HIGHFIELD returned to winning ways to collect an important set of points in energia All-Ireland League Division 1B at the weekend.
A 19-8 home victory over Banbridge was a timely tonic after defeats by City of Armagh and Shannon with a draw against the Limerick club also part of a winless three-game spell.
Paul Stack scored two tries to bring his tally in the campaign to-date to six, starting with another pair in the 42-17 victory away to Navan.
The wing also crossed in the next game, a 38-3 success against Naas at home, and Stack also scored in the 20-7 win over Old Wesley, who have taken over top spot in the division.
Captain Chris Bannon claimed the other try against Banbridge-his third of the season-with half-back partner James Taylor kicking two conversions.
The result preserved ’Field’s second position in the standings on 43 points, six adrift of Wesley, with St Mary’s on 39, Naas on 36, three ahead of Shannon, who are four clear of City of Armagh.
There are six games left in the league, when it resumes once more on Saturday fortnight, as the battle for those coveted top four places and end-of-season semi-finals begins to intensify.
At the moment Wesley and Highfield would be guaranteed home advantage in the play-offs, but with 30 points still on offer it’s way premature yet to predict how the final table will look.
And this is particularly true because of the next set of fixtures which involves the Cork club travelling to play Wesley in a game of huge significance.
While Highfield struggled to pick-up points, the Dublin club continued on their winning streak to leap-frog the early pacesetters with St Mary’s also breathing down Highfield necks.
What was noticeable about the weekend’s results concerned the absence of the Munster contingent who were made available to the clubs, notably those in Limerick, the previous weekend.
Shannon suffered on that front, as well as having a number of players withdraw from their game against Naas due to Covid, as they went down 38-29, picking up a try bonus point in the process.
Garryowen, who defeated Young Munster the week before with their Munster representatives on board, were overpowered by Lansdowne at the Aviva’s back pitch, losing by 46-5.
Young Munster suffered a second successive defeat at home to Trinity College which allowed Cork Constitution slip neatly into fourth in Division 1A after their 26-15 bonus point win over Ballynahinch at Temple Hill, where hooker Max Abbott scored for the second week running.
Con hold a two-point advantage over Munsters, who have Trinity looming large in their rear view mirror, the students now only a couple of points adrift in fifth.
Barring a late collapse, it’s difficult to look beyond Clontarf and Lansdowne for the home semi-finals with Terenure College, who put 60 points on UCD, third, three points better off than Con.
And Munsters can’t be relishing the prospect of their next game either, away to Tarf, with Con also in the capital against struggling UCD.
The relegation play-off is shaping up to be a UCC-Ballynahinch affair and the pair square up at the Mardyke next time out to add further intrigue.
Despite losing to Tarf at the weekend and Con the week before, the Cork students have been more competitive and tightened up considerably in defendce.
On a weekend which yielded victories for four Cork sides, Dolphin joined College in being the only losers as they conceded 50 points away to MU Barnhall.
First-half tries from James Vaughan, Daryl Foley and David O’Mahony kept the visitors in touch, but Barnhall took over in the second-half for a 50-24 victory.
Dolphin are now seventh in Division 2A, two points ahead of UL Bohemians and three more in front of Nenagh Ormond, who are rallying strongly, with Rainey Old Boys at the bottom.
Sunday’s Well and Midleton won on the same afternoon with Ryan Lehane, Julian Power and Jack Colbert scoring tries in the east Cork club’s 20-19 win in Derry, who are only two points ahead of the Well and Clonmel at the foot of the table.
Bruff are also in the mix, just one in front of Derry, who play Clonmel next.