Ballynahinch 17 Buccaneers 22
AIB League Division 1B
Buccaneers lifted themselves off the bottom rung in AIB League Division 1B, with a dominant first half display helping them record a 22-17 victory over fellow strugglers Ballynahinch.
This Ballymacarn Park battle was a must-win fixture for both sides but Buccs, despite tiring towards the finish, did just enough to pick up their second win on the trot under new coach David Henshaw.
They opened with a well-taken try after 15 minutes, hooker Garreth Halligan doing really well to block down 'Hinch scrum half Harry McAleese off a lineout and he charged off down the right wing to score and scrum half Adam Kennedy added the conversion.
It was that right side again that gave Buccs a platform for their next try, 26 minutes in. Connacht's Brian Tuohy, playing at outside centre, dived over to touch down in the corner - having just enough time and space to ground the ball one-handed.
Four minutes later, Buccs had their third try on the board when following a midfield drive, out-half Alex Hayman dummied and cut back inside, foiling the 'Hinch defence, as he scored at the posts. Kennedy's successful conversion made it 19-0 for half-time.
But it looked like Henshaw's men had overstretched themselves during the opening half, as they leaked two tries inside the opening 16 minutes of the second half.
'Hinch got right back in touch as winger Michael Kirkwood glided over on the right and team captain Stuart Lamb capitalised on a missed tackle to send his back row colleague Michael Graham through for a second unconverted score.
South African JH Potgieter steadied the Pirates with a fine long range penalty goal, on the hour mark, but 'Hinch winger Aaron Ferris set up a grandstand finish when he crossed on the left for a 79th minute, with Buccs again guilty of some poor tackling.
McAleese converted to make it 22-17 but Buccs managed to hold on during six minutes of injury-time. It was a vital four-point return for the midlanders as they host high-flying UCC and Young Munster in their final two games.
With two teams to be relegated, none of the bottom four sides are currently safe. Ballymena are best-placed on 24 points, with Buccaneers next on 19 and 'Hinch and Dungannon both on 18.
Ballymena's trip to Ballynahinch on the final day of the season - April 10 - could be the decider.
Scorers: Ballynahinch: Tries: Michael Kirkwood, Michael Graham, Aaron Ferris; Con: Harry McAleese
Buccaneers: Tries: Garreth Halligan, Brian Tuohy, Alex Hayman; Cons: Adam Kennedy 2; Pen: JH Potgieter