Buccaneers will be encouraged by the commitment and endeavour shown in last week’s victory over UL Bohemians when they travel to College Park to take on Dublin University in Saturday’s Ulster Bank League Division 1B encounter.
Having lost their opening two fixtures, Trinity have won all subsequent matches to climb to third place in the league table. Trinity defeated the Pirates 27-6 in Athlone, and the Students are a threat from all sectors with Nick McCarthy leading a mobile and industrious pack which includes Brian du Toit, Raef Tyrell, and Jack Burke.
Internationals Tim Maupin (USA ) and Sebastian Fromm (Germany ) are part of an enterprising backline alongside stalwarts Conor Kearns and Paddy Lavelle. The influence of halfbacks Angus Lloyd and Jack McDermott must be curbed, and Buccs will be hoping that Conor McKeon is available. Buccaneers avenged their recent defeat away to UL Bohemians when forging a hard-earned but thoroughly deserved 18-7 success at Dubarry Park, Athlone.
A tough battle played in testing conditions unfolded before Buccs came out on top to move into fifth place in the table. The Midlanders fielded their strongest squad for some time, as young Connacht trio Shane Delahunt, Rory Moloney, and Stephen McVeigh were available in the pack, and Martin Staunton returned to the front row.
Ben Carty and Eoghan O’Reilly were fit again for duty in the three-quarters line, while halfbacks McKeon and Graham Lynch were also available to start. Meanwhile, the visitors made six changes from their recent winning side and the Red Robins showed that they too were prepared to work hard for any spoils that came their way, an early maul signalling their intent.
Rory O’Connor was unlucky to be blocked down when making a quick counter from that attack, before McKeon then punted a teasing kick ahead which was smartly chased by O’Reilly to force a penalty. Advantage was played on, but Delahunt was tackled into touch just short of the visitors’ line before McKeon duly opened the scoring with this 12th-minute placekick.
Five minutes from half-time, a smashing McKeon touch put Buccs deep into the visitors’ territory and they pinned the Limerick side back with some persistent and patient play before switching direction left to right where O’Connor skated in for his seventh try of the campaign. With the last kick of the half, McKeon’s conversion was narrowly off target, but Buccs still led 8-0 at the break.
An error by UL Bohs on the restart was promptly seized on by the Pirates and they piled further pressure on the left before scoring a near replica of their opening try on 42 minutes. Remaining composed and aware, they again went through the phases before changing the point of attack to the right where poacher supreme O’Connor finished in style for his second try. McKeon added an excellent touchline conversion for a 15-0 advantage.
The homesters withstood a spell of UL Bohs pressure for six minutes until the referee really drew the ire of the Pirates’ supporters when brandishing a yellow card to Delahunt, deeming him to have brought down a maul. It was a controversial decision as the hooker had clearly turned over possession and was himself driving forward as exchanges heated up.
UL Bohs were not bothered, making their numerical superiority count when driving over from the resultant penalty for a Kevin O’Byrne pushover try converted by Rick McKenna, narrowing the deficit 15-7. Buccs recovered and 10 minutes later a McKeon punt from midfield to the right that caught out the UL cover was fastened onto by Ben Carty.
As the centre surged forward for a seeming certain try, the referee from a long distance away on the opposite flank whistled Carty back ruling that he was ahead of the kicker. The excellent McKeon thumped a late penalty to make victory secure as Buccs held on for a morale-boosting triumph. Delahunt was particularly prominent throughout, O’Connor has the ability and instinct to take scores, while Fionn Carr made an exciting contribution on his debut. The pack worked in solid fashion throughout despite some difficulties in the tight end and with sharper service the backline is capable of more.