BUCCANEERS 20 UNIVERSITY COLLEGE CORK 36
BUCCANEERS first home fixture of this season’s Energia All-Ireland League proved a disappointing one for the Pirates as they went down to a 36-20 defeat to University College, Cork, at Dubarry Park on Saturday. On a bright but cool afternoon with a swirling wind, the Students were that bit sharper and smarter.
Buccs made two changes from the team against St. Mary’s College, both in the backline where Josh O’Connor and Michael Hanley started. Unusually for a College outfit, UCC fielded more than half the side that faced Buccs last season. They got off to a handy start, the hosts conceding a soft penalty virtually from the kick-off and Daniel Squires immediately got his place-kicking radar in operation.
But Buccs applied sustained pressure for the next ten minutes, camped in the College 22 where their first three close-in lineouts were not on the money while a quickly tapped penalty by Danny Qualter saw the home No.8 held up just short of the Students’ line. However, he soon won good lineout ball and fed Frank Hopkins whose popped pass was finished strongly by James Kelly on the left for a try that Hanley was unable to convert.
A high tackle soon gave Squires the straight-forward opportunity to get UCC back in front, a lead they did not relinquish thereafter. Their lead was swiftly stretched to 13-5 when Louis Bruce’s diagonal run from his own ten metre line saw him skip by some tepid tackling for a try converted by Squires.
A penalty at a ruck enabled Squires to add to his and UCC’s tally while a smartly tapped penalty by Hopkins looked like reaping a dividend only for this Pirates raid to be aborted due to crossing. The Athlone side were then pinged for not rolling away and the resultant penalty took College close to the home line. From the subsequent lineout, UCC’s Eanna McCarthy charged through some lukewarm tackles for a try at the posts, making Squires conversion a formality. Buccaneers finally got some traction in the closing stages but, following some promising phases, a knock-on ended that bit of momentum and they trailed 23-5 at half-time.
Errors continued following the change of ends with the restart going out on the full. However, with the more physical Ryan O’Meara replacing Luke Balsiger at the break, Buccs began to make inroads spurred on by a wonderful Sean O’Connell turnover. A penalty to The Bounty corner saw Qualter win fine lineout ball to link with O’Connell who sent Cian McCann through for a 52nd minute try converted by Hanley.
Matthew Victory and the prominent O’Connell then combined to make good ground. A composed maul following a penalty to the left saw the home pack drive over the UCC line for an unconverted Victory try that tightened the arrears to 23-17.
A super Stephen Mannion 50/22 kept the home momentum building and both sides traded penalties as the contest was set up for a gripping final ten minutes. But the Pirates continuing concession of penalties earned their skipper Hopkins a trip to the sin bin and a penalty to the visitors which Squires slotted over.
With the extra man, College regained their grip and they capitalised on another home error when Buccs lost possession in midfield and Killian Coghlan pounced on the loose ball to stride away for their third try which Squires converted to complete his 21 points haul. The final scoreline of 36-21 in favour of UCC meant Buccs remain pointless after two matches. This final try reflected Buccs faults on the day, needless errors compounded by indiscipline, elements that need to be swiftly corrected.
Cian McCann was the Audi Athlone Man of the Match winner.
BUCCANEERS:- S.Mannion; C.O’Shaughnessy, D.Hawkshaw, M.Earle, J.O’Connor; M.Hanley, F.Hopkins (captain); J.Kelly, M.Victory, S.O’Connell; F.Galvin, C.McCann; L.Balsiger, C.Walsh and D.Qualter. Replacements:- R.O’Meara (for Balsiger, h/t), O.Dolan, C.Byrne, F.McDonnell, O.Burgess, R.Murphy-Sweeney and H.Balsiger.
U.C.C:- L.Bruce (captain); S.Condon, K.Coghlan, D.Squires, B.O’Connor; B.Kiernan, A.O’Mahony; M.Cogan, L.McAuliffe, D.McCarthy; D.O’Halloran, S.O’Sullivan; E.Sheehan, J.Sheahan and E.McCarthy. Replacements:- R.McAuliffe, S.Lynch, P.McBarron, J.O’Sullivan, O.Young and D.French.
Referee:- Daniel Carson (IRFU).