4 Dec, 10:19
Grand Slam winners Fiona Coghlan and Nora Stapelton have returned the Women's RBS 6 Nations trophy to Chief Executive John Feehan at the Six Nations offices in Dublin.
Replacements used: Neil Simpson for McGrath (50 mins), Ken McComb for Ferguson (62).
Replacements used: Paul Maxwell for Kiripati (18-30 mins, temp sub), Mark McCrea for Finn, Johannes Roets for Reilly (both half-time), Reilly for Roets (59), Scott Flanagan for O'Brien (67), Finn for Fifita, Maxwell for Satchwell, Conor Fitzgibbon for Henshaw (all 70).
The midlanders' pack was in trouble from a very early stage as Belfast Harlequins' front five powered on the pressure. Here the guile and leadership of Garreth Halligan and the zestful abrasiveness of Eoghan Grace were particularly missed.
The home side quickly grabbed the momentum with their forwards proving too strong and they regularly used a very effective mauling game that, allayed to Michael Heaney's kicking, pinned the Pirates back.
Buccs defended resolutely and when they eventually displayed that they too could maul, it led to the game's opening score after 16 minutes.
As Kolo Kiripati made a break from this maul, his opposite number Alistair Heatlie was penalised for a shoulder charge which resulted in a yellow card for the home number 8. Jack Carty converted the resultant penalty to give Buccs the lead against the run of play.
'Quins, however, continued to enjoy the majority of possession and territory against disciplined defence by the visitors until the 29th minute. David Heffernan was isolated and forced to hold on to possession and Heaney made no mistake with his penalty kick.
Three minutes later, Carty had an opportunity to restore the lead but his penalty effort from the 10-metre line was wide and thus the sides were level 3-3 at half-time.
Into the second half the Athlone side conceded a penalty almost immediately, Heaney converting from in front of the posts. Replacement Mark McCrea was indecisive in clearing eight minutes later and, with his side's scrum creaking once again, Buccs had a let-off when Heaney knocked on as he attempted to touch down.
However, this merely delayed Harlequins' opening try after 52 minutes when the Pirates were driven off their own scrum ball on the right and Michael Kirkwood finished off smart recycling to score in the left corner. Heaney's excellent conversion put 'Quins 13-3 ahead.
The Pirates' back-line got very few chances with good ball and their forwards were grappling to stem the flow. But with the game going into the final quarter and 'Quins still within striking distance, the midlanders' supporters held hope that Buccs might yet illuminate the afternoon with some of the sparkling rugby shown in their recent five-match winning sequence.
However, Daryl Marshall had other ideas and the openside flanker grabbed a brace of tries in as many minutes. His first touchdown on 66 minutes followed sustained pressure on the right.
His second try emanated from an ill-judged chip by Carty that was gobbled up by 'Quins. Heaney added two fine conversions to stretch his side's lead to 27-3 and a bonus point home win now looked distinctly likely.
Buccs though continued to show resilience and following McCrea's strong break down the left, Mark Dolan was nippily up in support for a smartly-taken 74th minute try which Carty converted.
With the Pirates finally displaying urgency and enterprise, Harlequins' play suddenly became nervy and disjointed with Roger Kirkwood making a late trip to the sin-bin.
Buccs finished with a flourish and team captain Kiripati got away with a knock on as he surged in for an unconverted try in the final move. This improved the scoreline to 27-15 but, in truth, it was a case of too little, too late for the visitors.
Although the result puts an end to Buccaneers' winning streak, they are still well placed in fourth place. Harlequins' strength was in the power and cohesion of their pack where Michael Ferguson and Richard Lutton were the dominant forces while Heaney was their most effective back.
Referee: Gary Conway (IRFU)