All Ireland League – Old Wesley 30 – Highfield 3
Old Wesley delivered, arguably, their most complete performance of the season to date last Saturday in Energia Park, Donnybrook when they scored an emphatic 30-3 victory over top of the table rivals, Highfield from Cork. Whilst the final scoreline may have flattered Wesley slightly, there is no doubting the merit of the victory. The quality of Wesley’s defence throughout was instrumental in keeping Highfield, who had scored 261 points in their previous 12 matches, to a meagre 3 points.
Wesley started brightly and, on 4 minutes, Ian Cassidy knocked over a penalty to lead 3-0. Wesley continued to dominate the early exchanges and a brilliant counter -ruck from Josh Pim, who was outstanding throughout, led to another penalty which Cassidy duly converted on 12 minutes – 6-0 Wesley. Highfield started to gain a greater foothold in the match and a great kick to the corner by talented outhalf, James Taylor, put the Wesley defence under pressure but, in typical fashion, they held firm and lifted the siege.
On 24 minutes, Wesley scored the first try of the match, with a brilliant individual effort by Alex Molloy from half way, showing wonderful pace, footwork and balance to touch down in the corner. Cassidy complemented the try with a great strike from the touchline – Wesley 13-0. Highfield took over territorially and possession-wise in the periods either side of half time and it was here that the watertight penalty -free defence from Wesley was exemplified. Whilst all defended manfully, stand out tackles by Cassidy and Josh Pim come to mind.
A feature of the match was how well the Wesley pack, especially the scrum, performed throughout against a formidable Highfield outfit and all 8 (and their replacements) deserve great credit for this effort. Ben Murphy at scrum half marshalled affairs very well throughout. Referee, Chris Busby, who had a good game, blew for half time with the score line still 13-0 to Wesley, having survived an easy penalty miss by Taylor for Highfield.
The first 20 minutes of the second half was all Highfield and the aforementioned Wesley defence held firm, with one brilliant counter- ruck by Harry Noonan on 57 minutes being a highlight. Eventually, Taylor kicked a good penalty for Highfield on 62 minutes to reduce the margin to 13-3. Wesley’s response was clinical and emphatic. Firstly, a great break by James O’Donovan was carried on by Ben Burns before man of the match, Josh Pim, fittingly crashed over for a crucial try on 66 minutes – Wesley 18-3. On 71 minutes, Wesley showed their accuracy and fluency, when a flowing back movement culminated in O’Donovan throwing a long pass for winger, Tommy O’Callaghan, to sprint the 25 metres to crash over in the corner. Replacement, Paddy McKenzie, who showed some nice touches, missed the conversion – Wesley 23-3.
With this flurry of scores, the unlikely 4 try bonus point came into focus and Wesley threw everything into the attack in search of the 4th try. With the clock touching 80 minutes, up stepped Alex Molloy to make another superb break and he slipped the ball to replacement scrum half, Charlie O’Regan, who ran a great line to cross beside the posts for a dramatic fourth try amid delirious delight from the home supporters. McKenzie added the points to leave the final score 30-3 to Wesley.
This victory leaves Wesley 11 points clear at the top and, whilst there are strong challenges ahead (starting with Malone away next Saturday), they are in a very strong position at this stage, with 12 victories out of 13. One additional feature of the match was the clash of brothers, with Ben Burns at hooker playing for Wesley and his brother, Sam, at full-back for Highfield, watched by their proud parents, Graham and Karen. There is no doubt that Ben would have been the happier sibling afterwards, although Sam also had a good game for Highfield.
OLD WESLEY SCORERS: Tries – Alex Molloy, Josh Pim, Tommy O’Callaghan & Charlie O’Regan. Penalties – Ian Cassidy (2). Conversions – Ian Cassidy (1); Paddy McKenzie (1)
OLD WESLEY TEAM: Alex Molloy, Tommy O’Callaghan, Eoin Deegan, James O’Donovan, David Poff, Ian Cassidy, Ben Murphy, Harry Noonan, Ben Burns, Jacob Barrett, JJ O’Dea, Iain McGann (c), Will Fay, Josh Pim, Reuben Pim. REPLACEMENTS: Robert Byrne, Sam Kenny, Alastair Hoban, Brendan Monahan, Paddy McKenzie, Charlie O’Regan.