BALLYNAHINCH 17 BUCCANEERS 22, Ballymacarn Park
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
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.
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.
BALLYNAHINCH: Jonny Cullen; Michael Kirkwood, Stuart Morrow, David Nicholson, Aaron Ferris; Ryan Bambry, Harry McAleese; Chris Stevenson, David McGregor, Lewis Johnston, Jonny Graham, Robert Greer, Michael Graham, James McCall, Stuart Lamb (capt).
Replacements: David Drake, Greg Taylor, John Gunson, Matthew Nelson, Paddy McAllister.
BUCCANEERS: JH Potgieter; Conor Lavelle, Brian Tuohy, Paul Harte, Sean Stapleton; Alex Hayman, Adam Kennedy; Martin Staunton, Garreth Halligan, Conor Higgins, James Tormey, Colm Rigney (capt), Kolo Kiripati, Colin Watters, Stephen Burke.
Replacements: Benny Gilligan, Gavin Kelly, Anthony Hughes, Padraig Burke, Billy Henshaw'.
Referee: John Carvill (IRFU)