AIL preview: Highfield put unbeaten record on the line at home to Old Wesley

Mark Woods looks ahead to the weekend rugby action featuring Cork clubs
AIL preview: Highfield put unbeaten record on the line at home to Old Wesley

Highfield's leading try-scorer Miah Cronin on the break against Naas during the Energia AIL Division 1B game at Woodleigh Park. Picture: Eddie O'Hare

ONLY half-dozen of the 50 clubs competing in the Energia All-Ireland League remain unbeaten after five rounds of games across the same number of divisions.

And two of those collide in the match-of-the-day in Division 1B, when Highfield host Old Wesley at Woodleigh Park with precious little between them. The Cork club occupy top spot only on scoring difference with the pair almost having identical records of 22 points apiece from five wins and two try bonus points each.

Field have scored five points more, 145 to 140, and conceded four less, 74 to Wesley’s 78, suggesting this one is going to the wire just like so many games in the section.

Number eight Miah Cronin is Highfield’s leading try-scorer with five after crossing for two more in the recent 24-20 away win over Old Belvedere, a feat he also achieved at home to Navan.

Shane O’Riordan stepped in to fill the breach left by James Taylor at out-half following an injury against Naas which forced him out for the away games against Malone and Belvedere.

Sam Burns and Gavin O’Leary have also earned places at full-back and wing respectively though there’s a more settled look to the forwards, where James Rochford, Fintan O’Sullivan and Cronin are major figures.

The Dublin side, who have Charlie O’Regan and Paul Derham in their squad, have a reliable kicker in scrum-half Ian Cassidy and his battle with Field captain Chris Bannon is another interesting duel.

Both teams are six points clear of St Mary’s in third though the league has still to reach a third of the way of the 18 games.

Cork Constitution attempt to balance the books in division 1A after losing their three opening games and now seek a third win on the spin against UCD at Temple Hill. Con, in fifth, are a place and two points better off than their opponents, but still six points adrift of Clontarf in fourth in a tight looking table.

Young Munster are the only club with five wins in the top tier though they are just a point in front of Garryowen, who are the same margin ahead of Lansdowne with Tarf a further point off.

Con had a morale-boosting 23-21 victory away to Garryowen last time out when Jack Crowley converted tries from David Hyland and Cathal O’Flaherty and also kicked three penalties.

 Cork Con's Jack Crowley fends off pressure from Clontarf's Angus Lloyd. Picture: Tommie Dickson
Cork Con's Jack Crowley fends off pressure from Clontarf's Angus Lloyd. Picture: Tommie Dickson

“There was a big gap after opening up after four games and we’re now two from five,” said coach Brian Hickey afterwards.

“We’re not cut adrift hugely, but could have been and we’re still a significant way behind the four clubs ahead of us.

The one thing about this league that on any given day the bottom club can beat the top side and you must get your standards up right across the board.”

UCD travel with a high degree of confidence after their 42-17 try bonus win over Ballynahinch with all four tries scored by backs.

UCC make the long journey to play Hinch in a battle of the basement clubs with the pair still searching for that elusive first victory of the campaign.

The Cork students prop up the table with one point while Hinch have two which makes the destination of the spoils so important.

Defensively, College were sounder despite going down to Munsters 19-9 last time out, when Daniel Squires kicked three penalties.

In division 2A, Dolphin won their opening couple of games, but have since lost three on the bounce and take on high-flying Buccaneers at Musgrave Park.

The Connacht side are second in the table with four wins and sixth-placed Dolphin have it all to do to arrest that losing sequence.

Cork’s representatives in division 2C, Midleton and Sunday’s Well are experiencing contrasting fortunes with the men from the east looking for a third successive win.

However, they face table-toppers Skerries, who are one of those unbeaten sides, at Towns Park and it’s a major task for the home side, who are fifth.

The Well, who have drawn one and lost four to sit at the bottom of the table on scoring difference from Clonmel, also face a hazardous fixture away to Enniscorthy in third.

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