Buccaneers consolidated 2nd place in the Ulster Bank League Division 1B when they outpointed University College Cork 49-36 in a cracking contest played at Dubarry Park, Athlone, yesterday.
By Michael Silke
Twice the Pirates build up promising leads in the 85 points scorefest, leading 25-3 after half an hour and 35-22 at the hour mark, but they had to work assiduously to the very end to shake off the spirited endeavours of the Students.
In perfect weather and playing conditions, Buccaneers hit the ground running and AUDI ATHLONE Man of the Match Jordan Conroy made an immediate impact, the winger maintaining his impressive try-scoring form with two touchdowns in the opening 14 minutes. Conor McKeon converted the second try after Kevin O’Keeffe had opened UCC’s account with a penalty. As College struggled to contend with the Athlone side’s tempo, prop Charlie Slowey was followed to the sin bin by Murray Linn, the centre’s deliberate knock on in front of his own posts also leaving referee Mark Patton with little option but to award a 26th minute penalty try converted by McKeon.
However, after a sparkling opening half hour, Buccaneers pace and work rate dropped. UCC got a foothold at last and Robert O’Donovan forced his way over for a try in the final move of the half to give the visitors a lifeline. O’Keeffe converted to reduce the midlanders lead to 25-10 at the interval.
New UCC in the Second half
UCC were a reinvigorated force following the change of ends and, after home prop Saba Meunargia was yellow carded for obstruction, the Students swiftly punished the hosts. Conor Barry stretched over the home line after 42 minutes and further good play by College yielded a Chris McAuliffe try four minutes later. O’Keeffe converted this try to tighten the scoreline to 25-22 before McKeon got the scoreboard ticking for the Pirates with a 54th minute penalty.
Buccs regained their momentum and Meunargia finished off some terrific interplay five minutes later for a bonus point try converted by McKeon. But the Corkonians refused to roll over and their pressure resulted in fullback Luke Carty visiting the sin bin, swiftly followed by Barry’s second try which also secured a bonus point for the visitors. O’Keeffe’s conversion left the game finely balanced at 35-29 after 65 minutes.
Buccaneers responded to this prolonged challenge with a period of sustained and composed pressure before Stephen McVeigh strode through for a 70th minute try converted by Alan Gaughan. UCC continued to battle and Darragh Feeney got through for his side’s fifth try three minutes from the end. O’Keeffe’s conversion looked like earning them a second bonus point but the Pirates had the final say when Mata Fifita wrestled possession from the Students and he powered through for Buccaneers sixth try. Gaughan’s conversion completed both the action and the 49-36 scoreline after a roller-coaster thriller.
Teams and scorers
Buccaneers:- L.Carty; E.O’Reilly, S.Layden (Captain), M.Fifita, J.Conroy; A.Gaughan, C.McKeon; M.Staunton, J.Sutton, S.Meunargia; R.Byrne, D.Qualter; E.Galvin, R.Moloney and S.McVeigh.
Replacements:- R.O’Connor (for Conroy, 65 mins), G.Lynch (for McKeon, 65 mins), D.Quinn (for Staunton, 72 mins), R.Grenham (for Sutton, 72 mins), J.Foley (for Byrne, 73 mins), and D.Quinn (for Galvin, temp. 52/54 mins).
UCC:- C.McAuliffe; K.O’Keeffe, K.Slater (captain), M.Linn, J.Kiernan; C.O’Regan, R.Walsh; C.Slowey, B.Burns, R.O’Donovan; D.Lynch, R.Moran; C.Barry, G.Smith and D.Feeney.
Replacements:- T.Kiersey (for Linn, 56 mins), L.McSharry (for Smith, 59 mins), E.McCarthy (for Smith, temp. 18-28 mins), T.Kiersey (for Barry, temp. 31-40 mins), F.McDermott and C.Ansbro.
Referee:- Mark Patton (IRFU).
Buccaneers’ Womens team defeated Tuam 40-20 in the Plate final of the Connacht Invitational Cup.