Highfield 27 Cashel 24
HIGHFIELD nailed promotion to All-Ireland League Division 1B with two games to spare following a late dramatic bonus point win over their closest challengers Cashel at Woodleigh Park on Saturday.
The biggest crowd of the season witnessed a compelling contest that remained in doubt until the fourth minute of injury-time when referee Dan Carson’s final shrill of the whistle brought unrestrained joy and no little relief either.
A bruising encounter had everything, seven tries, three yellow cards, ferocious hits in the tackle and some magnificent defence and attacking plays by both teams.
The closing quarter was jammed pack with incident as Field seemed to have forced the issue when jumping 19-10 in front in the 58th minute after a try near the posts by number eight Miah Cronin, converted by Shane O’Riordan.
Cashel’s case worsened with the yellow card issued to second-row Idris Rqibi from the re-start, but the visitors threw caution to the wind and went after the leaders.
Two former Cork Con players, James Ryan, who was immense throughout, and Darragh Lyons, availed of a quick tap by scrum-half Aidan Barron for Lyons to score just after the hour with Jonty Rae converting, 19-17.
Ryan was prominent once again as Cashel laid siege to the home line, but Field’s courageous defence stood firm and a line-out steal from captain Fintan O’Sullivan, together with a barnstorming charge from player coach Timmy Ryan, lifted the pressure.
An O’Riordan penalty in the 70th minute extended the lead to 22-17, but Field weren’t safe by any means because Cashel jumped in front for only the second time.
Home wing Colin O’Neill was shown yellow, three minutes later, and the Tipperary side duly capitalised with a try from prop James Kendrick, converted by Rae, 24-22 to Cashel.
Yet, there was no hint of panic as Field attacked with a strong Mark Dorgan surge through the middle for wing Gavin O’Leary to score in the right corner, four minutes from the end of normal time.
Field led 12-10 at half-time. Rae kicked Cashel in front before Dan Healy crossed after 22 minutes for 5-3 and then Mick Dillane bagged a try, O’Riordan converting, 12-3.
The out-half was then shown yellow in injury-time and Mike Casey claimed a Cashel try, converted by Rae.
Scorers for Highfield: Tries: D Healy, M Dillane, M Cronin, G O’Leary; Cons: S O’Riordan (2); Pen: S O’Riordan
Cashel: Tries: M Casey, D Lyons, J Kendrick; Cons: J Rae (3); Pen: J Rae
HIGHFIELD: L Kingston; G O’Leary, D O’Sullivan, B Murphy, C O’Neill; S O’Riordan, C Bannon; M Dillane, D Healy, T Ryan; D O’Connell, F O’Sullivan, captain; C Gallagher, M Cronin, J Duffy.
Subs: C O’Sullivan, M Gately, E Earle, B O’Hea, M Dorgan.
CASHEL: L Caddy; A O’Connor, J Rae, A McDonald, R Kingston; D Lyons, A Barron; I Miljak, M Kelly, J Kendrick; R Moran, I Rqibi; E Leamy, M Casey, J Ryan.
Subs: S O’Connell, C O’Donnell, K Melbourne, T Anglim, P Leamy.
Referee: D Carson (IRFU)