The result of the day in AIB League Division 1B was Buccaneers’ tremendous 18-8 victory over play-off chasing Young Munster at Dubarry Park.
AIB LEAGUE: DIVISION 1B: Saturday, April 10
BUCCANEERS 18 YOUNG MUNSTER 8, Dubarry Park
Scorers: Buccaneers: Tries: Paul Harte, Brian Tuohy; Con: Adam Kennedy; Pens: Adam Kennedy 2
Young Munster: Try: Aaron Carroll; Drop: Alan Kingsley
Since David Henshaw has taken control of Buccaneers, they have won four straight league games and tries from Paul Harte and Connacht’s Brian Tuohy did the business on Saturday afternoon as they avoided relegation.
New coach Henshaw certainly has had the Midas touch, with the midlanders adding Young Munster to the recent scalps of Dungannon, Ballynahinch and UCC.
The defeat ended Munsters’ ten-match winning run in the league and also extinguished their hopes of beating Division 1B table toppers Old Belvedere to a coveted semi-final spot.
Young lock Padraig Burke, who has really come to the fore in recent weeks, typified Buccaneers’ new found confidence and rejuventation and was a worthy winner of the man-of-the-match award.
The victory completed a remarkable turnaround for the Pirates who were bottom of the table in January after a late loss to Connacht rivals Galwegians.
Buccaneers made a blistering start, catching Munsters on the hop as front rowers Garrett Halligan and Conor Higgins threatened the visitors’ try-line and Cookies number 10 Alan Kingsley had to react quickly to beat his opposite number Alex Hayman in a foot race.
But Buccs’ early blitz was rewarded when captain Colm Rigney claimed a good lineout and centre Harte jinked and beat the cover for a well-taken try, which scrum half Adam Kennedy went close to converting.
Kingsley, the division’s top scorer with 114 points before kick-off, missed a long range penalty as Young Munster looked to open their account.
Their left winger Danny Grace also went close to scoring a try, Buccs full-back John O’Brien getting across to bundle him into touch.
Nonetheless, Buccs failed to gather their own lineout throw and a quick flash of the ball across the back-line led to Munsters’ right winger Aaron Carroll crossing in the corner, with Kingsley failing to convert.
Buccs, who had the better of possession and territory, nudged back in front at 8-5 for half-time. Pressure on Young Munster director of rugby Mike Prendergast resulted in a charge down, but Rigney failed to spot the overlapping Stephen Burke when a try looked on. A subsequent penalty from Kennedy split the posts and gave Buccs the lead.
The opening stages of the second half saw Munsters level at 8-8 as Kingsley knocked over a well-struck drop goal.
As the intensity increased, the physical exchanges were certainly not for the faint-hearted. Both Kennedy and number 8 Kolo Kiripati went close to crossing the visitors’ whitewash, before the Buccs number 9 landed a 64th minute penalty for an 11-8 advantage.
Munsters tried to hit back but Buccs sewed up their best win of the campaign in the 77th minute. Winger Conor Lavelle did brilliantly to break away down the stand side and draw the cover before offloading for the supporting Tuohy to continue the move and round in behind the posts to score. Kennedy’s conversion pushed the margin to ten points.
Tempers flared in injury-time given the high stakes involved, and referee David Wilkinson did well to calm matters before blowing for full-time, allowing the Buccaneers players, supporters and officials to celebrate after the results from Ballynahinch and Dungannon were confirmed.
It was a disappointing finish to the campaign for Prendergast’s side but they will undoubtedly be tough opposition – particularly at home – when they compete in Division 1A next season.
BUCCANEERS: John O’Brien; Conor Lavelle, Brian Tuohy, Paul Harte, Sean Stapleton; Alex Hayman, Adam Kennedy; Martin Staunton, Garrett Halligan, Conor Higgins, Padraig Burke, James Tormey, Colm Rigney (capt), Stephen Burke, Kolo Kiripati.
Replacements used: Billy Henshaw for Stapleton (23-29 mins, blood sub), Colin Watters for S Burke (51). Not used: Benny Gilligan, Gavin Kelly, Marcus Madden.
YOUNG MUNSTER: Ray Moloney; Aaron Carroll, Derek Corcoran, Clem Casey, Danny Grace; Alan Kingsley, Mike Prendergast; Ger Flaherty, Ger Slattery (capt), Donal Murphy, Shane O’Neill, Ken Hanley, Shane Hassett, James O’Neill, Neville Melbourne.
Replacements used: Hugh McGrath for D Murphy (28-34 mins, blood sub), Liam Og Murphy for Melbourne (49), Johnny Griffin for Hanley, Hugh McGrath for Murphy (both 54), Cian Clohessy for Grace (67), Donal Murphy for Flaherty (73).
Referee: David Wilkinson (IRFU)