HOWE OF FIFE RFC 26 points | HILLHEAD JORDANHILL RFC 20 points
THE PRE-MATCH WARM-UP in this game on a drenched Duffus Park surface was costly for the Hills when Nick McAuley, their massive tight head prop, pulled up with a hamstring strain. Worse was to follow however when numbers on the field were reduced during the second half to only thirteen when two Hills players were sin-binned. Astonishingly, hosts Howe could not add to their score during this period but equally Hills, being shorthanded, were unable to stretch their opponents.
The poor playing conditions – wet and cold with a stiff breeze – were ideal for a traditional mud fest, but both sides tried at all times to play some decent rugby with Hills occasionally seeming to ignore the wet weather in opening out from unpromising situations. Howe were first to settle and, despite some valiant defence from the visitors, scored a converted try after some five minutes of hammering at the Hills line. Some fine breakout running from inside centre Scott Halliday provided field position for Finlay Keegan to kick a penalty goal to open Hills’ account. But a defensive mix-up allowed Howe back into the game and, approaching half time, they looked comfortable with their 14- 3 lead. However Hills showed some of the resilience they have recently been displaying with a fine break from deep by Keegan which was taken on by the forwards. Two breakdowns later, stand-off Rory Harte floated out a bridge pass to left winger Damien Genocchio, who responded with an excellent well timed burst to touch down for try. The half time score of 14-8 to Howe was a fair refection of the 40 minutes play.
In the context of the game the next score was critical, but unfortunately it fell to Howe who profited from some sloppiness in the visitors defensive structures to score a converted try at Hills posts. The arithmetic was now such that Hills would require to score three second half tries to record a victory, but these calculations quickly went south when Howe added a fourth try. At 26-8 the game seemed over with Hills shorthanded and the ground becoming increasingly difficult to run on. But the Hills centre pairing of Halliday and Callaghan had other ideas, and with parity in numbers the visitors lifted their game. A fine break in the thirteen channel from Ciaran Callaghan created the field position for left winger Damien Genocchio to dart over for his second try which Finlay Keegan converted. Even though handicapped by having only three replacements, all the Hills players continued to work hard and, after a series of close range mauls, loosehead prop Darryl Elvin forced his way across the line to score. Hills were now only six points adrift and in the ascendancy, but time was not in their favour and the visitors had to settle for a losing bonus point.
This defeat brought to an end Hills impressive run of six undefeated games. It also was the conclusion of the first round of 11 games in national league 3 with the second round commencing in Edinburgh on Saturday the 30th November against Murrayfield Wanderers. The half-time report card shows six victories and a league position of sixth, some 11 points behind joint leaders Berwick and Greenock Wanderers. Hills play both of these clubs away in the second half of the programme, but have the advantage of some six home games. The gap is not insurmountable for Hills to bridge, but it will require considerable commitment during the winter months from the players in terms of availability and attendance at training. A reduction in the outbreaks of yellow fever during game time will also assist.