Category: Men’s 1st XV News

Fire Starter

Hills ignite new season with a strong first pre-season session

Last night was a perfect Scottish summer evening to start preparation for the new season. 56 senior players attended the club’s first session to prepare for Season 2017-18 and many faces are still to appear. Players were welcomed with a Mo’Farah fitness test to measure everyone’ work baseline; followed by an intense session including fitness work, skills development and a lot of game action. Overall a good effort in a great atmosphere.

Dean Kelbrick commented: “there was a huge effort from everyone, which was good to see. It gives us a benchmark as to how we want to work on our development this season” and added “The club fields 3 male and 1 female senior team through the season, so it’s great to see that we have started with this kind of turnout”

Pre-season for seniors will continue on Tuesdays and Thursdays starting at 18:45 sharp, with Saturday sessions from the 29th July (Club’s Day) and pre-season fixtures on the 5th and 12th of August.

 

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

Tough Shift Up North

Aberdeenshire 63 – 12 Hillhead/Jordanhill

Despite the one sided nature of the final scoreline, there were periods in this game when the Hills dominated territorially, but, as has occurred all too frequently this season, the pressure has not resulted in points for the board. After Aberdeenshire had raced into an early fourteen points to nil advantage, Hills camped in the home twenty two for some fifteen minutes, but to no avail, despite the frequent brave charges of captain Owen Gemmell and second rower, Callum Stove, for the line. “Shoe ins” of kicks at the posts were ignored for glorious but ultimately failed attempts to cross the line. Against a side of Aberdeenshire’s quality, one small mistake can be punished unerringly, and a dropped ball during a Hills attack allowed the home team to lift the siege and race to the far end to score. The only remaining bright note for the small visiting support from the first half was stand off, Rory Harte’s ability to fashion a try from a smart kick, chase and pick up to crash over the line. The half time score of 35-5 reflected the home side’s ability to play efficient, high tempo continuity rugby and ruthlessly put away the opposition.

The second half was almost a carbon copy of the first period: Hills trying desperately hard with good line breaks from Scott Halliday, Jake Hayden and Owen Gemmell, but not having the skills in continuity play to hurt the home team. The Hills score, when it did come, was a penalty try, the referee deeming the defenders did not roll away from a tackle area and thereby impeded the attackers. Praise must go to the home side for their effectiveness in open field play and also their goal kicker who, from a variety of kicking positions, seemingly effortlessly slotted nine out of nine conversions. A perfect day for him, but another disappointing one for the Hills.

There is now a gap of a fortnight till Saturday the 25th March when Hills play their penultimate National league game against old rivals, the West of Scotland, at Hughenden with a 15.00 hours KO.

Hills 1st XV – Andy Bolster, Graham Davidson, Jake Hayden, Scott Halliday, Ryan Reilly, Rory Harte, Matt Murray, Blair Mackenzie, Harry Perston (Harry Singh), Kenny Harper (Harry Perston), Chris Tulloch (Alec Cameron), Callum Stove (Owen Gemmell), Owen Gemmell(C) (Fraser Gow) Harry Cordner, Alec Cameron (Jonny Kinniburgh) All subs used.

Report & Featured Picture by Bernie Mitchell

Hills Valiant Efforts Go Unrewarded

Hills 15 – 29 Kelso

There were periods in this game when the Hills competed well with Kelso, the league’s favourites for promotion, but unfortunately the continuity could not be sustained and they ultimately lost by two goals and three tries to one goal, one try and a penalty goal.

Some of the Hills highlights were memorable: hooker Harry Perston’s strike against the head in the first quarter which should have produced the opening try but ended up being run into touch due to an inacurate pass. George Stephenson’s magnificent effort at the heart of a line out driven maul which saw him score with the home pack pushing the visitors over their line. Jamie Maddox’s catch and attack off a restart kick at half way which should have resulted in a try but was recalled due a dubious decision ; Rory Harte’s line kicking which at times was superb and his second half try ; Callum Stove’s all round effort and captain Owen Gemmell’s leadership and abrasive play in the loose.

But Kelso had too much power and physicality for the Hills to contain, and despite a brave second half by our boys, which played out at one try a piece, the margin at half time for Kelso (7-24), was too much for the home team to make up.

The team head up to the Granite city next Saturday, 11 th March with their squad for the third last fixture of the 2016/2017 season to play Aberdeenshire at the Woodside Sports Complex, kick off 14.00.

Hills1st XV: Dan Williams, Jamie Maddox, Scott Busby, Scott Halliday, Graham Davidson (Jake Hayden), Rory Harte, Ross Thomson, Ryan Williamson (Blair Mackenzie), Harry Perston, George Stephenson (Adam Plunkett), Chris Warnock (Ryan Reilly), Callum Stove, Scott Cameron, Owen Gemmell(C), and Harry Cordner All subs used

Excellent featured pictures by Dave Allen @ Kitos Photography
Report by Bernie Mitchell

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

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

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.“

The Hard Slog Continues in the Biggar Sunshine

Biggar 57 points Hillhead/Jordanhill 7 pts

The final scoreline appears very one sided,  but the “ Hills” XV and their bench certainly contributed to a performance which at times during the first half  matched Biggar’s,  but ultimately lacked staying power against the home side’s superior physicality and cohesion.

It will  not be very often that a report from Hartreemill talks up the conditions in which the game was played,  as Biggar’s ground occupies a very exposed location in South Lanarkshire ; but this particular Saturday saw Mother Nature at her finest   with a clear blue sky, warmish sunshine and astonishingly no wind.  Occasionally the “Hills”  performance matched the superb  overhead conditions with forwards and backs combining well to play through the phases,  as their coaches demand.    The final ten minutes of the opening period, which saw hooker Harry Perston harshly sin binned  for an offside,  found the visitors constantly on the attack and they were rewarded for their persistence in the forwards   via Owen Gemmell’s   driving play and scrum half Ross Thomson’s distribution with a James Lowry  try close to the posts which stand off Rory  Harte converted. The half time score of twenty two  points to seven slightly flattered Biggar.

The second period, however,  saw Biggar move away from “Hills”,  as numerous injuries to the visitors disrupted their shape both in attack and defence.  Biggar certainly were ruthless in their exploitation of the “Hills” defence and fairly rattled through  their routines with slick distribution behind the gain line putting their quick runners consistently into space.  Despite some solid defence from, in particular,  Jamie Maddox and Dan Williams , Biggar ran in a  further five tries.  “Hills”  did have occasional forays into the Biggar half, principally through Scott Busby who broke the Biggar line well, but his attack ran out of impetus due to limited support.

“Hills” therefore are still seeking that elusive first win of the season, but there was sufficient spirit and tenacity displayed to suggest that with some luck there may well be dancing in the streets of Hughenden soon.

“Hills” 1st XV –  Dan Williams, Andrew Bolster, Scott Busby, James Lowry,   James Maddox, Rory Harte, Ross Thomson, Ross Andrew, (Callum Kettles), Harry Perston, Blair Mackenzie, (Adam Plunkett), Chris Warnock,  Alec Cameron, (Scott Whiteford), Owen Gemmell (C), Conor Duignan, Ryan Reilly (Harry Cordner).  All subs used.

Bernie ‘The Bunnet’ Mitchell

Ross in the Spotlight

Ross Thomson, Hills 1st XV scrum half was rewarded by Robbie Stewart for his exemplary commitment and delivery over the first 2 weeks of January.  Ross was presented with two stand tickets for the Glasgow Warriors European Cup game vs Munster this Saturday night, 14th January 2017.

Robbie noted : “ Ross scored our only try and played very well in a very difficult game for the Club   last Saturday at Kirkcaldy.  This week he has worked hard at training and showed the commitment the Club is looking for,  as we seek that elusive first win in our league programme.”

A beaming Ross added : “ This is great.  I’m grateful to the Club for providing this opportunity to watch Glasgow.“

“Hills” Uneven Performance is Their Undoing

Whitecraigs 46pts Hillhead/Jordanhill 17 pts

There can be no argument about the final score line which saw Whitecraigs motor to an impressive twenty seven points to five  half time lead ;  and then consolidate  finally  in the last  few minutes to add a further  twelve points after a  wobble from the start of the second period to the seventieth minute when the “Hills” were on top, outscoring their hosts by seventeen points  to seven.      But to practise  before the “Burns season”  :  “facts are chiels  which winna Ding “  and the eight to three  try winning margin,  while not perhaps being a fair reflection on the balance of play, is the one which appears in the rugby record and “Hills”  have to thole it and get on with it.

While “Hills”  forwards can take great credit from an improved scrummage and line out performance from the previous Saturday – two strikes against the head for Harry Perston – they were able to mount  only fleetingly  any periods of continuity play.  When the visitors worked well together, three/four phases  of driving play and then fast transfer to the open side, their play produced a try for flying left winger, Scott Busby, who scored in the left hand corner at the end of the first half.       Some dynamic driving up the middle of the field after fifty five minutes and fast hands from Darren Knox  allowed Scott Halliday to drive over for a thoroughly  merited try.   And then the pugnacious Ross Thomson at scrum half   scored a fine solo try from the base of the maul.   A quick dummy and then feint saw him tear through a gap and over the line like a Border terrier chasing a ferret.

There can be no doubt that the “Hills”, when they can collectively put their minds to it, can play with a freedom of expression and style, but the performance  has to be over the full eighty minutes  for their skills to merit to a win.       Playing “catch-up” rugby is not an easy chore,  and is very demanding on fitness and collective game plans and tactics.  The squad and their coaches should take considerable heart , however,   from this game.   That elusive first league win will surely come but only when their attention levels improve and possession/ball retention increases.

“Hills” 1st XV – Rory Harte, Dan Williams,  Scott Halliday, James Lowry (David Vallance), Scott Busby, Darren Knox, Ross Thomson, Carlos Celis (Adam Plunkett), Harry Perston, Blair Mackenzie, Calum Stove (C), Chris Warnock, Harry Cordner (Alex Armstrong), Chris Tulloch, Ryan Reilly.  All Subs used.

Bernie “The Bunnet” Mitchell