10 Dec, 12:23
Ireland's John Lacey will referee his first ever RBS 6 Nations match in February, while Alain Rolland is also included in the Elite Panel in what is his last season.
BALLYMENA 15 BUCCANEERS 18, Eaton Park
Scorers: Ballymena: Tries: Sam McKinney, penalty try; Con: Rory Drysdale; Pen: Rory Drysdale
Buccaneers: Tries: Martin Staunton, John O'Brien; Con: Adam Kennedy; Pens: Adam Kennedy 2
The Pirates were 13-8 to the good at half-time, following a converted try from Martin Staunton and two penalties from Adam Kennedy.
Top-scoring out-half Rory Drysdale opened the scoring for Ballymena with a penalty after 16 minutes, finding his range after a counter attack involving Ricky Andrew and Stephen Castle.
Then a bout of forward pressure from Buccs and a break by Connacht-capped centre Aidan Wynne led to loosehead prop Staunton burrowing his way over, with scrum half Kennedy adding the extras.
In worsening conditions, Kennedy kicked his penalties after 30 and 35 minutes, stretching the visitors into a 13-3 lead, but Ballymena skipper Sam McKinney hit back with a close range try just before the break.
Ballymena had the wind at their backs in the second half and managed to move ahead courtesy of a penalty try and a Drysdale penalty.
The home side had chances to build on their sudden lead but despite the best efforts of Jamie Smith, Drysdale and McKinney, they could not convert a decent wedge of territory into points. Indeed, Drysdale watched a late penalty attempt bounce back off a post.
Buccs, whose offloading was top notch, had the stronger finish and a 65th minute try from winger John O'Brien ensured a happy journey back to Athlone.