AIL: Highfield outdone by powerful second-half display from Shannon

The Cork side led 12-10 at half-time but the Division 1A side dominated on the resumption to add three more tries
AIL: Highfield outdone by powerful second-half display from Shannon

Shannon’s Alan Flannery in action against Highfield’s Richard Cassidy and Cian Bohane. Picture: INPHO/Ken Sutton

Shannon 32 Highfield 12 

FOR 40 minutes Highfield’s dream of promotion to energia All-Ireland League Division 1A for the first time remained a possibility when leading 12-10 at half-time in the play-off against Shannon on the side pitch at Thomond Park on Saturday.

But when the Limerick side turned on the power in the second half the gulf between the top tier and Division 1B became obvious as Shannon turned possession and territory into tries to blow away Highfield’s challenge.

The Cork side more than matched their opponents in the opening period, four James Taylor penalties deservedly having them in front as Highfield fed off home ill-discipline.

The visitors needed a good start and they got it, Taylor opening the scoring after three minutes with a fine effort from the 10m line after Shannon infringed at a break-down and the out-half added a second five minutes later for 6-0.

Cian Bohane’s kick set up a promising position after a Shannon touch finder screwed off the boot in the wet conditions following some torrential rain just before kick-off.

Highfield applied pressure which yielded a kick from in front of the posts after Shannon again fell foul of referee Andrew Cole.

The 1A side eventually settled, out-half Michael Cooke kicking their opening points with a 23rd-minute penalty.

Taylor replied in kind within four minutes, a well-worked Highfield line-out forcing Shannon on the back foot which led to another penalty, 9-3, and full value for their lead.

It didn’t last much longer, alas, in a taste of what was to come later. Scrum-half Ethan Coughlan planted a kick to the left corner and while Highfield did well to resist the driving maul, Shannon used the space out wide for Cooke to cross for the opening try, which he also converted.

The home side led for the first time, 10-9, but it changed hands once again just before the interval. Wing Ben Murphy was tackled into touch in the corner, but Shannon lost control of the ball after securing the line-out.

Highfield were awarded a penalty in the resulting scrum, Darragh Fitzgerald getting one over on his opposite prop Conor Glynn and Taylor converted confidently.

The good news stopped there however because Shannon’s third quarter performance proved too much for Highfield, who were made to pay for an inaccurate line-out and handling errors.

Having weathered the initial storm with brilliant defence and winning a relieving penalty, Highfield lost the subsequent line-out and Shannon punished them with the first of three tries in a devastating 10-minute burst.

Shannon’s Joshua Costello kicks past Highfield’s Ben Murphy. Picture: INPHO/Ken Sutton
Shannon’s Joshua Costello kicks past Highfield’s Ben Murphy. Picture: INPHO/Ken Sutton

Right-wing Josh Costello just made it to the corner for the first, Cooke converting expertly from the touchline for 17-12 which soon became 22-12 after 49 minutes A Highfield attack broke down on halfway and Costello showed his pace to claim his side’s third try to widen the gap on the scoreboard.

Seven minutes later, Shannon were in again for try number four. Highfield lost replacement John O’Callaghan to the sin-bin and the home side sensed their opportunity, replacement Luke Rigney credited with the try, which Cooke converted.

Now 29-12 down, Highfield could have been excused for going into their shells, but they showed lots of pluck and character to take the fight once more to their opponents, who somehow managed to keep their try line intact.

Costello showed he’s just as capable in stopping tries, when his last-ditch tackle prevented Highfield substitute Colin O’Neill touching down wide left. Cooke completed the scoring with a late penalty.

Scorers for Shannon: Tries: J Costello (2), M Cooke, L Rigney. Cons: M Cooke (3). Pens: M Cooke (2).

Highfield: Pens: J Taylor (4).

SHANNON: J O’Sullivan; A Hehir, C O’Halloran, H Long, J Costello; M Cooke, E Coughlan; C Glynn, M Prenderville, D McSweeney; J Kriel, R Coffey; C Heffernan, L Nicholas, K Brown.

Subs: S Carew, C Hynes, D Maher, O Ring, A Flannery, J O’Donnell, D Hurley.

HIGHFIELD: S Quaid; B Murphy, C Bohane, M Dorgan, L Kingston; J Taylor, C Banon; C Buckley, T Coomey, D Fitzgerald; E Keating, S Garrett; D O’Connell, captain, M Cronin, A Porter.

Subs: R Murphy, I McCarthy, N Downing, M Fitzgibbon, J O’Callaghan, R Cassidy, C O’Neill, G O’Leary.

Referee: A Cole (IRFU).

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