A battling UL Bohemian side hit Buccaneers with a three-try salvo in the final quarter to earn a vital 20-13 victory in their Ulster Bank League Division 1B game played at Limerick University last Saturday.
The Pirates will again rue letting another win slip from their clutches as they suffered their fifth successive defeat. Despite a smart start to the campaign, Buccs now lie in sixth place as the league reaches the halfway mark.
Played on the University of Limerick's artificial surface, UL Bohs had three changes to their line-up from their narrow defeat at Ballymena, while Buccs were forced to make eight. Brannagh Corcoran was the only survivor in the three-quarters line where Ben Carty, Alan Gaughan, and Eoghan O’Reilly were all ruled out through injury. Graham Lynch was unavailable due to GAA commitments, while Stephen McVeigh was not released for selection and Martin Staunton was rested.
Jacob Walshe returned to the front row and Michael Mannion was fit to resume at lock. Danny Qualter was stationed at Number 8 with Paul Gallogly a late call up for Rory Moloney in the back row. Rory O’Connor returned after injury on the right wing, with Callum Boland switched to the left flank. Alex Hayman manned the centre and Darin Claasen made his AIL debut for Buccs at fullback, while Ricky Dixon came in at scrumhalf.
UL Bohs had first benefit of the elements with the wind and rain blowing directly from goal to goal, and they opened the scoring with an eighth-minute Rick McKenna penalty. Buccs defended well to keep the hosts in midfield but they conceded a further three penalties in the opening quarter, none of which New Zealander McKenna was able to convert.
Helped by a long UL Bohs clearance that went the length of the pitch and over the deadball line in the gale, the Athlone side got a foothold in the home half. They gradually imposed themselves on the proceedings and their pressure forced a series of close-in penalties that eventually led to referee Mark Patton losing patience with the Limerick infringements, with James Ryan yellow carded on 27 minutes.
Buccs grasped their opportunity to pile forward and they were rewarded with a 31st-minute penalty try which Cameron Hertz converted. This stung the home team into a prompt response, and when UL Bohs did get through Rory White dropped the ball in the tackle as he attempted to ground for a try. The Midlanders were then composed and disciplined in protecting their 7-3 advantage to half-time, with Saba Meunargia, Romaine, and Gallogly all getting up quickly to put in telling tackles.
Just after the restart, Boland did very well to stop the elusive McKenna’s break before Buccs edged further ahead with a 47th-minute Hertz penalty, earned by a thumping Mannion tackle. Five minutes later, if Ricky Dixon had swift support in a terrific snipe Buccs would surely have scored a second try. It was then Hertz’s turn to be off-target with a couple of penalty kicks, before the young South African drilled over a beauty on 62 minutes to stretch the Pirates' lead to 13-3.
UL Bohs seized the initiative when Barra Farrell was yellow carded on 66 minutes shortly after coming on as a substitute. The Limerick team took full advantage within two minutes to drive over for a Philip Dowling try, and Robbie Bourke, who had replaced McKenna on the hour mark, kicked a terrific conversion from wide on the left to narrow the arrears to 13-10.
Rejuvenated UL Bohs then sensed a rare win, and eight minutes later they punted a penalty to touch on the left where, after winning good lineout possession, Ian Condell powered over for an unconverted try and a 15-13 lead. Buccaneers retorted with their most urgent play of the half as they went through phase after phase in search of a wining score. Late on Condell raced away for his second and UL Bohs third try.
Flanker Condell was key to this UL Bohs success and McKenna had caused the Midlanders plenty problems in his shift. Meanwhile, Buccs had to be satisfied with yet another losing bonus point, their fifth in six defeats. The loss to Dublin University was their only real beating, but Buccs' ongoing problems in tight encounters is a real concern. Apart from the Trinity game, Buccs have led in all other matches and really should have closed out at least four of those games. Romaine and Meunargia were pick of the forwards with Garreth Halligan also impressing.