Sunday morning saw the Hilljills’ heavies throwback their curtains and jump for rugby joy. A howler had blown in from the Atlantic overnight; rain, wind, and plummeting temperatures would be manifesting swamp conditions at Bridgehaugh. Praise be to the rugby gods – it was a game for the big guns! A prop pummelling, tub thumbing, dirt digesting forward fest!
However, it was not to be…
Hillhead/Jordanhill’s 43-10 victory against Stirling County on Sunday was a testament to every player on the pitch. An enigmatic flow of forward and back plays that eventually saw a plethora of tries across a variety of positions.
It was not a simple start. To the contrary the girls faced their most challenging opposition this year as County instantly showed up with some smart plays off their 9- who made it clear we had a game of rugby on our muddy paws. Almost over-hyped by the challenge, Hilljills took a while to embrace the concept that they would have to set up several patient phases then earn the rights to utilise the weapons that be on the wing.
It was not until the 22nd minute that the experienced Lockhart bowled over her victim and bounced to the try line. Her first of the season!
This eased the pressure and within the next ten minutes Smith (of the Sarah variety) snaked up the blind side in a display of her positional fusion. Smith demonstrated she is more than a pivotal link player and whipped up the side-line like a greyhound at the races. County answered back with fury proving they were not going to be victim to a big score line. They provided a well worked try out on their left wing as a result of a penalty. In previous seasons being scored against could be said to be the Achilles of the team. However, Captain McMillan did not lose her Kilbarchan mojo. She gathered her squaddies under the posts and insisted all would be well if we do not panic, retain composure and play our systems.
Consequently, the prize for composure arrived in the sparkling form of Evans who sliced her defensive line with her sevens inspired side step and raced to the line.
Holding onto the win would require effort. The conditions were now swampesque and the underfoot terrain caused players to look as if they were playing in the black boots era of 90s rugby. Rising to the challenge the forwards put in some big carries led by veteran Lindsay Smith who inspired her pack to carry forward at all costs.
Unfortunately, in their haste, Hilljills’ penalty count was creeping alarmingly high: they began to dive into rucks like salmon in the Spey and tacklers were not being released for love nor toffee. At half time, big constructive words from a small constructed man ensured the team were aware this statistic was indeed real. His motivational rhetoric was gospel and he challenged the girls to abolish this weakness.
To which they rose! The first quarter of this half was perhaps the most aesthetic of rugby Hilljills had displayed this season. At times they looked like they were playing on a dry summer’s day.Cook and Smith at 9/10 proved integral: the brains to the brawn. Smith’s vision set up several stunning plays and Cook’s strikingly skilful handling sent the soap bar wide. Within minutes, Evans was through for her second. The team moved with grace and pace up the field. Ironic- as they had started to look disturbingly similar to the Moto Moto Hippos in scenes from animated movie Madagascar. It was not long before McMillan showed her international flair and picked up a bobbling loose ball, shook free of the nuisance defenders and danced her way to the line.
Stirling again retaliated and were met with Braveheart defence and solid tackling across the board. Most notably in this area was Andrea Gaffney. Unusually, Gaffney was featuring in the centre (in place of the injured, effervescent Hannah Smith) and it was not long before she made herself heard. Time after time Gaffney used her speed to get off the line and knock back her opposite number –all.day.long. It was almost frightening to watch and an incredible effort for a position debut. Similar Tongan style hits from Jennifer Johnson were made as part of an organised defence.
The sixty third minute saw Gaffney take the hit for the team and was sent to the bin for ten minutes following a repeated error at the breakdown.
Later than usual, Hilljills began to look their comfortable selves and pulled away in the latter stages to record a good victory. Their flow only tempered by a yellow card to Ally Cook (the first of her career), who was penalised for not rolling away despite being a distance away- perhaps a case of mistaken number identity!
Squad: Siobhan McMillan, Lindsey Smith, Heather Lockhart, Georgie Keys, Jenny Johnston, Kirsty McConnell, Hannah Telling, Louise McMillan(C), Saran Smith, Ally Cook, Aimee Watson, Abi Evans, Andrea Gaffney, Emma Barlow, Amanda Moore, Marta Estelles Chaparro, Fiona Dorman, Hannah McHugh, Lucy Mills
Hills will face Murrayfield Wanderers at home this weekend where they intend to hold fort.
Next match v Murrayfield Wanderers, Sunday 8th Oct 2pm kick off at Hughenden
Report: Kirsty McConnell