Buccaneers head to Limerick on Saturday where they face UL Bohemian in the Ulster Bank League at the back pitch at Thomond Park, kick-off 2.30pm.
UL Bohs had a strong campaign last season so it is difficult to fathom their current second-from-bottom position in the league table. Having won their opening two fixtures, the Limerick side have lost the subsequent four matches. On closer inspection, however, they are just four points adrift of the Pirates who are in fourth place. Also, virtually all the ‘Red Robins’ losses have been by a less than one score margin, so they are not far off getting things right. Ed Kelly, Ian Condell, and ex-Bucc Conor Kindregan are the key men in their pack while David Johnston, Mossy Lawler, and Shane Airey are decent backs.
Buccs are well capable of winning this encounter, but they need to be more direct. Exciting fare, no doubt, but too often going from side to side when really the midlanders need to take the steam out of the opposition more often. Last Saturday’s three tries all came through taking the ball on so, even though they have a very youthful pack, the Pirates can front up. Alan Gaughan is likely to miss this through injury as is Diarmuid Higgins, but Ross Keller performed smoothly after settling in at fly-half and Martin Staunton and Saba Meurargia will battle for the tighthead berth.
Despite trailing by 17 points Buccs put in a storming second half performance to share the spoils with Dublin University in a competitive and fast-flowing clash at sunny Dubarry Park, Athlone, on Saturday. It eventually culminated in a 20-20 draw.
In the face of this promising start by the hosts, it took College 14 minutes to get into the home half and then Sebastian Fromm carved a huge gap in the Pirates cover. Several quick hands later and Nick du Toit was touching down unchallenged for a try which Jack McDermott converted. While Buccs were still reeling from this setback, they leaked a second try just three minutes later when Killian O’Leary surged in on the left with McDermott adding a fine conversion for a 14-0 lead against the earlier run of play as College hit a purple patch.
The Students had their tails up as the wind came out of the Pirates’ sails and some fine mauling added further to home discomfort with Buccs flanker Rory Moloney incurring a yellow card after 23 minutes when a terrific maul was brought down. McDermott stroked over the penalty and a Buccs capitulation looked possible.
Callum Boland kicked a penalty to touch on the right just before half time to regain their momentum. A smashing drive ensued from good lineout possession and Garreth Halligan bravely burrowed his way over for an unconverted try on the right in the final move to make it 5-17 at the interval.
Jacob Walshe surged over the line for a 49th minute try which Ross Keller converted at the second attempt via the crossbar to reduce the arrears. Replacement Keller thumped over a penalty to leave Buccs just two points adrift at 15-17.
Seven minutes from time, Buccaneers worked an absolutely magnificent maul from 26 metres with Shane Delahunt applying the finishing touch for a try on the left. Keller’s conversion attempt was only marginally wide. McDermott held his nerve to steer over a pressure penalty to ensure a share of the spoils with the last kick of a lively tussle.