Buccaneers throw down the gauntlet to leaders Belfast Harlequins in the Ulster Bank League when the sides clash in a Division 1B game at Dubarry Park, Athlone, on Saturday afternoon with a 2.30pm kickoff.
Harlequins were the first team to defeat Buccs when the sides met up north at the end of November in foul weather conditions that suited the physically stronger Quins outfit. The Ulster side have gone from strength to strength in the meantime and now top the table three points ahead of Ballymena with Ballynahinch third. Buccs are next but now trail Saturday’s opponents by nine points so simply must win if they wish to keep in the promotion hunt. However they will again be without their Ireland u20 contingent and may also have limited availability from Connacht so a tough test lies in store.
No 8 Neil McComb has, literally, been a tower of strength for Harlequins and the Ulster player’s influence must be curbed by Buccs. Hooker Niall Annett is another vital cog in their pack where flanker Lawrence Babe, prop Richard Hutton, and lock Garreth Rourke are other key components. In the backline, Michael Heaney put a lot of points on the board in that 19-14 success but Ian Porter has taken over at scrumhalf in the interim and he is proving even more prolific from placekicks. Fullback Rory Scholes and wing Michael Allen are two flyers who are on Ulster’s books so Buccs will need to be at their best to prevail.
Meanwhile, Buccaneers Thirds are away to second placed Our Lady’s Boys Club in the Connacht J2 League in Galway on Sunday where a win would keep the midlanders at the business end of the league table. Kick off is scheduled for 3pm but this could be changed due to Ireland’s RBS Six Nations match in France.