IRFU under fire over fixture fiasco

THE IRFU yesterday came under fire from second division clubs embroiled in controversy over a fixture abandoned due to rain and snow which then failed to take place yesterday despite perfect weather conditions.

The Ballynahinch-Highfield tie was abandoned before Christmas with Highfield leading 5-0, and called off on a subsequent date with the Ballymacarn pitch deemed unplayable. The IRFU re-fixed the game for yesterday despite vigorous protests from both clubs that to expect them to play two games inside 48 hours was unreasonable. Ballynahinch played Instonians, while Highfield took on Old Crescent on Saturday.

Ballynahinch lodged an official objection to the IRFU, citing health and safety issues, but the objection was thrown out and the club forfeited €500, the cost of holding an appeal.

The teams were told to go ahead with the match, but Highfield ultimately declined to fulfil the fixture following their victory over Old Crescent, during which two prop forwards and a hooker were injured.

A spokesman for the club said: “We finished that game with uncontested scrums and it would have been impossible, because of injuries, for us to field a team for a match just a couple of days after another one. We had booked to make the trip but we were simply unable to field a team; all things considered, we have a duty to the health and safety of our players and to their families not to expect people to play rugby when carrying injuries.”

Ballynahinch were disappointed, but a spokesman insisted yesterday: “We don’t hold Highfield responsible. We didn’t want to play the fixture; it’s not right to expect players to line out twice in such a short space of time. We understand their predicament.

“In our bid to gain promotion, we needed to keep winning and pick up bonus points to have any chance. Because we were to be forced into playing twice in two days, we had to be selective about the team we chose to play Instonians; we had decided to pick a stronger front row for the Highfield game on the basis that we felt they had a better front row than Instonians.

“We won the game on Saturday, but didn’t pick up a bonus point, so that would have been a requirement against Highfield. That leaves us in a very difficult predicament and at this stage we will surely be looking to have the game re-fixed or else to be awarded the four match points plus a bonus point,” he said.


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