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Trinity Battle Past Buccs In Crunch Encounter

Trinity Battle Past Buccs In Crunch Encounter

Dublin University showed their mettle by coming from behind to beat fourth-placed Buccaneers on a 23-19 scoreline at College Park on Saturday.

Just a solitary point separated these teams before this vital third versus fourth tie as Division 1B enters the final straight and the home win now gives Dublin University a key edge in the chase for promotion.

A fine afternoon and a decent attendance witnessed an exhilarating contest that could have gone either way on a firm but near grassless surface.

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Trinity made three changes, all in their back-line, from their Colours defeat to UCD. James O'Donoghue came in at full-back, Ariel Robles in the centre and Cathal Marsh at out-half.

Meanwhile, Buccaneers fielded an unchanged squad with their talismanic captain Kolo Kiripati again on the bench.

Trinity were quickest out of the starting blocks and early pressure was rewarded with a third minute Marsh penalty from in front of the posts after Buccs came in from the side.

But when the students were guilty of not rolling away six minutes later, Marsh's opposite number Jack Carty opened the Pirates’ account.

Then a high tackle that stopped a promising 13th minute break by Conor Finn went unpunished and Trinity made the most of their good fortune.

Neil Hanratty countered through the midlanders’ ranks where his progress was eventually stopped by Conor Fitzgibbon, but Paddy Lavelle was on his shoulder to touch down just to the right of the posts. Marsh’s conversion was straightforward for a 10-3 advantage.

Buccs though were back on level terms within five minutes. Finn was prominent again going forward and the visitors' pack then made good ground to force a five-metre scrum.

Eoghan Grace peeled away to get the ball via Mark Dolan to Fitzgibbon and the teenage winger scythed through for a try at the posts which Carty converted.

Fitzgibbon then fielded a poor Michael McLoughlin clearance and, when the students came in from the side, Carty landed a lengthy penalty to put Buccs 13-10 ahead after a hectic opening 23 minutes.

Carty was off target with two penalty kicks either side of a Marsh miss, while Buccs should have had a healthier lead at the interval but Garreth Halligan had no support as his terrific charge down the left flank was stopped by a quartet of Trinity players just short of the whitewash.

Connacht's Mata Fifita replaced Fitzgibbon, with Finn switching to the left wing, for the second half but the big centre had a torrid introduction, promptly conceding two penalties – both of which Marsh gratefully converted, his second effort just squeezing inside the far upright.

Fifita also visited the sin-bin on 50 minutes for slowing possession after Finn had run into trouble when he had space to kick into. This rejuventated Trinity, who now led 16-13, and put an added workload on the Athlone side who were already busy dealing with a more solid College pack.

Kiripati now came on for Rory Byrne and Buccs took the game to their hosts despite their temporary numerical deficiency.

The Pirates’ skipper broke from the back of a scrum after 57 minutes and sent Billy Henshaw scampering down the right flank before the Trinity defence forced him into touch six metres short of the try-line.

Then hands on the ground by the students yielded a penalty which Carty slotted over from the left to level matters again at 16-16.

The decisive score arrived in the 66th minute, Trinity wrong-footing Fifita before the ball was spread swiftly to the left where, for once, Niyi Adeolokun evaded Henshaw for his ninth try of the season.

Marsh, who later missed a penalty, added the conversion. Carty was body-checked after chipping the cover on 74 minutes but no penalty accrued to Buccs who continued to press forward.

Kiripati made a surge down the left a minute later and offloaded to Halligan but the gallant hooker was wrapped up and just could not get his pass away to the overlapping Dolan.

However, moments later, Carty drilled over a fine drop goal to set up a grandstand finish. Buccs had survived a Trinity onslaught in the closing stages when the sides met earlier in the season at Dubarry Park.

Now it was Trinity's turn to defend desperately but they conceded one more penalty in midfield which Carty lofted towards touch in the left corner. His kick fell just short though and with Trinity dotting down, referee Olly Hodges blew for full-time.

Trinity are very well-drilled with an excellent pack in which Pierce Dargan was a persistent menace. Their back-line, orchestrated superbly by Marsh, constantly probed at pace and, overall, they just about deserved the result which keeps them hot on the heels of second-placed UCD.

Buccs had to work that bit harder to counter a lack of real bulk in their forwards and, on the day, their tackling was not as crisp as it usually is or needed to be. However, their first losing bonus point of the campaign keeps their aspirations still alive.

Referee: Olly Hodges (IRFU)