Buccaneers travel to Dooradoyle on Saturday to face Garryowen in the second round of this season’s Ulster Bank League Division 1A, kick off in Limerick at 2.30pm.
Both teams will be seeking their first win of the campaign following opening day defeats to Dublin clubs Lansdowne and St Mary’s College.
Garryowen, who retained their Division 1A status last term following play-off wins over Old Wesley and UL Bohemian, were busy recruiting following that scare with a trio including lock Aaron McCloskey and Sean Rennison moving from neighbours Young Munster.
Trinity prop Paddy Keating was another notable signing for the side captained by scrumhalf Neil Cronin, brother of Ireland hooker Sean. The Johnston brothers, outhalf Bill and centre David, are key backs along with Diarmuid McCarthy, while Munster hooker Mike Sherry was an interesting player to spring from the bench at Templeville Road.
Buccs will have gleaned encouragement from their performance against Lansdowne despite coming out on the wrong side of the 19-10 scoreline.
Greater patience and composure would have helped their cause last weekend, while they were also punished for some indiscipline. These are areas that can be readily tweaked to their benefit. Jordan Conroy is still a week or two from returning after injury, but Callum Boland and Mata Fifita look longer term absentees. Corey Reid is their major injury concern from the Lansdowne match.
Buccs were desperately unfortunate to come away empty-handed from their Ulster Bank League Division 1A game against Lansdowne, which the visitors won 19-10 after a hard-fought encounter in miserable weather conditions at Dubarry Park last Saturday.
With five debutants in their side, Buccs put it up to Lansdowne from start to finish, before last season’s table toppers took the spoils. Half the starters in the home pack comprised of newcomers, in prop Conan O’Donnell, lock Peter Claffey, backrower Dan Law, and number eight, Paul Boyle.
Teenager Thomas McGann made his first AIL start on the left wing for the Pirates, who were short a frontline trio of injured backs in Jordan Conroy, Callum Boland, and Mata Fifita, while prop Conor Kenny was not available.
The more experienced Lansdowne outfit settled quickly, but Buccs were resolute in defence in the opening 10 minutes. Eventually the Midlanders got into their stride, with Dan Law making the first telling raid and Shane Layden then finding room, but kicking ahead a shade too early.
They built on this to force a penalty, but Alan Gaughan’s 14th minute effort from the 10 metre line dipped under the crossbar. Three minutes later, Luke Carty was flagged for blocking, and Lansdowne’s Scott Deasy opened the scoring with the resultant penalty.
Five minutes before half-time, McGann chased another teasing chip ahead and Daniel McEvoy was forced to concede a penalty for not releasing the ball, but Gaughan was surprisingly off-target with the kickable placekick, and so Lansdowne led 3-0 at the interval.
Lansdowne dominated the opening exchanges of the second half also, but Deasy’s 43rd minute penalty fell short. However, the Corkonian’s 50th minute penalty earned some reward for their pressure to edge 6-0 ahead.
Virtually straight from the restart, Carty drilled over a sensational drop goal from close to his own 10 metre line that finally fired up the home supporters. However, he then dropped a pass from Conor McKeon and Lansdowne booted ahead, with Charlie Rock getting the vital touch for an opportunist 53rd minute try. Deasy’s conversion put them 13-3 to the good.
But Buccs struck back following a penalty to the right, and when possession was moved infield Conor McKeon’s smart show and go wrong-footed the Leinster side’s defence, as he darted in for a 57th minute try between the posts. Gaughan’s conversion left just three points between the teams as the contest entered the final quarter.
However, Buccs were punished for indiscipline in this period. Deasy stretched Lansdowne’s advantage with penalties on 66 and 73 minutes following offside and scrum infringements. The Pirates continued to battle and O’Connor showed great desire when getting a boot to the ball on the Lansdowne 10 metre line, but with the visitors’ defence breached his second kick ahead was a shade too strong and the ball edged over the deadball line just before he could ground it.
Thus, Lansdowne, arguably the most consistent club in the AIL for the past five seasons, during which they have twice won the title and topped the league table last year, got off to a winning 19-10 start.
Darin Classen and Mike McCarthy will surely have paid attention to fixable but crucial details on the training paddock before the trip to Limerick.