It is not getting any easier for Buccaneers as they travel to second placed Terenure College for Saturday’s Ulster Bank League Division 1A joust at Lakelands, kick off 2.30pm.
Terenure have made a very impressive start to the season, last Friday night’s floodlit defeat at Clontarf being their first setback of the new campaign. That loss also knocked the Dubliners off the top of the league table, which is now headed by Lansdowne.
James Blaney’s side regrouped after struggling somewhat last season and appear to have recruited smartly. They look very strong in the front row where captain Robbie Smyth is propped by Oisin Heffernan and South African Schalk Jooste, with Georgian Giorgi Turabelidze another option there. There is a cosmopolitan flavour to the metropolitans, with New Zealander Tim Schmidt (son of Ireland coach Joe ) and American Kalei Konrad challenging for places in their backline, where outhalf Mark O’Neill is their key performer.
As well as being a top class placekicker, O’Neill is well capable of scoring tries in addition to directing operations for Nure. Winger Sam Coghlan-Murray is another threat in the backline, while lock Alex Thompson and flanker Niall Lalor will ask questions of Buccs in the forwards exchanges.
This match will mark the completion of the first third of the league, and Buccaneers will be looking for a swift change of fortunes for the better. However, with their lengthy list of absentees this looks a really difficult assignment for what is a relatively inexperienced and lightweight Pirates crew.
Buccs suffered their fifth successive defeat when losing 30-14 to Dublin University in their Ulster Bank League encounter at Dubarry Park, Athlone on Saturday. The Midlanders are finding life in Division 1A extremely unrelenting and their cause is not being helped by a growing list of injuries, particularly to experienced and stronger personnel. Cian Romaine and Jordan Conroy were two other influential absentees for this match, and both are ruled out for next week’s game also.
With the Pirates resources severely stretched, two great club stalwarts were called upon for this tie, with Alex Hayman coming in to shore up the centre and Kolo Kiripati on the bench, as Buccs were forced to make further changes to their side, Paul Boyle being their latest in the treatment bay.
Trinity made five changes from the side that surprised Young Munster last time out. German international Seb Fromm returned in the centre, with Evan Dixon and Hugh Connor starting on the wings. Jack Dunne resumed at lock while Patrick Finlay, who impressed immensely at Greenfields when introduced as a substitute, was preferred at hooker.
Initially, Buccs dealt the early flurries before gaining a foothold inside the visitors 22, but could not breach Trinity’s cover. Luke Carty opened the scoring with a 14th minute penalty. Tommy Whittle levelled the scores with a 31st minute penalty and Dublin University edged ahead three minutes before the break when careless defending caught the hosts offside and Whittle duly converted this soft placekick to leave Buccs trailing 6-3 at the interval.
Kiripati replaced Ronan Farrell, who had put in a huge effort, after the break. Buccs dominated the third quarter and regained the lead following Carty penalties after 45 and 48 minutes, both conceded on virtually the same spot on the pitch. The Athlone side continued to press forward, but had a let off on the hour mark when O’Connor did extremely well to bring Connors break to a halt. Shortly afterwards, O’Connor was again unlucky when chasing his own clearance as Trinity were caught out.
The pivotal point of the game arrived on 68 minutes when referee Mark Patton awarded a penalty try to the visitors for a knock-on. This flummoxed Buccaneers and before they could recover Michael Silvester fastened onto to James Fennelly’s pinpoint chip to race in for a try, which substitute Fennelly converted.
Suddenly the momentum had swung decisively in favour of Trinity, now 20-9 ahead, but Buccs responded swiftly as the game produced a third try in six minutes. Following a penalty kicked to touch on the right, the Athlone side got their lineout and maul working effectively and patiently, with the formidable Claffey applying the finishing touch for an unconverted try to raise home hopes.
Four minutes later the impressive Fennelly made it a two-score game with a Dublin University penalty. Alan Gaughan and Evan Galvin both had half chances as they battled to the bitter end, but Ireland U20 Silvester’s second try in the closing moments ensured that Buccs again got no reward for their endeavours. Fennelly’s conversion completed the 30-14 scoreline in favour of the visitors, for whom hooker Finlay was the outstanding performer, and flyhalf Fennelly made a significant impact following his introduction.