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Buccaneers to tackle sprightly league leaders

Story by Tom Kelly

Friday, 30th November, 2012 9:57am

Buccaneers to tackle sprightly league leaders

Buccaneers will be hoping to topple the current league leaders Dublin University at Dubarry Park on Saturday.

BUCCANEERS take on joint-leaders Dublin University in the match of the round in this weekend's series of Ulster Bank League Division 1B fixtures, when the sides go head to head at Dubarry Park, Athlone, on Saturday (2.30pm).

Promoted at the end of last season, the Students have passed all tests so far and boast a 100 per cent win record to date, with only Ballynahinch's superior scoring difference denying them top-spot.

Buccs are also on an impressive run and a smashing contest is very much anticipated between these exciting squads.

Trinity played in Dubarry Park during the summer when they retained the IRFU Club Sevens, so they will be lively and enterprising opponents. Winger Niyi Adeolukan's incredible pace on that afternoon stretched all opposition, and he has started life in Division 1B with a steady haul of tries. He cannot be afforded any space, but Buccs must also curtail the influence of out-half Cathal Marsh, who played in Athlone with Ireland U20s the season before last.

Discipline will be key here as he is a very consistent place-kicker. Ciaran Wade and Paddy Lavelle form a decent centre pairing, while full-back Dave Flanagan and the versatile Ariel Robles are two other promising backs under the tutelage of Tony Smeeth, who has been Director of Rugby at Dublin University for 11 years.

While Trinity's scoring rate helped them win 15 of 16 league matches last season, Hugh McGuire's impact on their defensive duties has been a vital cog too. Flankers Pierce Dargan (who has played with USA U20s) and Brian du Toit are very mobile, as is spirited No. 8 Jack Dilger. The Kellys - Martin and Jack - are two other hardy operators in a competitive pack.

The battle of the back-rows could be crucial and Buccs' unit of David Heffernan, Eoghan Grace and Kolo Kiripati have a fine blend of aggression, guile and pace, with young Luke Satchwell well capable of performing in this sector.

The front five have jelled better in recent matches and continued their improvement up North. Home fans will be hoping that last week's break from action will have given Daniel Qualter and James Tormey time to recover fully from injury.

Michael Kearney and Rory Byrne are other strong contenders at lock. Johannes Roets is now acclimatising to club rugby in Ireland and, with Martin Staunton, Peter Reilly and Diarmuid Higgins, provides good options up front, where Garreth Halligan is back to his best.

Of course, the Pirates have masses of potential in their backline too. Shane Layden, Mark Dolan, Jack Carty, Conor Finn and Callum Boland have all played on various Ireland teams in recent seasons, and new coach Tony Dolan knows how to get the best from these young Buccs.

Alex Hayman adds steel, experience and organisation in the centre, and John O'Brien, Billy Henshaw and Barry Digby will be vying for starting berths. Mark McCrea is an injury concern.

Fitness will be crucial as both teams have tended to do better in the second half of matches to date. There is precocious talent in both squads, so a fast-moving and skilful encounter, allayed to some tough grafting in the forwards' duel, is anticipated.

It promises to be a pre-Christmas cracker and Buccaneers' greater need to win, especially in front of their home supporters, may give them the vital edge that could see them prevail.

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