Buccaneers had five points to spare (30-25) at the end of a thrilling Ulster Bank League Division 1B clash with Ballymena at Eaton Park this afternoon.
Buccaneers lowered the colours of the division’s second-placed side, turning in an excellent second half display which saw them outscore the hosts 22-8.
Tries from full-back Rodger McBurney (2 minutes) and number 8 James Gallagher (17) had Ballymena leading 17-8 at half-time and on course for their sixth straight victory.
Buccs sandwiched in an unconverted score from Connacht Eagles flanker Rory Moloney in the 11th minute, but Brett Wilkinson’s midlanders really lifted their game after the break.
Their back-line clicked into gear with full-back Callum Boland helping himself to two tries, the second of which was converted by Conor McKeon who also kicked a penalty during a purple patch for the visitors.
Andrew Magrath’s penalty reduced the arrears to 23-20 with 15 minutes left, but elusive winger Rory O’Connor ran in a cracking ninth try of the season out wide on the left to effectively seal the win for Buccs.
A late reply from second row Connor Smyth gave Ballymena a losing bonus point, keeping them second overall with the fifth-placed Pirates now 14 points behind.
Meanwhile, Old Wesley outscored Blackrock College by four tries to one as they came away from Stradbrook with a well-merited 28-10 triumph.
Wesley have struggled for results of late, losing their last four games since November. Indeed, their most recent win was at home to Blackrock (36-22) on November 7.
A tight first half finished 13-10 in Wesley’s favour, their influential second row Iain McGann gathering a loose lineout and stepping through for the opening try from 15 metres out.
Replacement front rower Mikey Russell, having come on to steady the ‘Rock scrum, made an immediate impact with a very well-taken try, but Wesley replied with their second as a Billy Ngawini pass put full-back Rory Stynes over in the corner.
Stynes completed his brace on the resumption, popping up on the wing to gather Darren Horan’s cut-out pass, and out-half Alan Large finished off a free-flowing move for the bonus point score. Replacement Barry McLaughlin converted and added a penalty for an 18-point winning margin.
A superb final quarter surge saw promotion-chasing Dublin University carve out a 29-6 bonus point victory over Dolphin at College Park.
Stung by Buccaneers in the previous round, Trinity were 6-5 behind at the break as Dolphin recovered well from the 11th minute sin-binning of winger Will Hanly.
Penalties from Dolphin assistant coach Barry Keeshan, who started in the number 10 jersey, and centre Cian McGovern sandwiched Trinity flanker Brian du Toit’s unconverted score from a Jack McDermott offload.
McDermott missed a penalty early in the second period which was developing into a cagey affair until the students found an extra gear in the closing 20 minutes.
A powerful maul saw du Toit claim his second try of the day in the 62nd minute, and then lock Raef Tyrrell joined him on the scoresheet from an enterprising move up the left flank.
Replacement scrum half Brian Slater notched the bonus point try, putting Tony Smeeth’s youngsters out of sight, before a sweeping counter attack involving Conor Kearns and Seb Fromm saw replacement hooker Warren Larkin dot down to complete a fine day’s work for the rampant hosts.
Having picked up their first win of the campaign last time out, Belfast Harlequins were rocked back onto their heels by a disappointing 40-0 defeat to Shannon at Thomond Park.
Marcus Horan’s home side claimed their biggest victory of the season with centre Will Leonard and full-back Ronan McKenna scoring two tries each.
A productive first quarter saw out-half Shane Airey land three successful penalties for Shannon, with ‘Quins down to 14 men following repeated infringements at the breakdown.
Another Airey penalty and two crisply finished tries from Leonard (31 and 35 minutes) had the margin out to 26-0 by half-time. Leonard followed up on the forwards’ high work-rate and some clever support lines from his fellow backs.
The second half was low on action, but McKenna crossed after 56 and 80 minutes to register Shannon’s bonus point. His second effort was particularly exciting as Richie Mullane intercepted a pass in his 22, broke forward and timed his pass to perfection to send McKenna over, with the ever-accurate Airey converting to bring his own tally to 18 points.
Division 1B pacesetters St. Mary’s College overcame an interval deficit to defeat a lively UL Bohemians team 22-13 at Templeville Road.
Mary’s had to weather an early storm from Bohs who were hunting for their first win in three outings. They were good value for a 10-5 half-time lead, with flanker and captain Ian Condell’s late try cancelling out a Ryan O’Loughlin touchdown for the hosts.
However, Ireland Sevens recruit Steve Toal-Lennon – playing at full-back – used his pace to very good effect as his try moved the league leaders ahead (12-10) just minutes into the second half.
Mary’s pushed on with try number three coming from number 8 Mark Fallon. Young out-half Sean Kearns converted and swapped penalties with his opposite number Rick McKenna, before some indecision late on saw UL miss on an opportunity to kick their way to a losing bonus point.
– Photos by Matt Mackey (Presseye/Inpho) and Dermot Lynch