BLACKROCK COLLEGE 29 BUCCANEERS 12
BUCCANEERS came away empty-handed from Stradbrook where Blackrock College returned to winning ways with a worthy 29-12 AIB League Division One victory, in a lively encounter contested in cold but near ideal sunny conditions. Blackrock were much the sharper outfit on the day with their strong-running backs, including a handful of recent Ireland u-20s, causing an off-colour Buccs all sorts of problems for the majority of this tie, and their win elevates them back to second position in the league table. The Midlanders were surprisingly flat and sluggish much to the disappointment of the sizeable support who travelled to the capital to urge them on.
Buccs made three changes, all enforced and all in their backline, for this tussle. With Danny Riordan playing for Connacht, newly fit again John O’Brien returned at fullback. Paul Harte started on the left wing for flu victim Niall O’Hara while Aidan Wynne made his first appearance this season in place of injured centre Alan Gaughan. Recent Ireland u-20’s Niall Morris, Shane Monahan, Kyle Tonetti, and David Moore all started in the home backline, soon to be joined by substitute Ian Madigan, while last year’s u-20 captain Paul Ryan featured in a pack backboned by Shane Byrne and Des Dillon.
Blackrock were quickly into their stride with Moore hinting at things to come with a first minute break. Their opening score arrived after a mere three minutes, created in the main by some calamitous Buccs defending. Conor O’Loughlin’s attempted clearance was blocked down but, although the scrumhalf retrieved possession, he off-loaded to Alex Hayman who was arguably not as well placed to clear his lines and the centre’s kick was also charged down with Royce Burke-Flynn gratefully accepting such an early try opportunity. Darragh Fitzpatrick converted to instil confidence in the homesters and they stretched Buccaneers for some time thereafter with Sean Carey forced to make one notable intervention to keep his line intact.
But Buccs gradually settled to the task on hand and, in the second quarter, were the more dominant force. Kolo Kiripati made one great foray carried on by Adrian Hanley but the visitors lacked the necessary composure to unlock the home defence. Blackrock’s next scoring chance arrived six minutes before halftime when Buccaneers were forced back over their goal line where Simon Rolleston handled the ball over the deadball line. The centre should have booted it dead and, consequently, Rock were awarded a penalty on the left which Tonetti, now at outhalf and assuming placekicking duties following injury to Fitzpatrick, was unable to convert.
At 0-7 approaching halftime, Buccaneers would have been moderately pleased considering their relatively lethargic display but then referee Richard Kerr got in the way of a home passing move that was not really threatening the midlanders’ line. However, from the resultant scrum, scrumhalf Moore angled past two Buccaneers players all too easily for a 39th minute try on the right and a 12-0 lead at the break.
Buccs restarted in a much more lively mood but Monahan demonstrated his class when taking possession near halfway to surge through the middle before drawing the final defender and off-loading to Madigan to skip over at the posts for a 48th minute try which the replacement also converted to stretch their advantage to 19-0.
Buccaneers regrouped to apply growing pressure and some chances went a-begging, firstly a Hanley pass missed its target by some distance, next Kiripati lacked the necessary support when almost within touching distance of the home line and then Garreth Halligan knocked on in the tackle as he strove to make the breakthrough. However, Blackrock were forced to infringe once too often and the referee despatched Monahan to the sin-bin approaching the hour mark for coming in from the side. Buccs quickly tapped the penalty and O’Loughlin stretched over for a try and some hope.
But Blackrock replied with their fourth try, awarded by the referee after some discussion with his assistant. Alan Henry was tackled against the corner flag as he dived for the line and, under the new ELV’s (Experimental Law Variations ), the corner posts are no longer considered to be in touch and thus Rock claimed a bonus point on 66 minutes. Again Buccaneers responded, Alamoti TePou finishing off some fine play for a try at the posts which Simon Rolleston converted to make it double scores 24-12 in favour of the metropolitans.
Buccaneers now tried all they could to at least salvage a losing bonus point but were hit by a sucker punch one minute from time when Monahan demonstrated his power and persistence to notch a try that his overall contribution merited. This completed the scoring on a 29-12 margin for the homesters.
Blackrock possess a highly promising squad and played at a much higher tempo than Buccs, who contributed to their own downfall with too many unforced errors particularly in handling. Monahan and Moore were lively in the home backline where the strong running centre Gary Brown was hard to stop. Dillon did cute and Trojan work in the tight while Jaydon Hill put in a tidy display at number eight. Buccaneers ball-handling and tackling, strong points in recent outings, were both well below par on this occasion while their support play was sluggish in comparison to Rock’s pods. O’Loughlin recovered well from his early costly error and O’Brien showed flashes of his potential in the backline while Kevin Moran, one glaring knock-on excepted, and Hanley in the final quarter were the pick of a disappointing Buccs pack that did not fire on the day.
Buccaneers:- J O’Brien; S Carey, A Wynne, A Hayman, P Harte; S Rolleston, C O’Loughlin; M Diffley, G Halligan, K Moran; L Tonkin, A TePou; K Kiripati, K O’Gorman, and A Hanley (captain ).
Blackrock College:- N.Morris; A Henry, G Brown, K Tonetti, S Monahan; D Fitzpatrick, D Moore; K Maloney, S Byrne (captain ), R Burke-Flynn; D Dillon, P Huntly; P Ryan, Z Farivarz, and J Hill. Replacements used:- I Madigan (for Fitzpatrick, injured 16 mins ), P Graham (for Farivarz, 62 mins ), K Cahill (for Maloney, 69 mins ), and C Culleton (for Ryan, 75 mins ).
Referee:- Richard Kerr (Ulster ).