Buccaneers’ unbeaten run came to an end at The Mardyke on Saturday where a massively committed University College Cork edged this compelling Division 1B encounter by the minimum on a 13-12 scoreline.
Buccs made all the early running, but several promising raids floundered mainly on knock-ons. Such was the early pressure by the Pirates that a score seemed inevitable, but it was UCC that opened the scoring after 11 minutes.
The Students won good lineout ball following a penalty that brought them inside Buccs’ half and a lovely reverse pass in midfield eventually led to College having the extra man out wide where Kevin O’Keeffe applied the finishing touch for a try, which he also converted.
Buccaneers continued to press but spoiled good approach work time and again. The Pirates also got no return on a series of penalties kicked to touch on the left.
UCC forays into Buccs territory were much rarer, but they forced a 26th-minute penalty which O’Keeffe converted to edge them 10-0 ahead. However, the Pirates finally got their picking and driving working to better effect in the closing stages of the half and Galvin burrowed over at the posts for a try which Carty converted.
Buccaneers rejigged their forces for the second half with Mata Fifita coming in at centre and Shane Layden switching to fullback, while Shane Delahunt replaced John Sutton at hooker. However, difficulties at scrum and maul continued and O’Keeffe landed a 53rd-minute penalty for the Students.
The Athlone side finally got some reward for their endeavours when substitute O’Reilly went over for a 69th-minute try, but Carty’s conversion shaved the wrong side of the upright. With just a solitary point separating the teams, Buccaneers applied pressure and were camped in the home 22 for long spells of the final quarter, but to no avail.
Despite the loss, spirit and industry could not be faulted by Buccaneers, for whom just one more win will guarantee promotion.
UCC have most likely assured themselves of 1B status next season by virtue of their hard-earned victory in this high-tempo contest.