Blackrock College 10 Buccaneers 20
Buccaneers closed the gap on fourth placed Old Wesley to just a solitary point in the Ulster Bank League Division 1B table in their chase for a Top Four play-off berth following a 20-10 victory over Blackrock College at Stradbrook, Dublin, on Saturday.
They had to work hard for this win but, despite lacking the precision of recent away performances, they were fully deserving of a second successive double score victory in a game played in dry but windy conditions after a pre-match hail shower.
Although playing against the cold breeze, Buccs were quickly on the offensive and a sweeping end to end move initiated by Kolo Kiripati was finished off by Callum Boland for a fourth minute try. The powerful No.8 surged forward from inside his own 22 and sent Ben Carty scampering forward and the centre could well have gone all the way but opted to pass to the supporting Cian Romaine who off-loaded to Conor McKeon. The outhalf’s crossfield kick held up in the breeze but Rory O’Connor and Boland combined to secure possession before the fullback darted in for a try wide on the right. McKeon added a terrific conversion and then landed a calmly struck drop goal within three minutes for an early 10-0 advantage that settled the visitors.
Blackrock got better territory as the half progressed and their pressure in the second quarter saw Michael Mannion sin binned due to an accumulation of infringements by the Pirates. But despite a concerted spell of pressure, they could not capitalise on their temporary numerical advantage as Buccs were hugely committed in defence. Man of the match Romaine thundered forward from his own 22 and it took the combined tackles of Rock backs Hugo Harbison and Dave Moore to deny the lock just short of the home line after a rollicking 29th minute charge. Kiripati was then denied shortly afterwards while McKeon was off-target with a 40 metre penalty two minutes before half-time. However, the talented young fly-half stretched Buccs advantage to 13-0 with a penalty, the final action of the first half.
Blackrock opened their account with a Jack O’Carroll penalty five minutes after the change of ends. Real chances were few in the third quarter before Buccs grabbed a second try just after the hour mark. They made progress down the right initially and, following good work there, they then stretched the hosts when the ball was moved infield with Boland nabbing his second touchdown, this time in the left corner. McKeon added a second touchline conversion to put the Athlone side in a healthy 20-3 lead but they squandered a clearcut try opportunity ten minutes later with Moore doing well to deny Alan Gaughan.
The wind had changed at this stage, favouring the hosts again, and Blackrock took the game to the visitors in the closing stages. Over elaboration by Buccs in midfield saw them lose possession on 74 minutes and David Scott-Lennon broke away for a try which O’Carroll converted. But try as they might, Rock could not secure what could be a priceless losing bonus point despite Gaughan being the second Pirate to be yellow carded for a deliberate knock on. Meanwhile, Buccaneers have hit form at a key stage of the league as they bid to reel in that play-off berth from Old Wesley, who they play next in their penultimate fixture.
Blackrock College:- H.Harbison; D.Moore, S.Coughlan, S.Lawton, J.S.Byrne; D.Scott-Lennon, J.O’Carroll; C.Carroll, C.Fitzpatrick, M.O’Brien; C.Duff, O.Cullen (captain); P.McCague, S.Cooke and G.Fenn. Replacements:- D.Rowan (for Harbison, 51 mins), L.Hickey (for Cullen, 55 mins), T.Cooke (for Fitzpatrick, 60 mins), J.Harrison (for O’Brien, 60 mins) and D.Walsh (for Byrne, 60 mins).
Buccaneers:- C.Boland; R.O’Connor, C.Finn, B.Carty, A.Gaughan; C.McKeon, C.Lowndes; M.Staunton (captain), G.Halligan, S.Meunargia; M.Mannion, C.Romaine; E.Galvin, R.Moloney and K.Kiripati.
Replacements:- R.Byrne (for Mannion, 56 mins), A.Hayman (for Boland, 65 mins), P.Gallogly (for Galvin, 70 mins), R.Grenham (for Halligan, 70 mins) and C.Walsh (for Staunton, 75 mins).
Referee:- John Carvill (IRFU).