Guilfoyle try ends Buccs' hopes of comeback
Buccaneers 23 NUIG/Corinthians 29 Purcell Cup
NUIG/Corinthians came out on top of their Connacht derby against Buccaneers in the Leinster U-20 Purcell Cup game played at sun-drenched Dubarry Park, Athlone, on Sunday with the visitors prevailing after a match of swaying fortunes.
Both teams had woeful league campaigns and were seeking some solace in the Cup. Lack of confidence was evident in both teams' endeavours but Buccs error count was higher than that of the westerners and, consequently, they suffered with an early Cup exit.
As for much of the league season, the midlanders had a lengthy injury list that included Ryan O'Meara, Niall Farrelly and Ireland U-20 prop Conor Kenny, while Tom Finucane and Cilliene Walsh were surprising absentees.
But they began brightly with a fourth-minute Cameron Hertz penalty. NUIG were level within seven minutes, Ross Nicholl landing a penalty after an earlier attempt had rebounded off an upright.
He eased the visitors 9-3 ahead by the 24th minute as Buccs' errors and infringements totted up.
Hertz landed a real beauty with a 28th-minute place-kick for the Athlone side who then showed much improved cohesion and effort to apply a good spell of pressure inside the NUIG 22 where they opted for a tap and go for a penalty straight in front of the posts.
When Ili Tuimauga was stopped just short, it looked like an ill-advised choice but Buccs recycled well and Conor Morrissey somehow squirmed through the Galway side's ranks for an unconverted 32nd-minute try.
The Pirates now enjoyed their best period of this encounter and, just before the break, Hertz made terrific yardage to find touch on the left close to the NUIG line.
Hugh Ronaldson claimed possession from the visitors' throw and Buccs got the ball quickly to the wing where Callum Forde somehow jigged his way through in tight confines for a smashing 39th-minute try which Hertz converted to put Buccaneers 18-9 ahead at the interval.
But NUIG-Corinthians took control of the outcome in a blistering eight minutes spell shortly after the change of ends. Following a scrum near halfway, Colm de Buitlear made a searing break that led to Jack McDonald's unconverted 44th-minute try wide on the right.
Five minutes later there was just a solitary point between the teams when Nicholl tapped over a penalty and, virtually from the restart, de Buitlear was running riot again as he made huge yardage once more to get within striking distance of the home line where the visitors recycled the ball and the outhalf finished off the move he had started for another unconverted try. NUIG-Corinthians now led 22-18 after their 13-point haul in that eight-minute period.
Buccs belatedly introduced Maxime Droupy and he greatly improved matters but the damage had been done. They also sustained a number of injuries in quick succession that disrupted their endeavours to retrieve the situation with James Foley's loss being the major blow; how the penalty in that incident went against the homesters beggars belief.
Regardless, the outcome was done and dusted on 74 minutes when de Buitlear, revelling on the firm sod, scampered away to send his halfback partner Ryan Guilfoyle in for a try between the uprights.
Nicholl's conversion put the combination side 29-18 ahead and, although Buccs battled to the bitter end, they just could not overhaul that deficit despite the visitors' loosehead prop Dylan Coyle incurring a yellow card for a high tackle on Tuimauga two minutes from time.
Buccs matched their opponents' try count when Chris Maloney finished off a terrific counter-attack but it proved too little, too late.
Buccaneers will reflect on this contest as one they could have won but they made far too many errors throughout, many of them schoolboy mistakes such as poor handling and weak-decision making in a team lacking cohesion.
De Buitlear was the star of the show for the winners and Nicholl's place-kicking was also a key contribution.
Maloney, Droupy and Dean McMahon were pick of the home backs while Foley, Ronaldson, Aaron Byrne and Morrissey toiled manfully in the forwards exchanges.
BUCCANEERS - C Maloney; B Pears, P Flannery, D Mannion, C Forde; C Hertz, D McMahon; I Tuimauga, A Byrne, C Cleary; H Ronaldson, C Kelly; O Rowe, C Morrissey (capt), J Foley. Reps: M.Droupy for Mannion (56), D Mannion for Pears (inj 58), N O'Kane for Foley (inj 70), C Joncker for Forde (inj 73), N Conway for Cleary (inj 76).
NUIG-CORINTHIANS - D O'Neill; P Prendergast, R Nicholl, C Jones, Z O'Toole; C de Buitlear, R Guilfoyle; D Coyle, C Quinn, J McDonald; M Donohue, M Hanley; J Shiel, R Stanley. Reps: C Smyth for Shiel (h-t), C Joyce for Prendergast (57), J Murray for Hanley (60), J Campbell and J Foley.
Ref - M Roche Jnr (Connacht)