Buccaneers 28 Belfast Harlequins 14
Buccaneers maintained their bid for a Top Four finish when they defeated Belfast Harlequins 28-14 in their Ulster Bank League Division 1B game at Dubarry Park, Athlone, on Saturday. Played in near ideal conditions, Buccs were good value for their double score winning margin but they spurned the opportunity to secure a precious bonus victory after leading comfortably by 28-0 by the three-quarters stage. Quins, spirited throughout, gained some reward for their endeavours with two final quarter tries.
Although making five changes (four enforced) from their last minute loss at St. Mary’s College, Buccs were quickly into their stride and opened the scoring with a 10th minute try. Following a scrum on the right at half-way, the ball was moved smartly infield where Rory O’Connor looped around and he drew the final defender before sending Alan Gaughan on his way for a try which Conor McKeon converted. O’Connor was swiftly involved again linking with Kolo Kiripati to set up a tidy drop goal by McKeon just three minutes later. When Harlequins infringed at the end of the opening quarter, outhalf McKeon made it 13-0 in favour of the midlanders with a penalty.
The Belfast side came more into the game and both sides had half chances before the Pirates stretched their advantage to 20-0 with a 30th minute try. A Ben Carty grubber kick chased by Gaughan forced the visitors to infringe again and Buccs punted the penalty to touch near the left corner. From the lineout their pack drove over for a try by AUDI ATHLONE Man of the Match Kiripati with McKeon adding the conversion to complete the first half scoring.
Buccs continued on the offensive following the change of ends and soon added to their tally, substitute Eoghan O’Reilly making an immediate impact by dotting down for a 49th minute try shortly after his introduction. The Athlone side’s build-up to this score was impressive and composed down the right flank before McKeon lofted a pinpoint diagonal kick to O’Reilly who skipped by Mark Best to score. Although McKeon did not convert, home supporters surely anticipated that the Pirates would now nab a bonus point but, apart from a 53rd minute McKeon penalty, they failed to add to their tally as their focus and application waned.
Harlequins continued to battle and enjoyed the better of the exchanges in the final quarter and, following a decent spell of pressure in the home 22, Conall Bloomer drove over near the uprights for a 63rd minute try which Rory Blake-Knox converted. The Belfast side now had a spring in their steps but they could not breach the midlanders defence until two minutes from time when David McMaster scythed through to set up Blake-Knox for a try which he also converted.
BUCCANEERS:- C.Boland; R.O’Connor, C.Finn, B.Carty, A.Gaughan; C.McKeon, C.Lowndes; M.Staunton (captain), R.Grenham, S.Meunargia; M.Mannion, C.Romaine; P.Gallogly, E.Galvin and K.Kiripati. Replacements:- E.O’Reilly (for Carty, 46 mins), B.Carty (for Finn, 65 mins), R.Byrne (for Mannion, 69 mins), A.Hayman (for Boland, inj. 69 mins) and C.Walsh (for Staunton, 69 mins).
BELFAST HARLEQUINS:- M.Glover; R.Blake-Knox, B.Sloan, M.Best, A.McPhillips; T.Emerson, C.Young; O.McCollum, P.Jackson, M.McGrath; C.Leckey, N.McComb (captain); F.Taggart, O.Loughead and M.Fisher. Replacements:- N.Montgomery (for Jackson, 31 mins), C.Bloomer (for Leckey, 54 mins), M.Kettyle (for Emerson, 54 mins), D.McMaster (for Sloan, 54 mins) and S.Weir (for Loughead, 69 mins).
Referee:- Jonathan Peak (IRFU).
Buccaneers are away to Blackrock College at Stradbrook, Dublin, on Saturday next; kick off 2.30 p.m.