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.