UL Bohemians went down 21-16 to Buccaneers on Thomond Park’s back pitch on Saturday, as a last-minute try from Connacht full-back Shane Layden punished a tiring Bohs defence.
Buccaneers dictated play for the majority of the proceedings but the gritty home side battled all the way and will take solace from both their performance and the losing bonus point secured.
Conditions were near perfect for this round 8 encounter but the game took time to come to the boil. Most of the action was confined between the two 22-metre lines in the opening half, despite the visitors getting off the mark with an early Ross Keller penalty.
Shane Airey levelled for the hosts in the 14th minute, but teenager Keller landed two out of three further place-kicks for the midlanders with Bohs flanker Ian Condell earning a yellow card for the latter penalty on 37 minutes. Airey missed a penalty with the final kick of the first half at which stage Buccs led 9-3.
The Pirates made the Limerick side suffer further while depleted. Shane Layden and Billy Henshaw made great inroads down the right before Buccs moved the ball infield and Jacob Walshe surged over for a 45th minute unconverted try, the young prop's third touchdown in successive matches.
It looked likely that Buccs would kick on from here but concentration and application dropped. The Red Robins capitalised on this and Rory White got in for a 57th minute try at the posts which Airey converted.
The Athlone side will not be happy with the defending for this score and, three minutes later, there was just a solitary point between the sides when Airey landed a penalty after Henshaw was sin-binned for not rolling away.
Kolo Kiripati knocked on as he stretched for the home line shortly afterwards and UL Bohs, for whom Munster's Jack O'Donoghue was outstanding, led for the first time when Airey slotted over a 76th minute penalty.
This stung Buccaneers into their best period of sustained play and they laid siege inside the home 22 for the remaining minutes.
Their chance looked lost when Keller's late drop goal attempt was wayward but the Pirates won the restart and again patiently went through the phases for a protracted spell that looked like ending in disappointment when Callum Boland's drop goal effort was blocked but the centre somehow retrieved possession from the midst of three UL players.
When the ball eventually reached Layden on the left, the Connacht full-back powered through two tacklers for the match-winning try. Keller's fine touchline conversion completed a dramatic 21-16 victory for Buccs that should have been forged much earlier.
Referee: John Carvill (IRFU)