For the second week in a row Buccaneers had their top four aspirations dented by Limerick opposition when Old Crescent held on to win 24-17.
Aided by the light breeze, the Munster men got a perfect start when they spread the ball smartly from right to left following a penalty to the Bounty corner and Dan Hurley finished at pace for a second minute try.
Ronan McKenna added a super touchline conversion and the out-half landed a seventh minute penalty for an early 10-0 lead.
Darragh Murray’s over eagerness saw him concede both penalties and he incurred a yellow card for the second infringement.
Almost as quickly Old Crescent had a player in the sin bin. Prop Cathal O’Reilly being guilty of bringing down a home maul close to his own side’s try line after 10 minutes.
A number of close-in forays by the Pirates were held out, both Oisin McCormack and Adamson almost getting over the line.
Buccs began to settle and Ciaran Booth drove forward along the left in a move that was carried on by Adamson. Lynch and Shane Layden also made ground before the move ended on the opposite flank. The Old Crescent defence shepherded the Pirates into touch
An attempted pass by O’Reilly missed a trio of teammates, while Hurley and Jordan Higgins combined to halt an O’Connor break.
Hurley struck for his second try on the half-hour mark. A deft McKenna grubber kick. Although the midlanders should be aggrieved that not one but two forward passes were involved in the lead up to the try! McKenna landed another touchline conversion to stretch his side’s advantage to 17-0.
As the hosts endeavoured to rally, Michael Hanley threw a ‘no look’ pass straight into touch when Buccs had an overlap on the stand side. Worse followed in the final move of the half.
The Pirates were putting an enterprising first half move together and had numbers to spare on the left but Layden’s lofted pass was picked off by Val McDermott and the winger raced away from halfway to touchdown at the posts. McKenna’s conversion gave Old Crescent a commanding 24-0 lead at the interval.
Buccaneers began to make changes early in the second half in which their efforts were more urgent if sometimes frantic and disjointed.
A terrific cross-field kick by Hanley found O’Connor on the left where his progress was halted illegally but, despite a touch-judge flag, a penalty was the only punishment meted to the visitors.
The midlanders finally unlocked the Old Crescent cover with Booth and Frankie Hopkins combining neatly from the back of a scrum to send Layden over for a 55th minute try converted by Hanley from the left.
Buccs continued to kick aimlessly at times, one notable occasion when the visitors had two players receiving treatment for injuries at the same time, and they were finding scores much harder to come by in the face of aggressive and sustained defending by the Limerick outfit.
A barnstorming run by Layden after 70 minutes almost got the evergreen centre all the way to the try-line but in the follow up play another home pass went straight to touch.
However, six minutes from time the Pirates were again rewarded for their much better second half showing.
Their superiority at scrums yielded them a penalty that was tapped swiftly and after a number of pick-and-goes Darren Browne surged over for 74th minute try which Hanley converted from the right.
Buccaneers continued to push forward and earned a 78th minute penalty which Hanley slotted over to salvage a losing bonus point that keeps the Athlone club in third place on the league table.
Buccaneers: G.Lynch, H.Balsiger, S.Layden, S.Mannion, R.O’Connor, M.Hanley, E.O’Reilly, M.Staunton, D.Adamson, S.Illo, D.Murray, D.Qualter, O.McCormack, E.Galvin (captain) and C.Booth.
Replacements: F.Hopkins (for O’Reilly, 45 mins), T.Maree (for McCormack, inj. 50 mins), R.Fallon (for Balsiger, 52 mins), S.O’Connell (for Staunton, 57 mins), D.Browne (for Adamson, 60 mins) and M.Staunton (for Illo, inj. 64 mins).
Old Crescent: J.Higgins, V.McDermott, S.Mullally, P.McNamara, D.Hurley, R.McKenna, G.Fitzgerald, C.O’Reilly, D.O’Brien, J.Considine, K.Doyle (captain), T.Tali Toia, C.Raele, K.Madden and R.Reynolds.
Replacements: A.Stacey (for Doyle, temp. 14/20 mins), G.Coyne (for Tali Toia, 45 mins), J.Hurley (for D.Hurley, 45 mins), S.Monaghan (for Madden, 56 mins), K.Madden (for Reynolds, 60 mins) and A.Stacey (for O’Reilly, 66 mins).
Referee: Colm Roche (IRFU).