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.
The First Round of the inaugural AIB Cup is just two weeks away. Last Saturday, the competition kicked off in style as Buccaneers beat Ballymena 28-16 in a well-contested Preliminary Round tie.
AIB ALL-IRELAND CUP: PRELIMINARY ROUND: Saturday, November 26
Buccaneers 28 Ballymena 16, Dubarry Park
Scorers: Buccaneers: Tries: Conor O'Loughlin, Ted Robinson, David Kelly; Cons: Tom Cregan 2; Pens: Cregan 3
Ballymena: Try: Michael McComish; Con: Dirkie Strydom; Pens: Strydom
It proved a sweet night for Geoff Moylan's Buccaneers under the lights at Dubarry Park as they ran in three tries to Ballymena's one for a deserving victory.
The Pirates seemed up against it in the first half as a 38th-minute try from Ireland Sevens international Michael McComish, converted by impressive kicker Dirkie Strydom, who slotted penalties on 5, 7 and 16 minutes, handed Ballymena a 16-12 half-time lead.
The Braidmen's interval advantage, on a bitterly cold midlands night, would have been more but for their defence allowing Buccs scrum-half Conor O'Loughlin and winger Ted Robinson in for two tries, before the break.
Buccs' line-up was bolstered by Connacht's first choice fly-half Paul Warwick, who was making his long overdue debut for the Pirates since moving to Ireland from Australia. Another Ireland Sevens international Mark Bruce, who signed from Loughborough in the summer, also put in an impressive cameo on the right wing.
Buccs really got motoring when Warwick's 32nd-minute crossfield kick was gathered in by Robinson for a converted try. Although Ballymena back row McComish was allowed over for a quick reply, three successive penalties from the boot of Buccs full-back Tom Cregan saw the home side push 21-16 ahead by the 66th-minute.
The final blow for Steph Nel's visiting side came, two minutes from the finish, when lock David Kelly burrowed over after a converted try after a well-judged break off a scrum from David Quinlan.
Buccaneers face De La Salle Palmerston in the First Round proper on Saturday, December 17 next.