Highfield 19 Shannon 25
DESPITE a titanic effort, Highfield came up short against Shannon in a thrilling Energia AIL Division 1B promotion semi-final before a capacity attendance at Woodleigh Park on Saturday.
The big difference between the sides was the power of the Shannon front row but despite the home side getting overpowered in that department, this game went right down to the wire.
Highfield played with a strong wind in the opening half but it was Shannon who opened the scoring in the eighth minute.
Some good work by the forwards ensured Highfield were penalised and Jake Flannery split the posts with a terrific kick.
Three minutes later following some good home pressure the teams were back on parity when Shane O’Riordan kicked a penalty.
The same player was also on hand six minutes later to kick his second penalty from the halfway line such was the strength of the wind.
The power of the Shannon pack came to the fore again in the 26th minute when Jordan Prendeville crashed down for a try and although Flannery converted the Limerick side were penalised after scoring the try.
The end result saw Sean McCarthy receive a yellow card for an incident off the ball incident as O’Riordan duly kicked his third penalty on the restart which reduced the deficit to the minimum.
Credit to Highfield they increased the pressure in the closing 10 minutes and a wonderful sweeping move saw Travis Coomey assist a pinpoint pass to Paddy O’Toole who went over under the posts.
O’Riordan was on hand to kick the conversion and the home side looked to be going in at the break with a six-point lead before Shannon responded in style.
Once again it was sheer class and power that saw Jack O’Donnell score a crucial try on the stroke of halftime that reduced the deficit to the minimum 16-15 at the break.
The Limerick side only took two minutes to prise open the Highfield defence when captain Lee Nicholas crashed over with Flannery adding the conversion.
When Flannery kicked a long-range penalty in the 57th minute Shannon increased their lead to nine points 25-16 as Highfield looked to be on the ropes.
In fairness, many teams would have succumbed but Highfield refused to wilt and when O’Riordan added his third penalty with six minutes remaining it reduced the deficit to six points.
In the closing minutes, Highfield threw the kitchen sink at their Limerick opponents and backed by their loyal fans they came within 10 yards of scoring a winning try.
In the end, it wasn’t to be as the Shannon pack ensured there was no way through and the sound of the final whistle brought huge relief to the huge travelling support.