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Buccaneers Beat Ballynahinch To Take Top Spot

Buccaneers Beat Ballynahinch To Take Top Spot

Buccaneers leapfrogged Ballynahinch at the top of the Ulster Bank League Division 1B after an exciting 24-17 victory over the County Down side at Dubarry Park.

Played in perfect conditions on a glorious sunny afternoon, Buccaneers had to dig really deep to take the lead for the first time with just seven minutes remaining of a hugely entertaining, fast-moving contest between two young sides.

Ballynahinch set the early pace and Ulster's Ian Whitten opened their account after just 14 minutes with a well-taken try, while further enterprising play led to his centre partner James Thompson touching down for their second in the 28th minute.

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James Lash converted both tries but, meanwhile, his opposite number Jack Carty kept the Pirates in touch with a brace of penalties.

Buccs finished the first half stronger and were rewarded when Shane Layden somehow outwitted a posse of 'Hinch defenders down the right flank to link up with Denis Buckley who flighted a beautiful pass to supporting full-back John O'Brien who stormed in for a 33rd minute try.

Carty's conversion attempt rebounded wide off a post and after a half that ebbed and flowed, the midlanders trailed 14-11 at the interval. Within a minute of the restart, however, the sides were level, Carty landing a fine penalty.

Ulster duo Whitten and Willie Faloon were not as influential in the second period while Buccs maintained their workrate and tempo.

Yet, the momentum looked like swaying in favour of the visitors when Buccs replacement Sean Stapleton was yellow carded for over-vigorous rucking on the hour mark.

Lash, who had earlier missed a penalty, then nosed 'Hinch back in front with a well-struck three-pointer after 67 minutes but Buccs' 14 men upped their efforts and were soon back on terms at 17-17 thanks to a superb Carty penalty from the left touchline.

Chances came and went at both ends of the pitch throughout but now Buccaneers were generally dominant and mainly on the front foot.

Carty's diagonal kick with seven minutes remaining looked the wrong choice but Ballynahinch full-back David Nicholson spilled the ball forward, and Buccs swooped on their opportunity from the resulting scrum.

Their forwards went through some phases of superb, composed picking and driving, inching ever closer to the 'Hinch line before strong running winger Layden powered over in the right corner for an excellently-worked try, capped by a tremendous touchline conversion by Carty.

This was a splendid encounter between two young, exciting and talented squads who both revelled in the swashbuckling style of rugby.

Crucially, Buccs maintained their endeavour that bit better throughout, but especially when they had a player in the sin-bin, to justify their win and maintain their 100% record in Division 1B.

Home winger Callum Boland won the man-of-the-match accolade despite keen competition from Carty, David Heffernan, Kolo Kiripati and Mark Dolan, while try scorer Thompson and number 8 James Simpson were among the players to shine for Ballynahinch.

Referee: Jonathan Peak (IRFU)