Hills Lacklustre Opening Proves Fatal
Hillhead Jordanhill RFC 23 points | Strathmore RFC 26 points
ALTHOUGH STRATHMORE’S MARGIN OF VICTORY WAS SLENDER, and hence might beg the question as to how fortunate the visitors were in achieving their win, most home supporters would have said at the conclusion of the game that the Hills had their chances, but did not take them and Strathie deserved their five points from this National League fixture.
Hills downfall was a well below par opening 25 minutes when the victors’ hard and direct running proved too much for a somnolent home defence. Strathmore raced away to a 14 point lead and their territorial domination was interrupted only when standoff Rory Harte turned the tide with some magnificent kicking from hand. Home line breaks were few, but Finlay Keegan ran well from a deep defensive position to set up a series of rucks in the visitors twenty-two, and eventually space was provided for loose head prop Ross Jackson to cross the line and touch down. There was, however, no home momentum generated by this score, and it took Strathmore only 5 minutes to expose more weakness in the Hills defensive lines to add another converted try to leave them 21-5 up with half time approaching. Fortunately Hills then rallied and, from some welcome field domination, forced the visitors into some breakdown indiscretions, allowing Angus Twaddle to convert two penalty chances. But the halftime score of 21-11 in Strathmore’s favour somewhat flattered the Hills.
The second half opened much more promisingly for the Hills with the changes, particularly in the front row, having the desired impact. Good go-forward ball for Hills caused Strathmore to concede a few penalties, and that allowed the home pack to begin driving the line out maul. Hills first success resulted in the award of a penalty try when the visitors infringed at a driven maul close to the line. Scrummage pressure then produced the rarity of a tight head strike for hooker Harry Perston. The beneficiary of this was Hills scrum half Alex Gibbons who picked up the ball to sprint, unchallenged, to the corner for a fine try. Hills were now 23-21 ahead and the game had entered the final quarter.
Hills continued to enjoy territorial domination without ever threatening the visitors’ try line. A chance to kick a penalty goal from within the Strathmore twenty-two was refused in favour of a kick to touch for an attacking line out. Although the initial throw was won by captain Jonny Agnew, the ball was ultimately lost in the maul and Strathmore cleared the danger. To their credit, the visitors came back in the final 5 minutes of the game to pressurise the Hills. Strathmore missed an eminently kickable penalty but moments later scored between the posts with more hard and direct running being the key to their success. The pressure in the game was affecting everyone as the conversion barely rose above grass level. There were approximately two minutes of play left for Hills to clinch a victory, but despite some very efficient Hills recycling of possession, Strathmore were not to be denied and they held on to take five league points home with them, leaving Hills with only a consolation try bonus.
Next Saturday, December 14, Hills travel to Greenock to play the NL 3 leaders at Fort Matilda. Kick-off is 14:00.