Buccs face Old Wesley in battle for play-offs
Buccaneers face Old Wesley in a showdown for the final promotion playoff berth when the teams go head to head in a hugely-anticipated Ulster Bank League Division 1B match at Dubarry Park tomorrow.
Kick-off for this game, Buccs' final home fixture of the season, between two sides separated by just a point, is at 2.30pm.
The biggest crowd of the season is expected at the Athlone venue with further spice being added to the occasion by the possibility of six former Pirates being involved with the visitors.
Three teams from Division 1B go into the promotion play-offs. Currently, St Mary's College top the league table and they host their nearest challengers, Dublin University in their penultimate fixture tonight. A win for Dublin University would ensure that the title and automatic promotion spot is not filled until the final round of matches.
Meanwhile, Ballymena lie in third place, too far behind to catch the leading pair but already assured of a place in the playoffs. Thus, the final spot is up for grabs between Old Wesley and Buccs, who lie in fourth and fifth positions respectively, so victory is vital.
The Pirates know that if they win their final two matches they will secure the final playoff berth, so it is crucial that they overcome the metropolitans tomorrow.
They will also be aiming to avenge their early-season defeat away to Old Wesley when they let a 35-17 half-time lead be overhauled in an 80-point thriller.
Buccaneers will have learned from that setback.
The four-week break from their win at Blackrock College will also have given their walking wounded time to recuperate, although Buccs may have preferred to keep the fixtures coming as they were in a rich vein of form.
They had been fielding a relatively settled squad since Christmas and it showed in the cohesion of the side. Conor McKeon was the key figure at fly-half and Conor Lowndes, in the absence of the injured Graham Lynch, settled into the scrum-half role, although the latter is fit again and in contention to regain the No 9 jersey.
It promises to be a game played with cup-tie fervour and passion, and should attract a bumper attendance.
Buccs' form has improved since the turn of the year and they have played with greater consistency and application in that spell.
Their points difference is slightly better than Old Wesley's, too.
If they perform from start to finish with the flair, discipline and work-rate that they are capable of - and head coach Brett Wilkinson will surely have them tuned in and focused - then Buccaneers can forge a crucial win as they chase that coveted play-off berth.