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Buccs Bring Home Bonus Point From Belfast

Buccs Bring Home Bonus Point From Belfast

Playing with a swagger and purpose that was not evident in recent Connacht fixtures, Buccaneers overcame Belfast Harlequins 29-21 in a lively opening Division 1B fixture at Deramore Park.

Conditions were near ideal for top of the ground rugby which suited Buccaneers ideally as they staged a magnificent comeback on a glorious sunny afternoon.

Buccs lined out with four Ulster Bank League debutants for the club, Conor Kindregan in the back row and Tiernan O'Halloran, Mark Abraham and Steve Macauley in the backline.

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Belfast Harlequins were a much changed squad from last season's meetings of the two clubs with Ulster duo Neil McComb and Michael Heaney their most recognisable players.

The Pirates were quickly into their stride and Jack Carty punished an offside indiscretion with a fourth minute penalty.

Luke Satchwell made a terrific break three minutes later that yielded a penalty in front of the posts that was swiftly tapped but came to nought.

Buccs were given a second kickable opportunity in the form of an 11th minute Carty penalty, following a teasing Macauley break, however the young out-half's kick rebounded off an upright.

A good drive by the visitors' pack earned yet another penalty but Carty's long range effort was wide of the target so, despite dominating territory and possession, Buccaneers lead was a mere 3-0.

Buccs maintained their momentum but a final forward pass denied Macauley a try on the left. Half an hour had passed before Harlequins made a raid of any substance and then a solid drive by the home pack yielded a penalty which Liam Cambridge was unable to convert after 33 minutes.

Four minutes from half-time, Carty made ground and Mark Dolan carried on to link up with David Heffernan who powered through for a 36th minute try wide on the left.

Carty was unable to add the conversion and thus Buccs' 8-0 advantage at the interval was, in truth, a poor return for their control of the play.

The Belfast side, fired up by their half-time team talk, came out a different side on the restart. Macauley tried an ill-advised chip two minutes into the second half and 'Quins snaffled possession, enabling McComb to steam through for a 42nd minute try on the left.

Four minutes later, the huge Ulster lock could not believe the space he was afforded as he galloped in for a second try and, suddenly, the hosts had a spring in their collective steps.

O'Halloran put in a 48th minute try-saving tackle on Cambridge, a recruit from the Irish Exiles who missed his second penalty soon afterwards.

Alarming holes began to appear in the Buccs cover and full-back Ewan Strang popped up on the left to help himself to a 56th minute try. Cambridge converted all three touchdowns – including one neatly drop-kicked effort – to put 'Quins 21-8 ahead.

But a contest that seemed to becoming a game of two halves turned dramatically once more. A terrific blockdown on Cambridge by Martin Staunton got Buccs back into home territory and Carty sent Alex Hayman attacking the 'Quins line.

The Pirates captain broke from outside the 22 and showed typical power and desire to crash over for a 58th minute try.

Six minutes later, Connacht star O'Halloran capped a fine contribution when he left the home defence flailing in his wake as he hared down the left for a try.

Cambridge missed a third penalty but Buccs had now regained the momentum and were utterly dominant in the closing stages when they laid siege to the home line.

James Tormey and Garreth Halligan were both stopped short, but Daniel Qualter was not to be denied as he burrowed through a number of 'Quins players to secure a bonus point try for Buccs on 71 minutes.

Dolan was held up shortly afterwards but Carty converted the three second half tries to deny a valiant 'Quins outfit any consolation.

Referee: Brian MacNeice (IRFU)