Buccs were well below par in their Ulster Bank League Division 1A game against UCD last Saturday, despite just losing out on a score of 17-14.
After a disciplined opening, a poor mid section of the game cost Buccaneers dearly. The Pirates made six personnel changes, four of them in the pack, where Peter Claffey, Daniel Law, Ruairi Byrne and Paul Boyle returned, and John Sutton and Ryan O’Meara reverted to front row duty. Joshua Rowland made his long awaited debut at fullback, with Graham Lynch coming in at scrum-half. Injury ruled Simon Meagher out, while Evan Galvin and Alan Gaughan were named on the bench.
The Pirates were the better side initially, defending comfortably for the opening quarter, when UCD conceded a raft of penalties. UCD made a first visit into Buccs’ 22 following an initial infringement. From this, a fumble by the visiting back was fastened onto by The Students, who promptly capitalised to open the scoring with a 16th minute Alex Penny try. Their good fortune on this occasion included a final pass that looked a shade forward and a conversion from wide on the left by Ciaran Frawley going over with the help of an upright for a 7-0 lead against the run of play.
UCD gained a further promising foothold from another penalty after 25 minutes, when Luke Carty’s tackle on his opposite number was deemed high. Following a quick tap and go by ex-Bucc, Stephen McVeigh, College earned another penalty which they punted to touch in the right corner. From the lineout, they drove over for an unconverted try by Sean McNulty.
In the closing stages, Buccaneers upped their efforts and camped close to the home line for a lengthy spell, during which College lost both Liam Hyland and Penny to injury, but the Pirates just could not create the final move to unlock staunch defending by the Students, who were flattered by their 12-0 lead at the interval.
Buccaneers made two changes at half-time, when Galvin replaced Cian Romaine and Gaughan came on at fullback, with Rowland switching to the left wing in place of Rory O’Connor. The breeze died considerably for the third quarter and UCD showed their more clinical finishing touch when, after another fine maul by their pack, Patrick Patterson’s sniping break was finished off by the stretching frame of Brian Cawley for an unconverted 49th minute try. This was the vital score and left Buccs trailing by a daunting 17 points.
Nevertheless, the Athlone side regained their momentum to pin back the hosts for the final quarter. College substitute Gordon Frayne’s 56th minute sin-binning for a wild tackle on Sutton was immediately punished by Buccs. Claffey’s strong carry made good ground for the Midlanders, and when the ball was switched right to left, Ben Carty dived over the UCD line for a 57th minute try. Luke Carty added an excellent touchline conversion and the contest finally ratcheted up a few notches.
A couple of lengthy stoppages resulted in uncontested scrums for the remainder of the game. Arguably, this also hindered the momentum of the Pirates’ revival, and they had another setback when Boyle was driven over the home line but the referee adjudged that the ball had been held up. Nevertheless, Buccs battled on, with Shane Layden driving over for a 71st minute try converted by Luke Carty to set up a grandstand finish. But UCD hung on for the crucial win, although this observer reckoned the final whistle sounded two minutes too early!
College, however, were the deserving winners of the priceless points, with busy scrumhalf Patterson and captain Jamie Glynn to the fore in their endeavours, and McVeigh enjoying a decent outing at number eight.
Buccaneers made too many errors for their own good, with their passing and positioning lacking precision, while they were inconsistent in the set pieces. Most costly, perhaps, was the slow arrival of support on too many occasions. This was a hugely deflating defeat, as a depleted UCD were there for the taking.
Buccaneers are home to Terenure College in a must win Ulster Bank League Division 1A match at Dubarry Park on Saturday afternoon.