Author: Bernie Mitchell

2018-19 Senior Pre-season Kicks Off

Growing older has occasionally some benefits. One of these is the appreciation that your days of attending rugby preseason training and thereby feeling the vivifying muscle pain, not only the morning after your first session, but also of the second day are now firmly behind you.

Instead, visiting a pre-season session at Hughenden allows an insight into the fact that today’s players are better equipped to undertake and withstand the rigours of conditioning activities than their predecessors were some years ago.

Training began on Thursday the 12th July at Hughenden for Hills 2018-19 season and coaches, Dean Kelbrick and Graeme Blackhall, had some 35 players to put through an eighty minute session, interspersed with frequent water breaks. It was encouraging to note and welcome many new faces to the club, along with the well established  Rorys, Dans, Harrys, Prestons and Ryans.

We have room for plenty more at our next session on Tuesday 17th and thereafter every Thursday and Tuesday. Players are expected at18.45 to prepare for the real action which starts at 19.00 PROMPT. Please bring your water bottle along with you : “top up with tap water”

Hills Golden Girls Shine on Silver Saturday

Hillhead Jordanhill 68 pts Watsonians 12 pts

By beating their Edinburgh rivals in the Sarah Beaney Cup Final on Silver Saturday at BT Murrayfield, HillJills completed a league and cup double for season 2017/18. A half time score of thirty two points to nil left too much of a gap for the brave Watsons team to make up, although they did cross the victor’s line twice in the second half to bring some respectability to the final score.

The basis of the victory was a superior team performance and four standout players on the day : no. 8 and captain, Louise McMillan, who consistently distributed the ball well from the base of the scrum and also carried well in the loose; Lindsey Smith, at tight head prop, whose scrummaging was too robust for her opposite number ; Abi Evans, at full back, who ran well in open play and whose changes of direction Watsonians could not cope with ; and the player of the match, Hannah Smith, whose beautifully balanced running and physicality in ball carrying caused the Edinburgh side traumas the whole game. Watsons could offer only Lana Skeldon in direct comparison.

HillJills scrummaging was dynamic and kept their opposition on the back foot the whole of the game thereby providing a regular supply of ball. The veteran Rachael Whyte also had a fine game at scrum half and ensured a plentiful flow of ball was moved wide. First half scorers were Erinn Foley who touched down first from close range, followed by Abi Evans (three tries) , Emma “Gary” Barlow (one) and Hannah Smith (one). Uncharacteristically, Ally Cook had an off day with her goal kicking and converted only one of the six first half tries, although she more than made up for these lapses with a fine game in midfield. Second half scores were recorded by Hannah Smith (three), Louise McMillan (one), Lucy Mills (one) and Abi Evans (one). Replacement full back Amanda Moore added two conversions and Sophie Anderson one. Second rower Sophie had to be taken from the field with what looked like a serious leg injury, but she bravely returned on crutches to take her place with the rest of the squad for the medals presentation.

 

The Golden Girls can then look back on a very successful season, losing only one league game against Wandies away back in November 2017. Their coaching triumvirate of Thomas Davidson, Morgan Martin and Tonci Buzov deserve credit for their professionalism at the many training sessions throughout a long and demanding season.

Words: Bernie Mitchell
Pictures: David Whyte

Hills Outgunned in Final Quarter of Pulsating Game

HILLHEAD JORDANHILL 1st XV 5 pts NEWTON STEWART 1st XV 35 pts

On a day stolen from the height of mid-summer, Hills battled bravely against a physically superior and more abrasive Newton Stewart side, but ultimately succumbed by five goals to one try, a margin which slightly flattered the victors. Hills had to rely on all their defensive skills in a fierce opening burst from Newton which found them pinned back in their twenty two for most of the opening quarter. Break outs were limited, and when they occurred, stand-off Rory Harte, was almost always the instigator. Following a longish injury break for attention to second rower, Alex Armstrong, who happily recovered well, Harte took play downfield with a fine crossfield kick which bounced wickedly for the visiting defence. Jimmy Griffith pounced quickly on the loose ball to set up the attacking ruck, and three phases later, fullback Arnaud Bauchet beat the Newton cover out wide to score. This was the last occasion, after twenty eight minutes of the game, that Hills would trouble the scoreboard operator, but their contribution thereafter to what was an enjoyable high tempo game was considerable. Certainly the clash of heads which caused centre Scott Halliday to leave the field with a badly gashed forehead did not assist their efforts, but replacement Michael Jones fitted in well on his 1st XV debut, some 42 years after his father, Gordon first played in a Hillhead jersey.

There were two principal differences between the sides. The visitors, whenever they entered the home twenty two, always seemed to come away with a try whereas the Hills for all their efforts at times over elaborated and were predictable in their approach, unless Harte added a cross kick or change in the point of attack. Additionally, Newton had more damaging broken play runners with the ball in hand than Hills, and it was the cumulative effect of continuous tackling and defensive chores at the breakdown that eventually sapped the resolve of the Hills in the final quarter when they had little left to offer. Yet for all their relative physical inferiority, the Hills set scrum was solid all afternoon, and occasionally caused some degree of discomfort on the visitors put in.

Season 2017/18 concluded then with a home defeat but the Hills, their coaching team, players and supporters can take some comfort from the fact that after three very poor seasons in the leagues some degree of stability has now been achieved which gives hope for a renaissance in 2018/19.

Hills 1st XV: Arnaud Bauchet, Jamie Maddox (Graham Davidson), Scott Halliday (Michael Jones), Scott Busby, Jimmy Griffith, Rory Harte, Dan Williams (C), Blair Mackenzie (Ross Jackson), Harry Perston, Mo Adams (Ross Ferguson), Bill Kenny, Alex Armstrong, Conor Ferguson, James Reekie, Preston McGoldrick Subs all used.

Hills Hang On for Bonus Point Win

HILLHEAD JORDANHILL 1st XV 22 pts HADDINGTON 1st XV 21 pts

It was both the best of times and then the worst of times for the players and supporters of the Hills in this National League 3 game at Hughenden. The fact that the Hills, by dint of their hard fought victory against relegation strugglers Haddington, had won five precious league points seemed to be forgotten in the gloom of the post match analysis. After the first quarter, Hills were apparently coasting to an easy victory . They were twenty two points to nil ahead with fine individual tries from Jamie Maddox, Euan Brown, Alex Armstrong and then a Bill Kenny burst for the line from an Owen Gemmell assist. At the conclusion of the game, Euan Brown’s conversion of the final try was to prove very significant.

At twenty two points ahead, the home touchline cognoscenti were anticipating a sixty point winning margin, but that was proven to be fanciful in the extreme, as the visitors cut down on their errors, began to use their superior weight in the set scrummage and ran through the phases in their use of the ball. After forty minutes, Haddington had narrowed the margin with a converted try and for the second forty minute period were the dominant side in the game.

Hills tried perhaps too hard to get back into the game but their early promise had evaporated. They lost their shape totally, allowing Haddington to sense a chance for an upset victory. Hills conceded three consecutive scrum penalties and the fourth produced the inevitable penalty try. Despite the prompting and occasional meandering runs from full back Rory Harte, Hills could not make any kind of breakthrough, but when the visitors brought the game back to the home twenty two, a series of close range drives brought the third try which was converted. Hills then managed to see the game out and hung on for a single point victory.

Hills conclude their league programme with their final game vs Newton Stewart at Hughenden on Saturday the 21st April with a 15.00. KO. The 1st XV have no game on Saturday the 14th but the 2nd XV play away at Torrance House, East Kilbride with a 15.00 KO.

Hills 1st XV Rory Harte, Jamie Maddox ( Angus Lauder ), Scott Halliday, Scott Busby, Arnaud Bauchet, Euan Brown, Darren Knox, Mark Barrowman ( C ) ( Blair Mackenzie ), Harry Perston, Ross Jackson ( Mo Adams ), Owen Gemmell, Bill Kenny, Alex Armstrong, Ryan Reilly Conor Ferguson ( Preston McGoldrick ) Subs all used.

Hills Come Close in Orkney

Orkney 29 pts Hillhead Jordanhill 26 pts

This game defied conventional rugby wisdom which tells us that the team playing with the elements should monopolise the territory and score. That was blown away at Pickaquoy Park, Orkney, on Saturday when Hills playing with the stiff breeze in the first half were seventeen points to seven down at the interval, but rallied into the wind to take the second half by nineteen points to twelve. The recovery was not sufficient, however, to win the tight game, but Hills took home two precious bonus points, one for scoring four tries and the other for losing by seven points or less.

The game was notable for many features, the main one being the contrast in playing styles with Orkney constantly recycling off their first and second receivers and then punching holes in the Hills defensive walls, while the visitors sought to move the ball quickly to the wider channels. Both tactics were fruitful : Orkney scoring five close range tries with constant pick and go tactics despite some heroic Hills defensive efforts, and Hills for their part touching down four times from their two principal flair players, winger Arnaud Bauchet scoring three wonderful tries and stand off Rory Harte, mesmerising everyone in the grounds with his side stepping for his. Indeed Arnaud displayed the range of skills that his International team, France, used to be renowned for : side step, swerve, vision and genuine pace. His Gallic legerdemain was a wonderful contrast to the physicality in the forwards battle.

At the end of a titanic struggle and a fine game to participate in and watch, Hills were left to rue missed chances, particularly not playing the game in the opposition areas in the first half and some fragile work on the touchlines. Yet all the nineteen players who travelled and played in this fixture should be proud of their commitment and effort in almost matching a highly motivated and well supported side who had to win this fixture to avoid slipping further into the National League 3 relegation quagmire.

On Easter Saturday, the 31st March, Hills travel to Memorial Field to play Ardrossan Accies in what might be termed a mid table tussle. Kick off at Ardrossan is 15.00 .

Hills 1st XV Jimmy Griffith, Jamie Maddox, Scott Halliday, Scott Busby, Arnaud Bauchet, Rory Harte, Dan Williams(C), Ross Jackson ( Mark Barrowman ), Harry Perston ( Harry Singh ), Maurice Adams ( Ross Jackson ), Charlie Smillie ( Ryan Reilly ), Bill Kenny, Scot McMIllan ( Alex Armstrong ), Ryan Reilly ( James Reekie ) Conor Ferguson Subs all used.

Off Colour Hills Lose Their Way at Dalziel

Dalziel RFC 24 pts Hillhead Jordanhill 3 pts

This was a game which everyone associated with the Hills will do well to forget very quickly. It is important, however, to take nothing away from a very determined Dalziel squad who took the game repeatedly to the visitors, but the reality was that, both individually and collectively, Hills were far below what they were were capable of producing. Certainly Dalziel, in the league relegation area, had much more to play for than their visitors, who are at least comfortable from the spectre of relegation for this season.

Dalziel were already fourteen points to the good at the end of the first quarter, both their scores coming from defensive lapses in the Hills twenty two. The rest of the first period of play saw some abrasive ball carrying from Owen Gemmell and linking play from Ryan Reilly and Mo Adams but there was little evidence of any phase building, due to frequent knocks on and turnovers. Euan Brown collected Hills only points after thirty eight minutes with a well struck penalty goal from some 42 metres across the face of the wind.

Dalziel extended their half time lead with an early penalty goal and then the game entered an attritional phase in which neither side could claim an advantage with skill levels being at a premium, due to the very cold, wintry conditions which made passing a lottery at times. Hills , through the dependable Bill Kenny at the line out and Rory Harte in broken play running, certainly never at any stage gave up trying, at one stage going through some twenty number phases to attempt to break down the home defence, but it was of no avail. Dalziel lifted the siege and took the game back to the Hills twenty two from where they scored after a driving maul. The try was converted to yield the home side a very comfortable twenty one point winning margin.

Hills will require to regroup very quickly given their next league game is away against Orkney who ,like Dalziel, are trapped currently in the relegation basement, and will therefore be fighting hard for any advantage they can claim. Momentum is a very important component for success in any team sport, and Hills will need to rediscover theirs to ensure a successful conclusion to their final four National league games.

Hills 1st XV: Rory Harte, Jamie Maddox, Scott Halliday, Arnaud Bauchet, Darren Knox (Graham Davidson), Euan Brown, Dan Williams, Blair Mackenzie (Ryan Williamson), Harry Perston (Harry Singh), Maurice Adams, Ryan Reilly, Bill Kenny, Scott McMillan (Martin Malone), Conor Ferguson, Owen Gemmell(C). Subs all used.

Deserved Bonus Point Win in Perth

Perthshire 11 pts Hillhead Jordanhill 38 pts

Never headed at any time in the game, Hills recorded their third away win of the season against Perthshire on the North Inch park by the handsome margin of five goals and one penalty goal to two penalty goals and one try. The only time that Perthshire threatened the Hills superiority was in the third quarter of the game when they came within six points of the visitors at seventeen points to eleven, but the Hills quickly re-engaged their higher gears to brush aside the hosts in the final quarter, Perthshire being overwhelmed and finishing the game with three players in the bin.

This was a fine team performance for most of the eighty minutes : the line out was more reliable with James Acheson being an able provider of ball : the scrummage won two tight head strikes and at times looked devastating, but could not quite maintain the intensity needed to be fully dominant ; and all the backs ran and handled the dry ball well with the power, pace and direction being supplied by Scott Halliday at 12 and Jimmy Griffith, a veritable wrecking ball, on the left wing. At the back. Rory Harte was his usual mercurial self, running with abandon and displaying a side step which mesmerised not only the opposition, but also at times his own teammates. Number 8 and captain, Owen Gemmell, was abrasive whenever he had the ball, and also sent the correct message to his opponents that he would not stand for any nonsense.

Hills scorers in the first half were Rory Harte with a typical meandering run through the home defense, touching down for his try between the posts ; Harte converted his own score. The second try of the afternoon owed everything to Jimmy Griffith’s anticipation and strength. Perthshire rather unwisely tried to run the ball out of their own twenty two, but unfortunately for their right winger he could not avoid his nemesis, Jimmy, who won the collision and the ball and then scampered unopposed some thirty metres to the line, stand-off Euan Brown converting the try. Early in the second half the Hills no. 10 kicked a penalty goal, but the next fifteen minutes were ceded to the hosts who threw everything at the Hills yet broke the visitors line only once. Normal service was soon restored with Alex Armstrong, Rory Harte and finally Jamie Maddox all touching down, Euan Brown successfully converting each of the three tries into the wind.

An emphatic victory was secured. There is then the fine prospect of the next game against league leaders. Newton Stewart, at Hughenden on Saturday the 3rd March with a 15.00 KO ; there is no game next Saturday the 24th February due to the Calcutta Cup game at Murrayfield. If the Hills can maintain the skills and attacking shape they showed at the North Inch and display more intensity at the set scrummage, there is every reason to look forward to a shock victory on the first Saturday in March.

Hills 1st XV:  Rory Harte. Jimmy Griffith, Arnaud Bauchet, Scott Halliday. Darren Knox (James Maddox), Euan Brown. Dan Williams. Mark Barrowman (Ross Jackson). Harry Perston, Maurice Adams (Ross Ferguson), James Acheson. Bill Kenny. Conor Fergusson. Owen Gemmell (C) Alex Armstrong (Scott McMillan) Subs all used .

Hills Defensive Skills Win the Day

Hillhead/Jordanhill 20 pts Gordonians 12 pts

The conditions, with a heavy ground and the prevailing south west wind blowing stiffly all through the game, did not allow for a high intensity, end to end match, but the commitment from both sets of players provided an absorbing contest for the fair sized crowd sheltering in the Fraser stand.

It took Hills a while to get going even though playing with the wind, as they preferred to play with the ball in hand rather than chase wind assisted kicks. Hills in fact did not enjoy much territorial domination in the whole eighty minutes, but they were purposeful when in the visitors twenty two, due to the attacking skills of both Rory Harte at full back and Euan Brown at stand off, encouraged by the rugby nous of inside centre, James Reekie. Brown opened the scoring with a well struck penalty goal from far out on the left of the visitors twenty two. He repeated the trick some ten minutes later as Hills responded well to a close range Gordonians try which they converted. With the first half clock running down, Hills, at last, found the elusive cutting edge to move breakdown ball quickly right via prop Mark Barrowman to the intruding Rory Harte who,from some twenty metres out, backed himself to make the line and score. Euan Brown converted well from tight on the right hand touchline to take his side to thirteen points to seven at the interval.

The second half saw a transformation in the game with Gordonians dominating both possession and territory to such an extent that Hills had to rely on all their defensive qualities, while rarely crossing the half way line. The visitors scored quickly after the restart, but their left footed kicker failed to convert from the left hand touchline ; indeed the visitors unreliable goal kicking was to prove ultimately their downfall as they failed to convert any of three kickable penalties awarded during the second half. From the forty fifth to the seventieth minute of the game, Hills tackled every visitor’s shirt that moved and all players showed huge commitment. Given the physicality and intensity of the engagement, it was hard to believe at times it was bona fide amateurs who were playing.

The decisive and winning try in the game arose from bizarre circumstances . Brown and Reekie worked the ball well downfield to the visitors twenty two where a breakdown penalty was awarded to Hills. Rather than kick to the corner for a close range attacking line out, captain Owen Gemmell asked Euan Brown to kick for goal. It was, however, his poorest shot of the afternoon, the arc of flight taking it towards the far side of the field. First to react, however, was Rory Harte who followed up to field the ball and set up an attacking ruck. Five phases later, substitute prop, Maurice Adams drove over from close range to touch down, and Euan Brown recalibrated his radar to send the ball just across the crossbar. This gave Hills an eight point cushion and, although the final few minutes were typically frantic, they held on to record an excellent win in the circumstances and leave the spirited Gordonians squad pointless in a game to which they contributed so much without taking their chances.

Next up for the Hills is an away game in the Borders at St. Boswells on the 3rd February. The game will kick off early at 13.00 to allow the players to watch the second half of the Cardiff international. The bus will leave at 10.00 and all supporters are welcome.

Hills 1st XV : Rory Harte, Darren Knox (Scott Halliday), Arnaud Bauchet, James Reekie, James Maddox, Euan Brown, Dan Williams, Ross Jackson (Maurice Adams), Harry Perston, Mark Barrowman, Charlie Smillie (James Acheson), Bill Kenny, James Acheson (Alex Armstrong), Conor Ferguson, Owen Gemmell (C), Subs Harry Singh

Improved Performance Doesn’t Shake League Points from Highland

Hillhead Jordanhill 17 pts Highland 28 pts

Coming off a sixty point thumping at New Anniesland the previous Saturday, the Hills supporters could have been forgiven for a lack of enthusiasm for their team’s chances against the high flying Highland, but by the end of an enthralling contest they adjourned to the warmth of the Clubhouse in better spirits, although they had seen their side defeated by twenty eight points, four goals, to seventeen, two goals and a penalty goal.

Hills struggled all day to contain the visiting forwards’ driving maul which was well orchestrated and rumbled mercilessly and uncontrollably on, and paved the way to Highland’s opening two scores. For their part, Hills looked good in breakaway from their talented midfield backs, Euan Brown and Rory Harte, and it was from the former’s mazy run through the Highland defence that led to the first home score. Quick possession from a ruck in the visiting twenty two allowed the fleet footed, Arnaud Bauchet, to scamper across the line for a try which Brown converted to take the score to fourteen points to seven for Highland at half time.

The third quarter saw Hills in a more aggressive mode with no.8 and captain Owen Gemmell, powerful in ball carrying chores and Conor Ferguson proving a reliable source of line out ball. Euan Brown banged over a forty meter penalty goal, but the Hills were unable to profit from meandering break outs by Rory Harte. The visitors showed their opponents how, with a patient build up, it is possible to score tries by working their way up the field collectively to touch down to the left of the posts.

Highland were now twenty one points to ten up with the game is its final quarter, but the Hills had not given up and scored the try of the day. Its genesis lay in Rory Harte’s quick thinking and wonderfully long spun pass to the left flank where Owen Gemmell and Jamie Maddox made impressive yards. Quick ball from the breakdown allowed Euan Brown to copy Harte’s sleight of hand by spin passing some twenty metres to his right to find the quicksilver Arnaud Bauchet in space to run over unopposed to dot down his second try of the afternoon and his fourth National league try in two games. Brown’s successful touch line conversion brought the scores to within four points with ten minutes left. But the denouement saw Hills at their lowest in the game. Failure to secure loose ball allowed Highland to move quickly up the field to score a converted try but there was still time left to draw closer to gain a well deserved losing bonus point. Chances presented themselves a plenty to score, but poorish execution and a lack of patience to grind through the hard yards cost Hills dear at the conclusion of what had been a fine advert from both teams for National League rugby.

Weather permitting, Hills now travel to the Clelland estate to play Dalziel next Saturday the 20th January, kick off is at 14.00.

Hills 1st XV :  Jimmy Griffith, Matt Murray, Arnaud Bauchet, Rory Harte, Graham Davidson (James Maddox), Euan Brown, Dan Williams, Ross Jackson (Mark Barrowman), Harry Perston (Harry Singh) Maurice Adams, James Acheson, Bill Kenny, Conor Ferguson, Owen Gemmell(C), Alex Armstrong (Charlie Smillie), Subs all used.

Hills hold on at Haddington

Haddington 10 pts Hillhead/Jordanhill 13 pts    

The opening twenty minutes of this game saw Hills all over their opposition at the picturesque Mill Wynd ground in East Lothian, but unfortunately try as hard as they might, scoring, apart from a Euan Brown penalty goal, eluded them. Line outs were not a reliable source of possession and patience in building phases, so necessary in the modern game, temporarily deserted them.

Calmness was indeed in short supply, as Haddington, having had a player yellow carded after ten minutes, then saw the same man dismissed for a second offence after thirty five minutes of play. For Hills, however, the going seemed to get tougher as the match wore on. Indeed, if it had not been for the Gallic trickery of left Winger, Arnaud Bauchet, the Hills would have been in a sorry state. Five minutes into the second half, he found space in the narrowest of channels to thread his way over the line for a wonderful individual try. Some ten minutes later, better was to come when Scott Halliday picked up a loose ball and burst powerfully for the home twenty two where he linked well with second rower, James Acheson, who committed two defenders before off loading to Arnaud, the wing wizard, who dived majestically over the line.

At thirteen points ahead and approaching the final quarter,  Hills should have been in easy street against their numerically understrength hosts, but nerves got the better of them. Apart from two Jimmy Griffith bursts and some occasional mazy running from Rory Harte,  Hills lost their shape and momentum, and Haddington got firmly on top. Their physically stronger forwards began to drive the line outs and scored two successive close range tries. Crucially, however, neither was converted, and the last five minutes of the contest was nerve shredding for the players and their small band of supporters. Somehow Hills defied the red waves of Haddington shirts that piled forward relentlessly at them to keep their line intact. Their joy and elation at hanging on for the win was palpable, as was the frustration of the home support.

This win concluded the first round of games in National league three with six wins from the eleven scheduled. Hills return to the highways again next Saturday, the 9th December, for their return fixture against St. Boswells in the Borders to whom they have already lost twice this season, both league and cup. An improvement in form will be required to record a win in the Borders stronghold.

Hills 1st XV: Craig Colvin, Jimmy Griffith , Scott Halliday (Robbie Williamson) ,Euan Brown , Arnaud Bauchet, Rory Harte, Dan Williams, Mark Barrowman (Maurice Adams), Harry Perston (Harry Singh), Maurice Adams (Ross Jackson), James Acheson, Bill Kenny, James Reekie, Scott McMillan (Helian Bourrel), Conor Ferguson (C), Subs all used.

Text & Picture: Bernie Mitchell