Terenure College 27 Buccaneers 21
Terenure College maintained their impressive start to the Ulster Bank League Division 1A by overcoming Buccaneers 27-21 at Lakelands Park on Saturday.
But the Dubliners had to battle much harder than they may have anticipated to overcome a gritty Buccs’ challenge that earned the visitors their first league point of the campaign. Meanwhile, Terenure remain in second place, hot on the heels of fellow metropolitans, Lansdowne.
Buccs made two changes for this encounter, with Conan O’Donnell replacing the injured Conor Kenny in the front row and Callum Boland making a welcome long-awaited return from injury on the right wing.
The midlanders had first benefit of the breeze and took an early lead. Decent play brought them close to the home line, where Peter Claffey was held out, but the ball was moved to Alan Gaughan who forced his way over in the right corner for an unconverted seventh minute try. Buccs gave as good as they got throughout the half, although Nure found a gap in midfield and Alex Thompson finished off this counter attack for a 23rd minute try, which was also unconverted, leaving the teams level 5-5.
Ten minutes later, following a lineout on the right near halfway, Buccs displayed dexterous hands in moving the ball swiftly cross field, where Rory O’Connor left the home cover for dead to race in for an excellent try, his fourth of the campaign. Luke Carty added a fine conversion. The Pirates had to display their defensive resilience just prior to half-time, before responding with enterprising work that yielded a penalty. With the final kick of the half, Carty split the posts to put Buccaneers 15-5 ahead at the interval.
Aided by the elements, Terenure forced the pace following the change of ends. But they found the Athlone side in stubborn mood, until Kevin O’Neill’s 50th minute dummy was bought too easily and the scrum-half sniped in for a try which Thornton converted.
Buccs best effort in the third quarter was a break by fullback Gaughan, before Nure’s patient and persistent work eventually stretched the midlander’s defence, and Jake Swain stretched over in the right corner for an unconverted 59th minute try which edged the city side 17-15 ahead.
Buccs refused to wilt and Carty struck a magnificent diagonal penalty to touch five metres from the home line, but their lineout malfunctioned in this promising position as the game entered the final quarter still finely balanced.
However, the Pirates suffered double disaster in quick succession when, following the intervention of a touch-judge, substitute Eoghan Maher was red-carded for an alleged stamp with 16 minutes remaining. Terenure made prompt benefit of their numerical advantage when their favoured rolling maul ploy earned a pushover try by Adam Clarkin. Thornton added a terrific conversion from the right touchline to put Nure 24-15 to the good after 65 minutes.
Carty and Thornton then traded penalties as Buccaneers, who gave second half debuts to James Mitchell and Darragh Corbett, battled with resilience and commitment all the way to the very end. Carty was short with a long range 77th minute penalty against the wind, but the nerveless young stand-off proved up to the challenge when, just as he had done in the first half, drilling over a tricky placekick with the final action of the match to salvage Buccs first point of a difficult season.
O’Neill and Sam Coghan-Murray were constant threats in the home backline, while Thompson and Frans Schalk-Jooste were most prominent in the Terenure pack. Despite defeat again being the lot of the Athlone outfit, there was nevertheless much to take encouragement from in this spirited and sustained display, particularly the efforts of Carty, O’Connor, Gaughan, Evan Galvin and Claffey.
Buccaneers are home to league and cup holders Cork Constitution in the Ulster Bank League Division 1A at Dubarry Park, Athlone, on Saturday, kick off 2.30pm. This is an acid test for the young Pirates side against perennial contenders, but Buccs have shown tremendous spirit and commitment in the face of adversity this season. They will be looking to big home support on Saturday for this key fixture.