AIL – Highfield 26 – Old Wesley 13
In damp conditions and in front of a sizeable and vocal crowd, this top of the table clash provided excitement and drama from start to finish. However it was the opposition who proved the deserved winners on the day.
Highfield had marginally the better of the opening exchanges although both sides lost a line out each in the first 10 minutes of the match. Highfield got inside the Wesley 22 but it was the visitors who opened the scoring with a well struck Rory Stynes penalty kick from just inside the opposition 10 metre line. Straight from the restart Wesley put in their best move of the day. A typical Tom Kiersey chip kick was gathered by himself on the half way and a perfectly timed pass found Tommy O’Callaghan in space. O’Callaghan, still with a lot of work to do, then opened the throttle sprinting over 40 metres to score a try mid way between the posts and the touchline. Stynes converted and Wesley held a rather flattering 10 nil lead.
Just after the 20 minute mark Highfield had Wesley in some bother inside the 22. From a penalty 10 metres from the goal line they opted for the scrum. The gamble paid off and after some good carries winger Ben Murphy crossed for a try. Stynes extended the Wesley lead with a penalty kick. As half time approached the home side then had a penalty inside the Wesley 22 and opted to kick for touch. No score ensued but Wesley again conceded a penalty. Highfield again opted for the kick to touch. This time it paid off as they mauled their way over the line for their second try. With the conversion it left the score 13-12 to Old Wesley at half time.
There was some optimism amongst the Old Wesley support as they now had the advantage of the gradient, albeit against a breeze, however the second half belonged to the Cork side.
Right from the restart Highfield looked to have upped a gear. In addition the Wesley line out was struggling losing one and a crooked throw in a second. From a scrum inside their own half Highfield attacked down the right wing. The Wesley defence stopped the attack just short of the line, but from recycled ball out half Shane O’Riordan crossed under the posts for a converted try. At this stage there was nearly a game changing event when referee Chris Busby went down with a leg injury. However both team’s physios came to the rescue and he was able to continue.
There was a glimmer of hope for the visitors when a Highfield player was yellow carded for a deliberate knock on; however Wesley were unable to capitalise. Highfield were now starting to stamp their authority on the match, in particular using the breeze to their advantage. And with 20 minutes to go any chance of a Wesley win was disappearing fast. Highfield had a chance to take a two score lead but pushed a relatively straightforward penalty kick wide of the posts. With 6 minutes on the clock they then kicked a penalty to touch 7 metres from the Wesley line. Iain McGann looked to have saved the day with a line out steal, but the clearance kick did not find touch. Highfield were determined to score the bonus point try and also deny Old Wesley the loser’s bonus point. They regrouped and got back up to the Wesley line. The ball then went wide for Ben Murphy to score his second try in the corner. To rub salt in the wound the conversion was successful. With less than 2 minutes to play Highfield soon regained possession to see out the match.
After a great start to the campaign Old Wesley will be very disappointed to have lost 3 of the last 4 matches. There is now a 3 week gap before the next match, a home fixture against Shannon.
Old Wesley Team :Rory Stynes, Tommy O’Callaghan, James O’Donovan, David Poff, Richie Walsh, Tom Kiersey, Charlie O’Regan, Conor Maguire, Craig Telford, James Burton, JJ O’Dea, Iain McGann (c), Paul Derham, Josh Pim, Mark Rowley. Replacements- Luke Thompson, Sam Kenny, Ian Condell, Josh Miller. Ed O’Keeffe.
Scorers – Tommy O’Callaghan, try; Rory Stynes, con, pen.