside the home 22 where the ball was not protected and wrong options were too often taken. They needed to be more composed and calm in this sector where real leadership was needed while continued aimless kicking away of possession was bewildering. It was a frustrating display by the Shannonsiders as this was an untypical, misfiring collective performance. Spirit and industry could not be faulted by Buccaneers for whom just one more win will guarantee promotion. They still top the league table by thirteen points with just three fixtures remaining and face fellow contenders Naas in a showdown at Dubarry Park on Saturday week.
UCC, who had arguably more to play for, have surely assured themselves of 1B status next season by virtue of their hard-earned victory in this high-tempo contest.
U.C.C.:- R.Walsh; K.O’Keeffe, K.Slater (captain), P.Kieran, J.Kiernan; T.Kiersey, C.O’Regan; S.O’Hanlon, E.McCarthy, R.O’Donovan; D.Moloney, B.Mitchell; C.Barry, C.Gallagher and P.Derham. Replacements:- E.Earle (for Mitchell, 50 mins), D.Feeney (for Barry, 50 mins), T.McCarthy (for E.McCarthy, 60 mins), E.McCarthy (for T.McCarthy, 73 mins), C.Gallagher (for Earle, 73 mins), C.McHugh and C.McAuliffe.
BUCCANEERS:- L.Carty; R.O’Connor, S.Layden, E.Griffin, J.Conroy; S.O’Leary, C.McKeon; J.Dever, J.Sutton, M.Staunton; D.Qualter, R.Byrne; S.McVeigh, E.Galvin and K.Kiripati (captain). Replacements:- M.Fifita (for Carty, h/t), S.Delahunt (for Sutton, h/t), E.O’Reilly (for O’Connor, 50 mins), F.Hopkins (for McKeon, 61 mins), L.Carty (for O’Leary, 65 mins) and R.Grenham (for Dever, 67 mins).
Referee:- Andy Brace (IRFU).
CONNEMARA 32 BUCCANEERS 27
Despite putting up a valiant effort, Buccaneers Seconds came up just short at The Monastery Field where they lost a high-scoring Connacht Junior 1A League match to Connemara by 32-27 on Sunday. This was the second week in succession that Buccs had to travel to Clifden but they just could not fashion the vital win that would have meant they avoided a relegation play-off despite earning a losing bonus point.
Alex Hayman, Mata Fifita and HarryHughes scored Buccs tries, two of which were converted by Ger Fallon who also landed a pair of penalties. This was a decent squad effort by Buccaneers who led 20-13 at half-time but well drilled Connemara were that little step better in teamwork and cohesion. Buccs now face Corinthians or Tuam in a play-off in a couple of weeks time.
BUCCANEERS:- E.O’Reilly; B.Walsh, M.Fifita, S.Flynn, H.Hughes; A.Hayman, G.Fallon; K.Grehan, R.Grenham (captain), R.O’Meara; S.Byrne, T.Couper; J.O’Connell, N.Purcell and G.Halligan. Replacements:- E.O’Brien, T.Thompson, M.Lyons and J.Lopez.
MAYNOOTH UNIVERSITY/BARNHALL 22 BUCCANEERS 15
Buccaneers U-20’s lost narrowly away to leaders MU/Barnhall at Parsonstown on Sunday. However, their losing bonus point consolidates their second position in the J.P.Fanagan Leinster Premier League 2 table.
U-20’s home to Naas
In what could be a precursor to the following weekend, Buccaneers U-20’s entertain Naas in the J.P.Fanagan Leinster League Premier 2 division at Dubarry Park on Sunday next. Kick off is 3 p.m. These young Buccs will be eager to bounce back after their narrow defeat away to leaders MU/Barnhall where their losing bonus point helped consolidate their second place on the league table. With home advantage and appropriate focus, the Pirates should prevail.
BUCCANEERS WOMEN are away to leaders NUIG in the Connacht Womens League at Dangan on Sunday. Their Connacht Cup final against Tuam has been rescheduled for Sunday, April 2nd with venue yet to be confirmed.