Buccaneers maintained their strong pursuit of the promotion play-off berth when they defeated Blackrock College 32-18 in Saturday’s Division 1B game at Dubarry Park.
The Pirates secured a bonus point victory in the process while visitors Blackrock dropped perilously close to the relegation trap door.
Rain and mist descended shortly before kick-off which did not help the attendance, but there was nothing dull or dreary about this Ulster Bank League encounter in which there was fierce intensity – particularly in the opening half.
Buccs made the running from the start but Blackrock opened the scoring courtesy of an eighth minute David Godfrey penalty in their first excursion into home territory.
Buccs struck back quickly with Shane Layden and Billy Henshaw attacking down the right before being tackled into touch close to the 'Rock try-line.
The Athlone outfit contested the lineout and prop Diarmuid Higgins swooped on the ball to drive in for a 13th minute try.
Jack Carty was unable to convert and also missed a penalty, but it was third time lucky for the hosts' out-half when he converted Garreth Halligan's 18th-minute try following some fine series of pick and goes by Buccaneers.
Michael Carroll's 24th-minute try kept Blackrock in the hunt as they manfully responded, but Godfrey missed the straight forward conversion.
The Dubliners suffered a further setback within minutes when lock Carroll was sin-binned and Buccs soon capitalised, despite Carty's resultant penalty tailing to the left of the posts.
There was some exhilarating play in the build-up to Luke Satchwell's 30th-minute try, including a wonderful offload by Alex Hayman to Callum Boland who sent Satchwell scampering away from 25 metres.
Carty converted and later traded penalties with Godfrey to leave Buccaneers ahead by double scores at half-time – 22-11.
Within one minute of the restart, Buccs grabbed their fourth try of a productive afternoon. Kolo Kiripati and Mata Fifita carried forward strongly and Carty finished off this swift counter attack when he won the chase to his own grubber kick ahead to dot down at the posts.
The number 10 was injured in grounding the ball and replacement Ger O'Connor faultlessly took over the place-kicking duties and his conversion, followed by a 55th minute penalty, stretched Buccs' lead to 32-11.
The Athlone side's application and execution was not as sharp thereafter and Audi Athlone man-of-the-match Steve Macauley denied the 'Rock outfit with a brilliant chase back on the hour mark after David Scott-Lennon intercepted a careless pass near halfway.
But Blackrock grabbed the final score after Buccaneers lock James Tormey was yellow-carded. The visiting pack drove over the whitewash where Karl O'Riordan grounded the ball for a 72nd minute try which Godfrey converted.
That was as close as Blackrock could get and they now anxiously face into their two final fixtures, lying in eight place – a single point above second-from-bottom Malone.
Meanwhile, with champions Terenure College sending Corinthians home pointless, Buccaneers move one point ahead of their Connacht rivals into second place with just two games remaining.
Referee: Eddie Hogan O'Connell (IRFU)