Buccaneers climbed into second place in the Division 1B standings after a late flurry of points saw them overhaul hosts Naas 24-16 at Forenaughts on Saturday.
Buccaneers outscored the Kildare men by four tries to one, bagging their second successive bonus point thanks to scores from Conor McKeon, who also kicked two conversions, Rory Moloney, Jordan Conroy and Eoghan O'Reilly.
Former Connacht team-mates Fionn Carr and Danie Poolman opposed each other at full-back, Carr covering for the injured Fionn Higgins and Poolman marshalling the Pirates' back-line that he previously coached.
In front of a decent attendance, Naas made the early running with a Michael Skelton break the earliest threat to the visitors' line. Buccs weathered this early spell and then struck for two tries in quick succession before the end of the opening quarter.
Both scores emanated from moves when the Pirates turned over possession from the hosts with captain Kolo Kiripati initially breaking from a scrum after a Naas put-in. McKeon and Luke Carty linked before Mata Fifita powered through the centre to send McKeon scampering through near the posts for a 15th minute try which the scrum half converted.
Almost immediately, a teasing McKeon chip over the cover could have yielded a second try but the ball bounced away from Shane Layden. However, Brett Wilkinson's charges notched their next try within four minutes with Kiripati again coming away with possession and John Sutton snappily transferring the ball to Moloney who showed determined strength to surge over for an unconverted try wide on the right.
Trailing 12-0, Naas responded promptly when Kiripati, who was to have an eventful game, missed a tackle and former Bucc Carr finished off a swift counter attack to touch down at the posts for a 21st minute try which Peter Osborne converted.
The game lacked shape for periods before Naas reduced the arrears further on 32 minutes. Fifita made a carry following a scrum close to the Buccs line but support did not arrive quickly enough and Osborne duly slotted over the penalty conceded for holding on.
The Athlone men had a scoring opportunity just before the interval when, after Carty had punted a penalty to the right corner, they brought play to in front of the home posts where they lacked precision and patience before conceding a relieving penalty to the hosts who trailed 12-10 at the break.
Into the second half, Poolman made a terrific break to combine with Layden whose grubber kick ahead was knocked on by Naas but Buccs got no reward from this close-in scrum. Kiripati then came off second best in a collision with his opposite number Paulie Tolofua on 47 minutes and a nasty ear injury forced the Pirates skipper off with Sutton rejoining the action. Tolofua too was withdrawn shortly afterwards.
Buccaneers now became a bit ragged and Carr, varying his game more than usual, began to cause problems for the midlanders’ defence. An Osborne penalty following offside edged Naas ahead and then Stephen McVeigh got caught in possession in midfield. Dissent by a team-mate saw this penalty brought ten metres nearer the Buccs goal line and scrum half Osborne gratefully accepted to give the home side a 16-12 advantage.
Naas were now forcing the pace and, following a touch judge's intervention, Daniel Qualter was yellow carded with seven minutes remaining. The Hoops piled forward and Conroy did well to stop a swift Osborne counter.
Buccs were now defending resolutely to protect what looked like a losing bonus point but the outcome transformed dramatically in the final two minutes.
Wilkinson's side turned over possession close to their own line and Conroy, who had been unable to train during the week due to illness, took off like a rocket up the left flank. At the halfway line he was confronted by another speedster in Carr but the Tullamore youngster left the former Connacht player flailing in his wake as he took off again to arc from one wing to the other and leave a number of despairing defenders in his slipstream for a quite magnificent solo try in the right corner. McKeon added a splendid conversion to put Buccs 19-16 ahead.
From the restart, Buccaneers won possession and finally clicked as a unit to put a wonderful move together in the final move of the contest. Excellent handling and support play stretched Naas from one side to the other before replacement O'Reilly skipped past Will O'Brien for an unconverted bonus point try on the right and a remarkable 24-16 victory.
Referee: Jonathan Peak (IRFU)