Buccaneers outlasted Garryowen in a six-try thriller at Dubarry Park as they registered their opening win (25-22) in Ulster Bank League Division 1B this afternoon.
Tony Dolan’s Buccaneers side did most of the damage in the first half and had two tries on the board by the seventh minute, with stand-in captain Conor Fitzgibbon and hooker Garreth Halligan both crossing the whitewash.
Ex-Garryowen back Alan Gaughan converted the second of them and kicked two penalties before the break, pushing Buccs’ lead out to 18-3 with Jamie Gavin kicking the visitors’ only points.
But, as the wind became more influential in the second period, Garryowen mounted a strong comeback. They were helped by a yellow card for Buccaneers lock James Tormey.
Shortly afterwards, a good spell of recycling led to right winger James Frawley touching down and out-half Gavin converted the 53rd minute score.
The Munster-capped Barry O’Mahony added an unconverted effort to heap further pressure on the Pirates at 18-15.
But the hosts showed impressive resolve to hit back with a cracking try 15 minutes from the end. Connacht’s Mata Fifita surged through on a powerful run and within striking range, scrum half Mark Dolan spotted a gap to nip in near the posts for Gaughan to convert.
The Light Blues stayed in the hunt when Frawley squeezed past two defenders to complete his brace in the right corner. Gavin’s excellent conversion made it a three-point game once more.
Late drama followed as Gaughan missed a penalty attempt and a Garryowen drop goal effort did not go to plan as Buccs clung on for a morale-boosting victory.
The Ulster derby at Deramore Park saw Ballymena outscore Belfast Harlequins by three tries to one on the way to a 22-14 success.
The Braidmen looked up against it when Harlequins centre Eamon Lane was successful with three penalty attempts inside the first quarter hour.
But they answered back to lead 10-9 for half-time. Number 10 Tim Small nailed an 18th minute penalty and converted a 39th minute try from Stephen Mulholland, who pounced after a charge down by fellow back rower Clive Ross.
‘Quins, who suffered late heartbreak in Limerick last Saturday, scored their only try just seven minutes into the second half when number 8 Sean Reidy, an Irish-qualified New Zealander recruited by Ulster, dotted down.
However, Ballymena picked it up again and two tries from man-of-the-match Small – either side of the sin-binning of ‘Quins flanker Oliver Loughead – settled the issue.
Andy Graham’s charges remain in second place behind leaders Galwegians who picked up their second try-scoring bonus point in a 29-25 defeat of Shannon.
Played on Thomond Park’s back pitch, winger Jerome Harimate’s two-try haul helped Galwegians withstand a powerful late rally by Ian Sherwin’s Shannon team.
Out-half Tadhg Bennett handed Shannon the lead with an early penalty but the first of Harimate’s tries – converted by Dave Clarke – had the visitors in front.
Carelessness by Shannon afforded Harimate’s wing colleague Matt Dever an intercept which he gratefully accepted to touch down in the 30th minute. Clarke’s conversion was followed by a late Bennett penalty to make it 14-6 at the interval.
‘Wegians had the bonus point in the bag by the 57th minute as Harimate and influential centre Brian Murphy both crossed for a 26-6 scoreline.
Clarke’s 72nd-minute penalty came in response to a Ciaran Cunnane try and Shannon showed their battling qualities to poach a losing bonus point courtesy of late scores from lock Ruairi O’Donnell and winger Connor Cunnane.
Meanwhile, Corinthians produced a much-improved display to give new head coach Pat Cunningham his first league success – a five-try 29-25 win at home to Malone.
Centre and captain James Buckley helped himself to two tries and forwards James Connolly, Eoghan Masterson and Jamie Dever shared out the rest.
Buckley’s first half brace had the Galway club leading 19-11, but Malone centre Josh Pentland kicked well – finishing with 14 points – and he brought it back to a five-point deficit at the break.
The tries kept coming for the westerners as they strengthened their grip on the game, although the Belfast outfit earned a losing bonus point thanks to Pentland’s accurate kicking and John Burns’ try in the closing stages.
Dublin University missed out on their maiden league triumph as UL Bohemians took the spoils 16-13 in an all-student clash at Sydney Parade.
Munster Academy member David Johnston crossed for a second half try, putting Bohs 13-3 in front against the run of play as they capitalised on some poor Trinity defending.
Out-half Shane Airey added a third successful penalty and that proved enough for unbeaten UL, despite closing tries from front rowers Richard Halpin and George Walsh. Crucially, Trinity kicker Jack McDermott hit the post with the first conversion and pulled his second effort to the left of the target.