Corinthians preserved their 100 per cent unbeaten record in this season’s Ulster Bank League division 1B by the skin of their teeth at Cloonacauneen on Friday evening.
Young outhalf Sean O’Hagan was the Corinthian hero as he guided a difficult sideline kick through the uprights to secure a 19-18 victory for the home side.
In overcoming Buccaneers in this evening derby fixture, the Galway side has now leapfrogged its opponents into second place on the league table, three points behind pacesetters Terenure who enjoyed a bonus-point win over Dublin University by 26-17.
The victory was a huge relief for the home side which for long periods looked like having to settle for a losing bonus point. And Buccaneers will point to controversial penalty at the death, having held out with two players in the sin-bin.
With the score 18-16 in their favour, Buccaneers miscalculated full time and sent the ball into touch. However as the referee played on, Corinthians seized the opportunity to maul forward from the resultant line-out before young Shane Layden was deemed to be offside from a ruck. O’Hagan held his nerve to kick his side to victory.
Buccaneers had enjoyed an 11-0 half-time lead after outhalf Jack Carty posted an early penalty, while O’Hagan missed a similar effort shortly after. And it was the visitors who broke through for a try when Carty set up field position with a super break. From the resulting ruck Mark Dolan’s crossfield kick was caught by Layden who scored in the corner for the only try of the opening 40 minutes. Although Carty missed the conversion, he added a penalty before the interval for a deserved lead.
As expected Corinthians responded after the break with gusto and were rewarded with an O’Hagan penalty. The home side continued to exert pressure and eventually forced Buccaneers to concede when Finn Gormley crossed in the corner with O’Hagan adding the extras to reduce the deficit to a single point.
However Buccaneers once again responded. This time it was Carty’s crossfield kick that was collected by Layden, and although under pressure from the Corinthian defence, he managed to find Billy Henshaw who finished off for try number 2. Carty’s conversion gave the visitors an 18-10 lead.
Corinthians once again regained the initiative and O’Hagan cut the arrears with two penalties. Crucially Rory Moloney was yellow-carded for failing to bind in the scrum and, when they were reduced to 13 with a second yellow, Corinthians piled on the pressure. Just when it looked like Buccaneers would prevail, their mistake provided the home side with an opportunity. They made no mistake to record a hard-fought and valuable home victory.
CORINTHIANS: D Panther; D Claasen, J Buckley, F Gormley (cpt ), I Venter; S O’Hagan, M Walsh; D Buckley, J Merrigan, F Bealham; G Warde, U Dillane; D Phelan, J Connolly, E Masterson.
BUCCANEERS: C Boland; B Henshaw, C Finn, A Hayman (cpt ), S Layden; J Carty, M Dolan; M Staunton, G Halligan, P Reilly; J Tormey, D Qualter; C Kindregan, R Moloney, L Satchwell.