RHC Cougars Women 15 Hillhead/Jordanhill Women 38
As the team took to the M8 on Sunday, their normal jovialities were slightly ousted by that unshakeable fear of ‘being chased’. Royal High had produced some quality results thus far and consequently were snapping at the bright studs of Hills, sitting one point behind in third place.
Nonetheless, Hills have created a depth at Hughenden that has caused the teams posing on a Sunday to be an eloquent spread of youth and experience. This blend of talent has created a silky display of quality rugby and given the team an autumnal air of confidence as they move towards the split.
Mairi McDonald started off the game with a perfect kick to the middle. Initial passages were as expected-the RHC forwards bulldozing their way over the gain line and showing that this was not going to be a runaway train game for Hills. However, the girls battled hard against the Cougars’ front line, tirelessly bringing down the Swedish International Emelia who was starting to cause concern at close range.
The Hills forwards responded to their number 9’s calls to load the rucks and started to blockade the Cougars as they marched towards the try line: Hagan and Telling always the first to throw their bodies into the abyss for their side.In spite of this, it wasn’t long before Vanessa Hagan dotted down for the home team’s first try.
Hills did well to rise to the game as the home crowd grew. In reply to the try, the blur that is Hannah Smith, snaked her way to the white paint in a fantastic display of angled running. Momentum grew and Hills found their footing on the murky Corstorphine turf. When in possession they were quite clearly the stronger of the sides. Yet possession was something they struggled to retain. Isolated runners caused Royal High to turn over the ruck several times. Eventually, in a well worked team try, Hillhead Jordanhill’s defence was overloaded on the left side and Leanne Neary put the Cougars ahead 10-7.
The effervescent Hills answered ferociously and things were hotting up on pitch. Shortly before half time, some fantastic dummy lines from Stella Kyalikunda caused the gritty Cougars to bite on and release space out wide where Sarah Smith and Abi Evans were starting to stretch out their legs. These superb interchanges were rewarded with a converted try before the half time whistle: 12-10 to Hills.
Cougars, however, were first to secure points in the second half with winger Vanesa Hagan crossing for her second try.
Hills responded and, as with every game this season, it was in the second half that Hills truly showed their skillset and fitness. The link between the two half-backs was slick and the variety of plays incorporating both forwards and backs stretched a tired looking Cougars defence. The back line was also industrious and expertly ran in two more tries. Hannah Smith taking the double glory whilst the offload game of Louise MacMillan also deserves credit.
Hills have worked hard on line speed in training and made this evident in the latter stages- the defensive line engulfing the East coast team like waves on the nearby Crammond beach.
Sixty minutes in, the girls showed some vicious play at set piece and in a sharp exchange of scrum -halves, Kirsty McConnell overturned Louise Dalgleish at the back of the Cougars scrum to off-load the ball to the ever reactive Hannah Telling. Telling bolted to the try line leaving a 70m trail of dust.
Despite this lead, the Hills could not seem to relax on the ball – and the match was abound with penalties with Jemma Forsyth receiving a yellow card.
Fourteen players down and the Hills still contained the Cougars well. Some notable try saving tackles by Andrea Gaffney prove that she is equally useful in defence as attack.
The bench made a significant impact with the Hills’ final try coming from smooth linkage play involving Kirsty McConnell, Abi Evans and Kirsty Reid to set up Lizzie Willis to score- a great team try.
Cougars had a good go at Hills right to the whistle but did not cross with the final score line standing at 38-15 to Hills. An exciting match showing the rising condition of the league and the inclusion of a third threat to the silverware.
Hills play RHC in the top four split of the BT Premier League at home on Sunday 6th November at 2pm.
Sunday 23 October: RHC 15 Hillhead/Jordanhill 38
RHC Tries-Vanesa Hagan (2), Leanne Neary
Hillhead/Jordanhill Tries- Hannah Smith (3), Abi Evans, Hannah Telling, Lizzie Willis Conversions-Lana Skeldon
Team: Sarah Smith, Abi Evans, Hannah Smith, Kirstin Daly, Andrea Gaffney, Mairi McDonald, Kirsty McConnell, Debbie Falconer, Stella Kyalikunda , Heather Lockhart, Lauren Hagan, Kirsty Reid, Hannah Telling, Louise McMillan, Jemma Forsyth, Lana Skeldon, Natalia Alvarez Blanco, Georgie Keys, Emma McBride, Lizzie Willis
Player of the Match: Lauren Hagan
Coaches: Dean Kelbrick and Graeme Blackhall
Match Report by Kirsty McConnell