Home comforts for Highfield as Con hit the road in league semi-finals

Shannon visit Woodleigh Park for the second time this season while Clontarf await Con's arrival in a repeat of the opening game
Home comforts for Highfield as Con hit the road in league semi-finals

Cork Con's Matisse Lamarque d'Arrouzat tackles Lansdowne's Paul Kiernan during the engeria AIL division 1A game at Templehill. Picture; Eddie O'Hare

FIRSTLY, his name is Matisse Lamarque d’Arrouzat and back in the day he could have been one of the Three Musketeers.

But, Cork Constitution were more than happy and a tad relieved, too, that the Frenchman delivered his form of justice with his late try in the 21-14 win over Lansdowne at Temple Hill on Saturday.

Any other result wouldn’t have suited Con in their efforts to qualify for an away energia All-Ireland League Divisin 1A semi-final against Clontarf on Saturday week as the regular season closed out in a welter of excitement and anxiety.

Con would have kicked themselves for not winning as club President Donal Lenihan remarked afterwards ‘we don’t make it easy for ourselves, but we got there.’ Back-rower Matisse was playing in the lower leagues, when he rocked up in Con last summer.

“He got onto the Irish rugby website and wanted to come to Munster to play though his first reason was to learn English,” said Lenihan.

“Matisse is a fantastic young man, plagued by injuries, however, which resulted in him not starting in the AIL.

“Yet, he comes on as a sub and scores the winning try.

“Matisse has bought into the culture here big time. I saw him with tears streaming down his face on his debut.

“It shows there is a passion for All-Ireland League rugby out there and I’ve been beating this drum for a long time.” 

It was very tight with Con edging out Trinity College by a point, 55-54, in the final standings.

“It’s been a real roller-coaster of a season, losing our first three games, but picking up bonus points.

“We’ve lost a lot of forwards in particular in the last two years and included a lot of young fellows.

“It was backs to the wall in the last few weeks, tough games against Clontarf, Young Munster and Lansdowne.

“We had to win two of those games and as usual we made life difficult for ourselves though it added to the excitement.

“For me it’s been a great league with an incredibly high standard.

“You had six excellent teams and to finish in the top four is an incredible achievement.

“Clontarf are top of the league for a reason, though they mightn’t fancy playing us in a semi-final either,” Lenihan added.

The other semi-final is between Terenure College and Lansdowne while UCC will be at home first in their bid for survival against Ballynahinch in the two-legged relegation play-off the same afternoon.

College lost heavily away to Terenure while Hinch overcame Young Munster, who had their eyes on the junior cup quarter-final against Ennis, duly romping home by 50 points.

Across town on Saturday week there’s sure to be a huge crowd for the division 1B semi-final between Highfield and Shannon at Woodleigh Park.

In keeping with the tension and drama of the last day, ’Field recorded an important 28-24 come-from-behind win away to St Mary’s to pip their Limerick rivals by a point, 63-62.

Four converted tries by Sam Burns, Colin O’Neill, Mark Dorgan and John McLoughin, with Shane O’Riordan adding the extras, did the business for the Cork club who were keeping tabs on Shannon’s progress against table toppers Old Wesley in Limerick.

Judging by the 61-12 score line it looks like the Dublin club brought their U12s, no doubt mindful of their home semi-final with Naas, who reclaimed fourth spot with a thumping win over Old Belvedere.

Highfield finished the season well after experiencing some turbulence along the way and their third meeting with Shannon will have a cup final atmosphere to it.

Shannon won their first encounter 6-0 on a dog of a day on their own patch and the return fixture finished 9-9, a reflection of just how precious little there is between the sides.

And while Shannon are hitting top form at the right moment, ’Field can take plenty of encouragement from winning three of their last four games, when it mattered.

The great escape came with Sunday’s Well young scrum-half Fabien Loughrey holding his nerve to slot the winning penalty in his side’s 25-24 victory away to Clonmel.

It meant the Cork side finished just ahead of City of Derry, who now meet the Tipperary club in the division 2C relegation decider.

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