Buccaneers host Dublin University at Dubarry Park, Athlone on Saturday afternoon in a key Ulster Bank League Division 1B tie.
With the league table now beginning to open up a bit, the outcome to this encounter will be crucial for both clubs as they bid to keep contact with the early pace-setters. With two primarily youthful squads, it should be a lively affair.
Trinity lost their opening three matches, but have turned matters around impressively and will arrive on the back of three successive victories, including notable triumphs over Garryowen (away ) and Shannon (home ). They now lie in sixth place, just one berth and point adrift of Buccs in mid-table. The Students have a settled side with a formidable back-row trio of Pierce Dargan, Brian du Toit, and Nick McCarthy and a solid front five. Outhalf Jack McDermott has been a real find for College and he has contributed hugely. Conor Kearns and Paddy Lavelle have been consistent performers for a number of seasons now for Dublin University who boast two Americans in their backline, Jack Fitzpatrick and Tim Maupin, the latter a current USA Eagle.
Buccs were efficient at Belfast Harlequins last Saturday and, if they reproduce that dash, then they can make home territory pay. Buccs put in a well-balanced and sustained effort in the win over Quins and, if Tony Dolan can field a strong squad, then the Pirates can come out tops in what promises to be an interesting tussle.
Putting in a much more committed and organised effort, Buccaneers got back to winning ways when they defeated Belfast Harlequins 20-7 at Deramore Park, Belfast, last Saturday. The wet and cold conditions did not hinder Buccs who started at a high tempo to lead 17-0 at half-time and they maintained their workrate and appetite for a fully deserved success.
Alan Gaughan got the scoreboard ticking with an eighth minute penalty. Alex Hayman also came close and a Buccaneers try looked likely from these early exchanges and it duly arrived after only 13 minutes. Callum Boland got another Pirates attack going down the left and, following some fine support play and handling, Jacob Walshe crashed over on the right to score. Gaughan had a rare miss with the conversion but landed a hat-trick of penalties on 18, 21, and 29 minutes as pressure forced the hosts to repeatedly offend.
Quins did breach Buccs cover when Mark Best side-stepped neatly for a try which he also converted. But Buccaneers had the final say when teenager Ross Keller drilled over a 75th minute penalty and the substitute was narrowly off-target with a second placekick in the final minute as the Midlanders deservedly took the spoils to regain their momentum.
This was a very solid team effort from start to finish. Intent and character was strongly shown, particularly by a mainly youthful pack on a rotten afternoon. Danny Qualter, Garreth Halligan, and Kolo Kiripati made important contributions, Saba Meunargia confirmed his potential with Jacob Walshe and substitute Shane Delahunt making impacts. Gaughan had his most composed game to date while O’Reilly was the liveliest performer on show. Quins’ better performers were also young ones, fullback Junior Bulumakau and flanker Frankie Taggart.