Improving Buccaneers continued their climb up the Ulster Bank League Division 1B League table when they pipped Dublin University 23-22 following a cracking contest played at College Park, Dublin, on Saturday.
The two promising teams provided rich entertainment for the decent-sized attendance. Buccs made just four changes from last week’s winning side but 10 in total from the squad that lost to the Students in November. Jacob Walshe and Kolo Kiripati replaced injured duo Saba Meunargia and Stephen McVeigh, while Fionn Carr got the nod at fullback and u20 Conor Kenny got a first start in the front row.
Meanwhile, Trinity fielded a fairly settled side with centres Paddy Lavelle and Sebastian Fromm notable absentees. College got a near perfect start with USA international Tim Maupin shrugging off two Pirates’ backs to score a fifth minute unconverted try on the right. Conor McKeon replied for the visitors with a penalty just two minutes later and they took the lead on 14 minutes when, following some good driving play, Cian Romaine recycled smartly to Rory Moloney and the flanker drove over the line with Kiripati at his shoulder for a try which McKeon converted.
The Students responded as Jack McDermott slotted over a penalty. It was a lively clash and McKeon drilled over a 24th minute penalty for Buccs, who were competing impressively. Trinity had the last say in the first period when scrumhalf Lloyd was allowed to make a telling final break of the half and the Students’ persistence and pressure on the Midlanders’ line was rewarded when Raef Tyrell surged over for a try in the left corner.
McDermott added a terrific touchline conversion to put Dublin University 15-13 ahead at the interval. College restarted as they had finished, as Tom Ryan made huge yardage on 48 minutes before he was stopped. However, McDermott was in support and the fly-half punctured a surprisingly large gap in the home ranks for a try at the posts which he also converted, but Trinity did not score again.
McKeon kept Buccs very much in touch with a penalty, and, following flagging by the touch judges, College centre Kyle Dixon was yellow carded. Buccs forced a penalty which they punted to touch inside the home 22 on the left. A fine lineout catch was followed by a splendid drive that drove inexorably to the College line where Andy Keating brought down the maul. The Trinity prop was yellow carded and referee Stuart Douglas rightly awarded a penalty try to the Pirates.
McKeon split the uprights to put Buccs ahead by a single point with 10 minutes remaining. This was a richly entertaining contest between two teams with a refreshing willingness to play attacking rugby. Dublin University may feel that a losing bonus point was poor consolation, but they remain in third place. Meanwhile, Buccaneers despite spurning a number of gilt-edged try opportunities were the better outfit on the day and this thrilling victory sees them move up to fourth place.
Shane Delahunt excelled in the Pirates pack where Kiripati made some telling hits and carries and Danny Qualter made his best contribution to date. Kenny too made a notable impact, while McKeon steered the Pirates’ ship effectively at half-back where Lynch had his best outing, and Carty excelled in the centre.