Terenure College showed the mark of champions when they overhauled Buccaneers just before the end of a pulsating Ulster Bank League Division 1B thriller to end their season with a magnificent and flawless winning record on a 36-29 scoreline at Lakelands Park, Dublin last Saturday.
With ‘Nure having already claimed the title and Buccs assured of a play-off, the big crowd gathered to watch on a sun-drenched Easter Saturday. During a brilliant match 65 points were scored including eight tries and, with the homesters accumulating half a dozen of the touchdowns, they deserved the honours on the day. Credit too to the Pirates, though, as despite missing a number of key players Buccs did their utmost to spoil the party.
Helped by a diagonal breeze, Buccs hit the ground running with Jack Carty continuing as he had finished against UL Bohs when he sailed through for a smart try inside three minutes. He converted and duly kicked the extras nine minutes later when Conor Finn strongly finished off further good play by the Midlanders for a try wide on the left. This 14-0 advantage laid down a marker for the remainder of a fast-flowing duel. Carty’s only miss of the game followed three minutes later when his penalty went narrowly wide.
Terenure were stung by this opening salvo and gradually worked their way into the contest. They came close to the visitors’ line on a couple of occasions before Ian Hanley stretched over on the right to open their account with a 21st minute try which Mark O’Neill converted. In the lead up to this score, Buccs suffered a major setback when James Tormey was injured on the hard surface.
Carty replied with a 25th minute penalty, but Fergal Walsh instantly seized a blindside gap for a soft unconverted home try on the left. The game ebbed and flowed before the Athlone team had the final score of an absorbing first half when, after Terenure infringed at scrumtime, dissent brought the penalty just inside their half and Carty drilled a fine kick to put Buccs 20-12 ahead at the interval.
Another Carty penalty via an upright within two minutes of the restart after Robert Duke was sin-binned put the Pirates 11 points clear. But they did not build on their temporary numerical superiority and indeed it was the hosts who scored next when Dever got through much too easily at the posts for a 49th minute try which Mark O’Neill converted to leave the scoreboard reading 23-19 in favour of the visitors. When ‘Nure strayed offside, Carty landed a penalty again on 54 minutes, but the Pirates were now encountering some problems.
Terenure swiftly responded once more with the livewire Kevin O’Neill squeezing in for a bonus point try wide on the left to narrow the arrears to two points. Still Buccs refused to read the home script and the excellent Carty brought his tally to 24 points with his fifth successful penalty after 63 minutes. But College were now forcing the pace with the goal of winning all their matches driving them on. James O’Neill levelled the scores 29-29 with his 67th minute unconverted try on the left.
Terenure took the lead for the first time just six minutes from the finish when, following some clever handling, John Bollard was sent scampering in for a try at the posts with outhalf O’Neill adding the conversion.
So a tremendous, sustained comeback by Terenure College who kicked off their celebrations following the final whistle. Nevertheless, Buccaneers will be well pleased with their performance considering the absences of key figures. Their lineout was comfortable, the scrum was solid and the backline looked lively. A losing bonus point was precious little for the overall display, but it confirmed a strong second place in a competitive Division 1B. This display leaves Buccs in a positive frame of mind ahead of the crucial promotion playoff away to Ballynahinch on Saturday week, May 3.