All Ireland League – Highfield 21 Old Wesley 16
Old Wesley travelled to Highfield in Cork urgently in need of a win in order to keep their promotion hopes alive. But despite leading or staying even for 70 of the 80 minutes, it was the home side that claimed the spoils on the day.
An early break by Highfield had play into the Old Wesley 22 before a high tackle allowed them to escape. Shortly after Nathan Randles reciprocated for Wesley taking play deep into the Highfield 22. They too escaped. A line out steal by Sam Pim led to a powerful run by Howard Noonan who kicked ahead but was just beaten to the line by the opposition defence. Then 10 minutes into the games Wesley were awarded a penalty20 metres out in front of the posts which was kicked by Eoin Monahan for a 3 nil lead.
10 minutes later James Taylor levelled the score with a 25 metre penalty goal. Then virtually straight from the kick off a kick to touch by Alex Molloy was fielded by a Highfield defender. But his clearance kick was blocked down leading to the first try of the game by Randles. Wesley had two opportunities to extend the lead with a couple of penalty kicks, but Monahan pushed both attempts wide. Highfield then had Wesley under severe pressure in the bottom corner. They had two 5 metre line outs but both were untidy and Wesley looked like they may escape. However their third line out was spot on leading to their first try after driving a maul over the line. This left the score at 8 all at half time.
Now playing with the breeze and hill advantage Wesley started the second half with renewed confidence. A break by Gary Bradley, taken on by Will Fay had play back in Highfield’s 22, and after an infringement the referee gave a yellow card to a Highfield player. Monahan kicked the penalty to regain the lead. Wesley continued their good work and earned a penalty which was kicked to the corner. From a clean line out and after some good forward carries the ball was swifty passed out to the wing by Gary Bradley, where Tommy O’Callaghan crossed in the corner for a try. No conversion but Wesley now held a two-score lead.
Then it was the home side’s turn to turn the screw. They kicked two penalties to the corner but on both occasions conceded a penalty allowing Wesley to escape. Then with 15 minutes to go Taylor kicked a penalty for Highfield to narrow the lead. Highfield now had their tails up and they soon had another 5 metre line out. This time it worked from them and they mauled over for a converted try, and for the first time in the match the Cork side led. Desperate for a result Wesley threw everything at Highfield in the final few minutes, but the opposition defence was having none of it. Wesley’s cause was not helped by a yellow card against Cronan Gleeson. With time up Highfield were awarded a late close range penalty goal which was kicked, before the ref blew for full time.
A play off spot is now a huge uphill battle for Old Wesley who will need to win at least two of their last three matches to have any chance of qualifying.
Scorers: Nathan Randles, try; Tommy O’Callaghan, try; Eoin Monahan, 2 pens.
Team: Alex Molloy, Nathan Randles, Eoin Deegan, James O’Donovan, Tommy O’Callaghan, Eoin Monahan, Gary Bradley, Harry Noonan, Howard Noonan, Cronan Gleeson, David Motyer, Iain McGann (capt), Sam Pim, Will Fay, Reuben Pim.
Replacements: Finn Tierney, Sam Kenny, Dom Maclean, Josh O’Hare, Josh Miller, David Poff.
Click here for photos by Ken Richardson