Author: Andy Scott

Hills Turn the Corner In New Season

Hillhead/Jordanhill RFC 16pts Ardrossan Accies 8pts

This first round National  Cup win against old foes Ardrossan was one which was  savoured by the many home spectators who packed into the Fraser Stand to shelter from the monsoon weather which saturated the Hughenden turf. For those who would care not to be reminded, it was back in February 2016 when Hills defeated Lasswade ten points to seven at Hawthorndean in NL2 that a win was last enjoyed. This result should therefore provide a welcome tonic to those hardy souls who have continued to support their club during the barren times, and those players who have trudged the highways and byways of Scotland and suffered some twenty six consecutive National league defeats for their troubles.

This first round national league cup tie certainly lacked nothing in feistiness with both sets of forwards tearing into each other at the breakdowns with no quarter given or asked.  Fortunately  “Hills” had the balance of power in the set scrum where loose head  prop Mark Barrowman enjoyed a fine debut and tight head Blair Mackenzie troubled his opposite number.  Chris  Warnock  as front jumper and Ryan Reilly  at the tail also enjoyed a profitable return on the touch line.  Security in first phase possession  therefore allowed the Hills  half backs, Conor Duignan and Rory Harte, to spread the play,  but poor handling on occasion with the greasy ball  was their undoing, and the best periods of play came when stand off Rory Harte kicked long with good follow up from another debut boy, Craig Colvin,    on the left wing. It was a somewhat farcical situation, however, which produced Hills first score. Rory Harte  opted to kick at goal,  but then remembered he had left his kicking tee in the dressing rooms. He then tried to drop  a goal from the mark, but succeeded in shanking it badly to such a devastating effect  that Ardrossan knocked the ball on in their in goal area.    A succession of scrums then produced Hills opening score, when, from good ruck possession, the powerful Owen Gemmell, Hills captain, offloaded to Bill Kenny, debuting in the second row, to touch down in the corner. Some five minutes later, Conor Duignan was first to react when Ardrossan failed to protect a ball heeled from their scrum.  Although Rory Harte was kicking well from hand, his skills  as a goal kicker were kept well hidden, until he finally converted a short range penalty to nudge his side thirteen points  ahead with some thirty  five  minutes played.  Ardrossan, who had been on the back foot for most of the first half and had suffered some bad injuries to two of their forwards, came back into it and pressurised Hills into  conceding  a penalty which the visitors converted. The half time score of thirteen points  to three  was a fair  reflection on the balance of play.

The visitors were now kicking down the Hughenden slope and the game took on a different shape with Ardrossan in the ascendancy. Certainly Harte kicked another penalty goal to take his side thirteen points up, but the story  of the second  half was “Hills” solid defence in the centre with James Reekie and Scott Busby very sound and full back Robbie Williamson a dependable  final line of defence. Although tiredness set in, the bench came to the rescue  and “Hills ”managed  to halt several promising  Ardrossan attacks particularly out wide. But the visitors  deserved  their score after seventy four minutes and it could hardly be described as a consolation, such was their endeavour and contribution to a fast flowing second half.

The game then finished with “Hills” victors by sixteen points to eight. There was no dancing  in the streets of Hughenden after this result,  but a quiet determination among the players and new coaches, Dean Kelbrick and Graeme Blackhall,  that the result will be the catalyst for a rebuilding process of the Club at Hughenden.

“Hlls” 1st XV – Robbie Williamson, Jamie Maddox, (Graham Davidson), Scott Busby, James Reekie, Craig Colvin, Rory Harte, Conor Duignan, (Matt Murray), Mark Barrowman (Ross Jackson), Harry Perston, Blair Mackenzie, (Maurice Adams), Chris Warnock, Bill Kenny, Owen Gemmell(C), (Jonny Kinniburgh), Ryan Reilly and Conor Fergusson (Conor Duignan)

Bernie Mitchell

Hills Annual Player Awards Dinner

The Prizewinners and All the Chat

This eagerly awaited event at the end of the 2016/2017 season was characterised  by the usual mixture of the sublime  and the ridiculous, the details of which will unfold rapidly for those anxious enough to feast on all the gossip.   After all  as someone very famous once said .. “ we all hate to spread gossip but what else can we really do with it… “

It is important at the outset to note that the ladies present, some twenty number, had determined to make an impression such was their combined excellence in dress, (very occasional) décolletage and (initially) demeanour.   The men by comparison presented  as mostly dour and uninspiring in their dress sense with, however, some notable exceptions. Martin Malone wore his kilt but there were no  substantiated reports at the time of going to print  if there was anything worn under the kilt; Calum Forrester ,a guest of Dean Kelbrick’s, clearly thought he was attending a dinner in some upmarket gaff being attired in his “DJ” with bow tie, while Messers Scott (snr) and Legendre were resplendent in their “Hills” waistcoats. This was then one of those occasions when the Ladies came out on top of the men!!

The meal was up to the usual high Café Source Too standard, but a surprise awaited the ladies’ when the dessert, a wonderful caramel (?) cheesecake, was served them by one of the “Chippendales” (aka Ryan Williamson). This appearance provided a fertile ground for all the usual wisecracks about apparatus and equipment. The bold Williamson did, however, suffer some damage to his ego, if not his manhood, by being advised by the Ladies spokesperson, Kirsty McConnell, an alleged connoisseur of matters to do with “tackle”, that he was very much “size inappropriate”. To keep spirits up during the first comfort break prior to the speeches, Abi Evans reinforced her image as an outstanding  athlete by doing “chin ups”  and swinging from one of the roof beams. Those familiar with the works of the eminent zoologist, Desmond Morris, will recognise these behavioural traits.

Then it was onto the speeches. Stuart Irvine who, admittedly on the flimsy evidence of only one speech, is recommended not to rush to  give up his day job spoke for the men. He did provide one good line for the discerning among the diners with his remark about James  Reekie always running “hard lines“. “Waldorf and Statler” really enjoyed that one, thinking aloud it was indeed “hardlines” that they had attended, but Stuart was applauded for his efforts; never easy to be a prophet in your own country. Georgie Keys, “A lady in red” for the evening, was all Transatlantic sorority and engaging with the girls in the team. It was generally agreed that the decision not to have bread rolls at the meal  had contributed to an improved feeling of health and safety for the speakers and their general wellbeing. There was regrettably, however, the occasional missile, either a napkin doused in lager or a slice of lemon, but the collateral damage was limited.

The awards proved as popular as ever, with the presenters having their differing styles of delivery. Loïs Legendre with his usual Gallic flair and Stuart “The Speaker” Irvine presided over the awards for the 2A and the 2nd XV’s.  European football has its “golden Boot“ award for their top player, and Loïs’s answer to that fashion statement is a rugby boot presented as a phallic symbol, “mounted” on an impressively polished plinth. Matt Rea (most improved player) and Ben Chaddock (player of the year) captured the 2A’s prizes; and Matt Murray (most improved player) and David Webster (player of the year) garnered the votes  for the 2nd XV. Chairman Andy Scott (Snr) who performed well under duress all night, distributed the 1st XV awards to Jamie Maddox (most improved player), Owen Gemmell (player of the year) and Rory Harte, (Players’ player  of the year). The latter, known affectionately as “Golden balls“ to some present, seemed rather off colour and became more overwhelmed by the occasion as the evening wore on. Perhaps he became dizzy as a result of the greatness imposed upon his callow shoulders? Bringing up the rear of the “Oscars” was Ladies coach Dean Kelbrick who dazzled the audience with a welter of statistics about the Ladies performance over the season: games won; points scored; tries scored;  record numbers of girls/ladies with representative honours, it flowed. The awards for the Ladies went to Aimee Watson (Most improved), Hannah Smith (Players’ player) and Hannah Telling (Player of the year). Winding up, Dean thanked  Graeme Blackhall for his help and then delivered the best line of the night, perhaps a Freudian slip, when he asked Mairi McDonald to thank Fergus Matheson (absent for the evening) for his help.  No-one present  doubted  that would not take place.  Finally the demure and sober Louise MacMillan, captain of the ladies 1st XV, made presentations to Messers Kelbrick and Blackhall on their retirals as coaches to the ladies.

It was unfortunate that the formal part of the evening then concluded rather too swiftly without any vote of thanks to the Dinner Convener, Douglas Grove, who had worked tirelessly to deliver the evening and the “Hills” President, Andrew Scott (snr) for his seamless performance  in continuity announcing. But by then the youth had evacuated to boogy on the dance floor and Rory Harte  was ready for the knackers’ yard.

PS: The usual process of contacting A and E departments on the morning after the night before to check on diners’ welfare was severely hampered by lack of communications due to the malware problems afflicting the NHS. A chance visit however to HQ this morning revealed at least two pairs  of high heels had been left in the function room. Ladies being swept off their feet!!

Bernie “The Bunnett’ Mitchell

Hills Stumble to Defeat in Last Home Game

Hillhead/Jordanhill 15 pts West of Scotland 39 pts

On a wonderfully sunny and warm day for flowing rugby, this was a disappointing outcome to end “Hills” home fixtures in National league 2 for season 2016/2017. As in previous games, there were periods when “Hills” won good first phase possession, retained the ball and worked through the phases to gain territorial advantage. But on too many occasions, visitors West were able to make easy inroads through the home defence to score some relatively straightforward  tries.

“Hills” had a good first quarter initially containing a lively opening from their visitors and then working their way forward for second rower, Calum Stove, to burst through from twenty five metres to score an unconverted try. This stung West into action and they quickly rattled on three tries by utilising quick passing to and fro across the field to exploit gaps in the home defensive line. But the livewire Ross Thomson at scrum half for the “Hills” made a fine individual break from some thirty metres out to score just to the left of the posts to bring “Hills” closer to their visitors. Unfortunately Darren Knox’s conversion was charged down, leaving the half time score seventeen points to ten in West’s favour.

For the first ten minutes of the third quarter, West looked as if they were going to overwhelm “Hills” by adding another two tries. It was left again however, to scrum half Ross Thompson to shake the “Hills” out of their second half torpor by breaking well from his own half, evading several defenders and then passing onto centre Scott Halliday who made good ground to the West try line where he was tackled despairingly; but just managed to get the ball away to Chris Tulloch who supported well to touch down. That took “Hills” to fifteen points to West’s twenty nine and, for a moment, the home support felt they were back in the hunt. But that was illusory, and West then took full advantage of “Hills” mistakes and poor defensive efforts to add a further uncontested ten points to finish deserved winners by thirty nine points to fifteen.

All of the “Hills” squad can be commended for their hard work and effort to keep going for another eighty minutes of ultimately unrewarding rugby. If there had been a “Hills” man of the match, it would have been awarded to left winger Jamie Maddox, who enjoyed an exemplary afternoon both in defence and attack.

“Hills” conclude Season 2016/2017 with an away fixture at Memorial field, Ardrossan, on Saturday the 1st April. Kick off is 15.00. All supporters very welcome.

“Hills” 1st XV – Darren Knox, Dan Williams, Scott Busby (Graham Davidson), Scott Halliday, Jamie Maddox, Rory Harte, Ross Thomson, Ryan Williamson (Jonny Urquhart), Harry Perston, George Stephenson (Blair Mackenzie), Alec Cameron (Chris Tulloch), Callum Stove, Owen Gemmell (C), Harry Cordner, Ryan Reilly (Alec Cameron). All subs used.

Bernie Mitchell

Ken Wins Warriors Tickets

Pictured against the background of the Sports Club bar at Hughenden after Thursday night’s training are 1st XV captain Owen Gemmell and “Hills” mini rugby Convener,  Ken Grierson.  Ken is receiving two stand tickets for the Warriors game vs Connacht, provided by the committee as a recognition of  service during the season.

Andy Scott, “Hills” President,  noted: “I am delighted that Ken, an outstanding servant to the Club over many years has been given these tickets.  Ken will become a “Hills Legend” on Sunday the 14th May and thereby join the select group of former players and committee members whose service and support over a long number of years is formally acknowledged.”

Hills Continue The Hard Yards at Peebles

Peebles 41 pts Hillhead/Jordanhill 17 pts

The final scoreline in this highly competitive game at the Gytes was tough to take for the “Hills” players, coaches and their small band of travelling supporters. “Hills” competed very well from the kick-off and opened the scoring with a close range try from their captain, Owen Gemmell, well converted by Darren Knox.  The rest of the first period saw “Hills” on the ascendancy in open play, but a misfiring line out proved to be their achilles heel with frequent opportunities to retain possession gifted to the opposition.  Darren Knox countered some late home pressure with a well struck penalty goal from forty metres but Peebles ended the half fifteen points to ten ahead.

The hosts continued to pressurise from the start of the second half, adding some fourteen points in ten minutes;  but the next twenty five minutes of play were very evenly contested with the whole squad working well in defence and putting together some good driving passes of play in which Owen Gemmell provided a fine lead.  It was a just reward for the visitors’ efforts when Jimmy Griffith latched onto a Blair Mackenzie pass, following a Ross Thomson switch,  to cross the line  unopposed and score his fourth national league try in three games.  Stand off Darren Knox added the goal points and at seventeen – twenty nine  the visitors looked like closing  on their hosts,  but a tiring front three  – with Harry Cordner’s early injury and a late call off from the bench there were no front row substitutes – and some unhelpful refereeing decisions militated against any further  fightback. In the last four minutes, Peebles added two further tries to put a considerable gloss on the final scoreboard.

There is no doubt that the last three league games, – Biggar, GHK and now Peebles – have witnessed much improved form from the “Hills” when compared with their early season first round games. The matter is now to repair the fractured line out and stitch all the other components together to  produce the first national league win.

Next home game is Saturday the 4th March when “Hills” play Kelso who are chasing hard for a top promotion spot from National League 2. The game kicks off at 15.00 at Hughenden.

“Hills” 1st XV –  Rory Harte, Jamie Maddox, (James Reekie), Scott Busby, Scott Halliday, Jimmy Griffith, Darren Knox, Ross Thomson, George Stephenson, Harry Perston, Blair Mackenzie, Chris Tulloch (Scott Whitford), Callum Stove, Alec Cameron,  Owen Gemmell (C), Harry Cordner and (Chris Warnock)   All subs used.

Bernie “The Bunnet” Mitchell

This Week’s Identity Parade at Hills

Pictured are this week’s award winners along with Head Coach, Robbie Stewart, and his assistant, Franklin Clark are Harry Cordner (2nd left) and Harry Perston.  Each has been favoured with a voucher for Café Source Too on the HQ’s ground floor.

Robbie Stewart advised: “despite our disappointing  loss last week against GHK, both “Harrys” performed well.  Harry C was consistently  good at the breakdown and also in his No. 8 duties, while Harry P performed excellently in the set scrum”.

Franklin Clark, no mean hooker in his day, was full of praise for Harry P: “Scrum time was wonderful for me.  Seeing Harry strike against the head brought back so many memories.  That part provided a warm glow “.

Cruel Finish to Hills Improved Performance in Derby Game

Hillhead/Jordanhill 10 pts GHK 24 pts

In the first round of matches against GHK, “Hills“ were trounced by sixty four points to twenty one at Old Anniesland, but in the return leg of the West End Derby, the home team were deservedly ahead at half time and fell away only in the last five minutes of what had been a much improved show up till then.

There was then much to applaud in this fine “Hills” performance : left winger Jimmy Griffith’s finishing skills which brought two fine first half tries – it should have been three but for an erroneous  knock on award  – full back Rory Harte’s immaculate fielding of the high ball in blustery conditions; hooker Harry Perston’s four strikes against the head in a very solid scrummaging pack; Blair Mackenzie’s scrummaging both at tight head and then in the second row; Owen Gemmell’s abrasive captaincy and display in the loose;  and the whole teams spirted showing throughout and also their field discipline given some uneven refereeing decisions.

Yet the final analysis saw “Hills” fall just short.  Their half time lead of ten points to five – the first occasion in season 2016-2017 they have been ahead after the first period of play – had been only marginally eroded by an early GHK score in the second period.   The play,  which had few periods of continuity due to frequent blasts of the whistle, raged from end to end and “Hills“ were marginally the favourites on pressure in the final quarter.  But the quicksilver GHK backs and their mercurial 10, Mike Martin,   saw to it that the “win bonuses” would be theirs with a two try burst in the closing five minutes which utterly deflated the “Hills” players and their band of supporters who had been hoping this game would provide their first win. “If only”, one of the most important  phrases  in the English language, might be used about the touchline work of the “Hills”  line-out  which was not dependable, some of the midfield handling might have been crisper and the “Hills” goal kicking. But that is nit picking about a game,  when at last the players and coaches collectively  gave themselves and their Club’s supporters something to feel slightly better about.

So the search for the elusive first victory of the 2016-2017 league campaign moves onto Peebles on the 18th February with a 15.00 KO.      Bus leaves Hughenden  at 12.00 .  All spectators and support welcome.

“Hills” 1st XV –  Rory Harte, Jimmy Griffith, Scott Busby, Scott Halliday, (Jamie Maddox), Dan Williams, Darren Knox, Ross Thomson, Ryan Williamson, (George Stephenson), Harry Perston, Blair Mackenzie, (Callum Kettles), Chris Tulloch, Alec Cameron, Owen Gemmell (C), Ryan Reilly, (Conor Duignan) and Harry Cordner.  All subs used.

Bernie ‘The Bunnet’ Mitchell

Scotland Women vs France Women 6N 11th February 2017

Everyone at Hughenden is delighted to note the recall of Lana Skeldon (@skeldonlana) to the squad of twenty three for the 6 Nations game at La Rochelle this Saturday. All her friends at Hills wish her all the best for her return to the front row and hope all her team mates, including Jade, Heather, Lindsey, Louise and Jemma, can produce their first 6 Nations win.

Lana in action for Scotland
Women’s Six Nations, Wales vs Scotland, Neath, 14/2/2016

Scott Halliday Strikes Gold With 6 Nations Tickets

Pictured in the Sports Club bar is the latest winner, Scott Halliday, of the awards the Club is distributing for effort and commitment during both games and training evenings. The “Hills” 1st XV head coach, Robbie Stewart, in presenting Scott with two stand tickets for the 6 Nations international vs Ireland noted:  “Scott was very prominent  both in attacking and defensive modes in our recent game against Preston Lodge and is very deserving of these tickets“.

Scott was somewhat overwhelmed to receive the gift,  but added: “ It’s great that the Club is encouraging us all  with these awards and the players  are very grateful.”

Owen Gemmell Receives Award From Head Coach Robbie Stewart

Pictured in the Sports Club Bar at Hughenden  are 1st XV back row forward Owen Gemmell and Head Coach, Robbie Stewart. The occasion is the award of a Cafe Source Too voucher to Owen.

Robbie noted: “Owen’s aggressive and dynamic performance last week at Biggar was exactly what we are looking for in our attempt to find that elusive first win in this season’s competition. We need a lot more of that from everyone.”

Owen commented: “We all need to get together to grind out that first win.“