TERENURE COLLEGE 24
Despite putting in a brave and sustained effort, Buccaneers just could not hold on for a priceless Ulster Bank League Division 1A win against Terenure College in an intense battle at Dubarry Park on Saturday.
The spirited Pirates were exhilarating in the opening half hour, but their depleted squad could not maintain their exciting attacking play against more seasoned opponents, who slowly but surely reeled in a 20-3 half-time deficit to edge an absorbing contest 24-20.
Buccs had four enforced changes from last week’s team: Peter Claffey, Ryan O’Meara and Joshua Rowland were injured at UCD while Rory O’Connor was absent due to a family bereavement. They were replaced respectively by Evan Galvin, Conan O’Donnell, Alan Gaughan and Dean McMahon. Third in the league, Terenure’s notable absentees were prop Oisin Heffernan and half-back Tim Schmidt, the latter replaced by Kevin O’Neill.
Buccs hit the ground running and a fine carry by Shane Layden earned a penalty that was punted to the left corner. From the lineout, Galvin stormed over for a third minute try, which Luke Carty converted from the left. Four minutes later, the fly-half was marginally off-target with a massive penalty kick from inside his own half but he soon made it 10-0 with a fine penalty from the 10 metre line when Nure put a boot into a ruck on nine minutes.
Terenure became ragged and Michael Melia was sin-binned for a 16th minute wild tackle on Cian Romaine. Buccs soon stretched their lead with good play in midfield, including the deftest of flicks by Layden to Darragh Corbett, who kicked ahead after breaking down the right flank. The home winger then won the chase to ground the ball for a 20th minute try in the corner, and Luke Carty added another excellent conversion as Buccaneers made a blistering start.
Mark O’Neill opened the visitors’ account with a central 25th minute penalty, to which Carty replied three minutes later. Nure steadied and their more settled squad finished the half strongly, but the homesters held their line intact, including defending a series of five metre scrums, to lead 20-3 at half-time.
College realigned with Robbie Smyth at hooker and James Thornton at outhalf for the second half. Their now wind-assisted momentum continued to build and James O’Donoghue finished off a sustained spell of pressure for a 48th minute try which Thornton converted. The Pirates were now on the back foot, but they continued to defend admirably until O’Donnell was yellow carded for not rolling away just before the hour mark.
Buccs retorted resiliently to get back on the offensive and a penalty kicked to the right corner put them in a promising position. However, the lineout went awry and the metropolitans turned over possession to launch a swift counter attack that led to club captain Smyth being driven over for a try after 66 minutes. Thornton’s conversion narrowed their arrears to 20-17.
Terenure edged ahead when another influential substitute, Robert Duke, got over for a 74th minute try, Thornton adding the conversion. Buccaneers battled gallantly and piled on sustained pressure in the closing minutes. However, they lost both patience and ground when eventually spreading the ball wide, although it took a last ditch Jake Swaine tackle on Corbett in the left corner to deny Buccs what would have surely been a match-winning try in the dying moments.
Terenure’s stronger pack, in which Schalk Jooste and Alex Thompson were prominent, made growing inroads particularly through pick and goes once they recovered from Buccs’ whirlwind start. They had the more experienced players and, crucially, key options off their bench, who all made an impact on the proceedings. Out-half Thornton made a real difference to their comeback as they maintain their drive for top four qualification.
It was a desperately disappointing outcome for Buccaneers, who gave it their all but just could not sustain the sparkle of their early flourish. The losing bonus point will be little consolation to the gallant players.
Daniel Law was named Audi Athlone Man of the Match, an accolade that could also have gone to Romaine, who had his best performance of the season, while Layden and Luke Carty did their utmost in the backs unit.