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UCC Begin New Year With Long-Awaited Win

UCC Begin New Year With Long-Awaited Win

Buccaneers’ dreadful record at the Mardyke continued on Saturday when UCC recorded their first Ulster Bank League victory of the season, running out worthy 22-18 winners over a rudderless Pirates outfit.

Both teams made enforced changes for this fixture played in near perfect conditions on a dull but mild afternoon in front of a sparse attendance.

With Michael Kearney and Denis Buckley both in Italy with Connacht, James Tormey and Benny Gilligan came into the Buccs pack. Jack Carty and Brian Touhy are both injured currently so Adam Kennedy switched to out-half.

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Callum Boland also returned on the left wing for Hendre Marnitz's side and Alex Hayman got the nod at inside centre.

UCC were missing lock Michael Linehan and centre James Kiernan, whose late grandfather of the same name, the former Munster stalwart Jim Kiernan, was remembered with a minute's silence prior to kick-off.

Pat Parfrey replaced his cousin Kiernan in the centre with James Mulcahy starting in the second row.

However, UCC's most important change was Brian Kingston's inclusion at out-half where he proved the dictating force throughout as well as enjoying a flawless six out of six place-kicking return for College.

Buccaneers made the brighter start but spoiled an early try chance with a forward pass in the ninth minute. UCC struggled to cope in the initial exchanges and Kennedy opened the scoring with a 14th minute penalty for the midlanders.

But the visitors were already being hasty in their play and conceding soft penalties. Kingston landed two penalties in quick succession to put UCC 6-3 ahead before the end of the opening quarter.

The Students were now settled into the contest and Billy Newman was twice stopped close to the Buccs try-line as College went on the offensive.

Buccs too had opportunities but held onto possession for too long in the 31st minute when the UCC defence was stretched. Two minutes later, Garrett O'Suilleabhain was yellow carded for not retreating as Mark Dolan quickly tapped a penalty.

College looked in dire straits when lock Mulcahy tempted referee John Lacey's patience once too often and thus joined his winger in the sin bin.

Kennedy kicked the ensuing penalty across the pitch where Shane Layden did well to field and offload the ball to Paul Harte and the centre darted in for a 36th minute try on the right.

Kennedy missed the conversion but Buccs led 8-6 at half-time and looked in a very rosy position to build their momentum on the restart.

However, it was 13-man UCC who took the initiative, keeping the ball tight and going through the phases to embarrass the midlanders by forcing a penalty through impressive driving on the left.

Kingston nosed the Cork side back in front with this place-kick after 45 minutes for a lead that they would not relinquish, even though they suffered their third yellow card when Cyprien Jouve had an enforced ten-minute rest from the 50th minute.

Buccs were now ringing the changes and began to pile forward but twice in promising positions they spoiled real chances when knocking on close to the UCC try-line and then being whistled up for crossing as College rode their luck.

The imperious Kingston edged them further ahead with a penalty on the hour mark but, within a minute, Kennedy had narrowed the arrears to the minimum with his second penalty.

Harte almost stole through when he collected a loose pass on 70 minutes but the spirited students survived this scare and then drove Buccs back, helped by one missed tackle, as Paddy Ryan powered over for a try which Kingston duly converted from the left to leave UCC 18-11 ahead.

Now sensing a first win of the season, Conor Twomey's charges dug even deeper and their tackling was relentless throughout.

Daniel Qualter got in a fine block on 73 minutes but symptomatic of Buccs efforts he could not control the ball and UCC escaped again.

However, Buccs set up a grandstand finish when Layden surged through from halfway for a magnificent try at the posts which Kennedy converted to make it a one-point game.

This gave the Athlone side hopes of yet salvaging a win but Kingston sealed a much-needed home victory with another impeccable penalty just before the final whistle.

On their own patch now boasting a highly impressive new clubhouse, College have constantly proved a bogey team to Buccaneers. They were much the hungrier outfit once they settled into the contest and had a clear man-of-the-match in Kingston who caused huge discomfort to the Pirates every time he got possession.

Prop Ryan would have relished his crucial try and he looks a player of decided potential. Brian O'Callaghan led his young side excellently from number 8, while the young Kerryman of the French name, Jouve, put in a Trojan effort in the centre.

Buccs were at sixes and sevens from an early stage. They looked decidedly rusty after the long festive break, with neither tackling or passing being sharp enough. An improved effort will be needed for next Friday's derby clash with Galwegians.

Referee: John Lacey (IRFU)