All Ireland League – Highfield 28 Old Wesley 19
It was a bruised, battered and pointless Old Wesley side who faced the long bus journey back to the capital on Saturday evening following a demoralising defeat to lowly Highfield at Woodleigh Park. There could be few complaints with the result as the Cork side capitalised on an inept second half display by their counterparts to run out comfortable winners and gain their first league win of the season. Yet at half time it all looked so different with Old Wesley leading and appearing to be in firm control of the game. The result sees Old Wesley drop to 9th in the table.
It was a perfect day for rugby as Old Wesley played against the hill and sprightly breeze in the first half. In a lively opening period there appeared to be little between the sides as they took turn to dominate each other’s set scrum and frustrate their line outs. Following an early exchange of penalties Barry McLaughlin put the visitors ahead with a straight 35m penalty. With flanker Darren Horan pilfering some great ball at the breakdown and the Stynes brothers regularly breaking the opposition lines Old Wesley started to control proceedings, and it was no surprise when they scored the game’s first try on the half hour. This came from hooker Dave Henshaw, who finished off a flowing move started by Rory Stynes and involving Robbie Waters and Steven Harvey. McLaughlin nailed the difficult conversion and shortly afterwards extended the lead with a fine 35m penalty into the wind. The sizeable travelling support was well satisfied with a half time lead of 16 – 6 and was looking forward to a fruitful second period.
Alas feelings of confidence in the Old Wesley ranks were removed shortly after the resumption as Highfield took total control of the game and handed out a lesson in grit and determination, the hallmark of Munster rugby. Within minutes the home side twice exposed the visiting defence wide out and plundered two touchdowns, the first of which was converted, to take the lead by 16 – 18. With a rare incursion into home territory Barry McLaughlin restored the Old Wesley lead with a 40m penalty following an infringement at the breakdown. This score was against the run of play. As Highfield continued to control possession and Old Wesley discipline evaporated leading to yellow cards for Ian Cassidy and then Iain McGann, the final outcome appeared inevitable. Entering the final quarter, following the concession of yet another penalty, the home side opted for touch close to the Old Wesley line. With the line out won, the Highfield pack drove over the whitewash to touchdown in a fashion almost identical to their second try. The conversion was added and the home side sensed an unlikely victory. Old Wesley were confined to defensive duties in a desperate attempt to salvage something for their efforts but their misery was complete with the last kick of the game and a Highfield penalty goal from close to the posts, which deprived the visitors of the consolation of a losing bonus point. The final score was 28 – 19 to Highfield.
The Old Wesley players and coaches will ponder how they let slip a game that they appeared to be controlling comfortably at half time and how the sides discipline crumbled so badly as the game progressed. They will be looking for a much improved performance next week as they return to Cork to take on University College Cork at the Mardyke.
Team:- Eoin Stynes, Barry McLaughlin, Steven Harvey, Conor Lavelle, Robbie Waters, Rory Stynes, Ian Cassidy, Davy Henshaw, Craig Telford, James Burton, Iain McGann, Paul McCarroll, Darren Horan, Thomas Ratahi, Richie Morrow. Replacements:- Kenny Knaggs, Kevin Becker, Steven Boyle, Ian Slattery, David Potterton.
Scorers:- Davy Henshaw (try), Barry McLaughlin (con, 4 pens).