Cork rugby: Highfield and Dolphin hoping to remain unbeaten in the AIL

Mark Woods previews the Cork clubs in action in the energia All-Ireland League this weekend.
Cork rugby: Highfield and Dolphin hoping to remain unbeaten in the AIL

Highfield scrum-half and captain Chris Bannon getting his pass away against St Mary’s College watched by referee Eddie Hogan-O'Connell at Woodleigh Park. Picture: Dan Linehan

CORK’S pair of unbeaten clubs in the energia All-Ireland League attempt to keep their records intact in round three at opposite ends of the country tomorrow.

Leaders Highfield can enjoy home comforts for the visit of Naas in division 1B at Woodleigh Park for the usual 2.30pm kick-off while Dolphin head for Belfast to take on the local students from Queens University, the division 2A pacesetters.

Elsewhere, both Cork Constitution and UCC are hoping for their first wins in division 1A, away to Clontarf and at home to Lansdowne respectively, while in division 2C Sunday’s Well host City of Derry and Midleton visit Bangor.

Highfield recovered from a slow start away to Navan last week to cross for six tries with two each for Miah Cronin and Paul Stack, with Ronan O’Sullivan and captain Chris Bannon also getting in on the act.

New out-half James Taylor showed his prowess with the boot by converting all six in a 42-17 triumph which helped Field to the top of the table on nine points just ahead of City of Armagh on scoring difference, +29 to +24.

The team included another new signing, Ryan Murphy, starting his first league game in a back-row featuring Cronin and O’Sullivan, while James Rochford also packed down for his first start at loose-head prop.

Field had a major struggle in their 21-17 opening day win over St Mary’s and Naas are capable of causing more angst in the home camp after scoring 41 points last week against Malone.

Full-back and captain Peter Osborne contributed a remarkable 26 points, courtesy of two tries, five conversions, and a couple of penalties.

Dolphin have made their best start in a while and make the long journey north brimful of confidence after scoring 76 points in their two outings.

They put 56 on Rainey Old Boys last week, scoring seven tries in the process, including two from Brian O’Mahony with former UCC player, Murray Linn, also dotting down and Daryl Foley kicking 21 points.

Dolphin are third in the table on nine points, one adrift of the Students, who are level with MU Barnhall but with a marginally better scoring difference of +2.

Coach Brian Scott will learn a lot more about his charges against quality opponents though Dolphin’s opening day away win in Limerick against UL Bohemians should also stand to them.

Con find themselves in the unusual position of losing two games on the trot and while they collected bonus points in the process, Clontarf pose another serious threat on their own patch.

Adventures

Of course, it’s too early in the season to hit the panic button, particularly with the returning Conor Kindregan, John Poland, and Tomas Quinlan in their ranks once again following their US adventures.

Kindregan’s bulk will be required in a front five which struggled against Young Munster’s powerful scrum last week while new combinations elsewhere just need more time to gel.

Con are seventh in the table on two points, seven behind Tarf in third, joined by Munsters and Lansdowne with Garryowen at the head of affairs on 10.

Lansdowne, who started with a last-gasp home win over Con, face Cork opponents again at the Mardyke.

UCC started promisingly against both Terenure and Garryowen but couldn’t sustain it and last week included assistant coach Cian Bohane in the match-day squad. The Cork students are one of three teams, along with UCD and Ballynahinch, still searching for their first points of the campaign and Lansdowne will offer another searching examination.

Flanker Jack Kelleher took over the captaincy from the injured Rob Hedderman in a back-row that had John Hodnett starting his first league game since his Achilles injury last November.

John Hodnett, seen here in action against Cork Constitution, made a welcome return from injury. Picture: Eddie O'Hare
John Hodnett, seen here in action against Cork Constitution, made a welcome return from injury. Picture: Eddie O'Hare

While four places separate the Well in sixth from basement side, City of Derry, there’s just one point between them which looks like being another close affair at Musgrave Park, where the Cork side drew their opening game against Clonmel.

Last week’s defeat by Midleton revealed areas of concern up front for coach Denis Hurley though the fifth-placed east Cork side face a tough challenge away to Bangor in second spot in the table.

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