1st XV vs Hillhead Jordanhill: Match Report
A week on from the Halloween Horror Show that was Hawick, the 1st XV found themselves in Glasgow for the second game of the season against Hillhead, who had already beaten us at Inverleith earlier in the campaign. With the boys having been given their personal copies of the ‘Halloween Horror Show’ during the week to reflect on, the support team, coaches and supporters all hoped for a much improved performance against Hillhead.
The starting team saw a few changes from the Hawick match, with Brewster and Hayden returning to the starting XV after being unavailable the week before. Call offs late in the week from Pip and Mike Hanning saw Seb and Angus Lean promoted to the starting XV at 10 and 6, respectively. Fraser Morrison and Adam Greig were promoted from the 2nd XV, with Adam being involved with the 1st XV for the first time.
This was the 1st XV’s first visit to the new Hughenden, with its upgraded clubhouse and a new playing surface on what used to be the 2nd XV pitch, which used to get very wet and muddy at times. No such worries for this match, though, and, with the rain staying away, the scene was set for what was hoped would be a great game and a Stew/Mel win.
On the stroke of 2 pm, the whistle went and Hillhead kicked off, with the first scrum of the day being set soon after. From the scrum, Hillhead moved the ball wide but wasted possession. Further scrums followed, with Hillhead continually attacking the Stew/Mel midfield, only to be repelled. The first scrum of the afternoon to Stew/Mel saw the ball moved into midfield and Marsh crashing up in the centre. A half break by Hayden followed and Stew/Mel were over the gain line, but poor ball retention saw the ball turned over.
Hillhead attacked, moving the ball wide, and the Hillhead winger had a run at Borth. Borth contained his opposite man, holding him up, and Ben Manning came in to ensure that the Hillhead man was put safely into touch. The first Stew/Mel lineout of the afternoon saw the ball retained safely, only for a penalty to be conceded for the support player going straight to ground. The penalty was out of kicking range and Hillhead kicked for the corner. The resulting lineout was safely taken in the middle of the lineout and the Hillhead forwards went for a rumble.
A couple of missed tackles by Stew/Mel saw the Hillhead No 8 make good ground, and, when the ball came back to the Hillhead stand off, an enterprising cross field kick was executed brilliantly, with the winger collecting the ball on the bounce. The winger rounded the Stew/Mel defenders and crossed the line for what the majority of the crowd thought was the first try of the afternoon. Thankfully for Stew/Mel, the Touch Judge’s flag was raised after a foot had gone into touch.
From the lineout, Stew/Mel cleared up to the 10m line. Hillhead possession once more lead to a cross field kick which was covered superbly by Dave Hampton, with Borth on hand to clear out the Hillhead tackler. Unfortunately, there were more Hillhead players in attendance than Stew/Mel ones, and one Hillhead player stepped over Dave and just picked the ball up. The next pass was, however, knocked on, and the scrum was awarded to Stew/Mel.
From the scrum the ball was moved into the midfield, and, after a couple of rucks, the ball was moved wider, finding Shannon in a bit of space out wide. The first would-be Hillhead tackler was easily knocked back onto his arse and Shannon offloaded to Gus, coming onto the ball at pace. Gus made a good break but was finally forced into touch.
Hillhead box kicked from the resulting lineout and the ball went straight up. Johnny made a great catch under pressure and set up a ruck to restart a Stew/Mel attack. A penalty was awarded to Hillhead for ‘holding on’, though it looked to many like the penalty should have been for Stew/Mel. Hillhead attacked again, and, a couple of phases later, were awarded another penalty in front of the Stew/Mel posts. A successful kick at goal put the first points of the afternoon on the board and Hillhead led 3-0.
The restart was kicked deep into the Hillhead 22 and an attempted clearance was charged down. Gus collected the ball and eventually set up the ruck. Quick ball was moved along the back line but a loose pass slowed the play down, due to an offside Hillhead player. Borth eventually ran out of room and was forced to pass the ball back inside, at which point Hillhead knocked on. The ref then took the play back for the penalty to Stew/Mel. Seb kicked the penalty and took the score to 3-3 after 15 minutes of play.
The Hillhead restart was collected safely by Brewster and Stew/Mel put a couple of phases together before losing possession to Hillhead. The Hillhead tight head then found himself in space and made an excellent run which looked very dangerous from the touchline. A foot in touch gave Stew/Mel the throw at the lineout and we made ground up towards the 10m line with another half break from Hayden following a Stew/Mel scrum. Only a couple more phases were completed before Stew/Mel once again lost possession.
Hillhead were once again on the attack and kicked for the corner. This was tidied up by Borth, who set up the ruck. The pressure by Hillhead forced a rushed clearance kick which did not find touch. The pressure was still very much on Stew/Mel and this mounted further with tackles being missed. Hillhead were now up to the Stew/Mel 5m line and eventually won a penalty after resolute defence from Stew/Mel. The ref decided he needed a word with Captain Marshall and duly issued a team warning to Stew/Mel. A second successful penalty kick from Hillhead took the score to 6-3 to Hillhead after 25 minutes of play.
After the restart, a Stew/Mel lineout on Hillhead’s 10m line was thrown to Sangy at the back of the lineout but was adjudged to be squint. The resulting scrum to Hillhead popped up and was reset, then Hillhead broke up the blindside but knocked the ball on. Another scrum to Stew/Mel, which was lost following a big drive by Hillhead, but, fortunately, the resulting kick went straight into touch.
Stew/Mel were unable to keep possession at the lineout and Hillhead attacked around the fringes of the ruck. A big tackle by Brewster put an end to the pick and drives by the Hillhead forwards and the ball was then moved wider. A couple of phases later the Hillhead winger had a run and looked to be well covered by Borth. A bit of fancy footwork stood Borth up, though, and allowed the Hillhead winger to link up with support. This led to the home side scoring the first try of the afternoon after 28 minutes. A successful conversion by Hillhead, despite the kicker’s non kicking foot slipping during the kick, took the score to 13-3 to Hillhead.
After the restart, Stew/Mel kept possession and good carries from Gus, Ben and Borth ended up with Hillhead being caught offside and advantage being played. Roddy took the ball up into the Hillhead 22 and set up the ruck. A poor kick ended the advantage and the ref awarded the penalty to Stew/Mel 30m out and just to the left of the posts. Seb kicked the penalty to reduce our deficit, making the score to 13-6 to Hillhead after 33 minutes.
The ball was allowed to bounce from the restart and Stew/Mel lost the resulting lineout. Hillhead were now on the attack again, with a lot of close encounter stuff. Stew/Mel conceded a penalty for not rolling away in the tackle. Further bad news came when the Ref decided that Chris Damsteegt should have a yellow card after he failed to perform a Harry Houdini disappearing act with a couple of people from both sides lying on top of him in the ruck.
Hillhead kicked for the corner, and, with Chris in the bin, immediately piled on the pressure. From a lineout on the Stew/Mel 5m line, after going though several repetitions of ‘pick and drive’ to move infield towards the posts. Hillhead then moved the ball back the other way a little wider, finding the Stew/Mel defence stretched. The Hillhead number 5 collected a pass and went over the line while being tackled to score Hillhead’s second try of the day. The try was uncoverted, and, after 36 minutes, Hillhead led 18-6.
Once again Stew/Mel kicked the restart deep into the Hillhead 22 and Hillhead kicked for touch. Brewster collected the lineout throw and Sangy rumbled up in midfield, where Hillhead conceded a penalty right in front of their posts. Once again Seb’s kick was successful and the score was now 18-9 to Hillhead after 39 minutes. There was just time for the game to restart and a couple of phases to be completed before the half time whistle.
Half time score: 18-9 to Hillhead.
The half time team talk was very different to the one seven days before. Bruce pointed out to the players that, generally, their defence had been good in the first half and that the intensity we were playing with in defence was brilliant. We just needed to take that intensity and apply it to our attack in the second half, putting Hillhead under some more pressure. The difference between the first half in Glasgow and the ‘Hawick Horror Show’ was clear for everyone to see, and, with only 9 points between the sides at half time, everyone hoped Stew/Mel could turn this game around.
Stew/Mel got the second half underway and Hillhead made it back into Stew/Mel territory before they conceded a penalty. Stew/Mel moved the ball about a bit and cross kicked for territory. The kick failed to reach touch and Hillhead collected the ball but were forced into touch. Chris returned from the bin and Willie replaced Phil in the front row. At this point a very nice ‘care in the community’ patient on day release made his presence known, accusing us of time wasting whilst making a substitute. Enough said about this Glasgow gent, who was eventually led away by his carer!
Stew/Mel were awarded a free kick from a collapsed scrum and a quick tap and go saw Marsh break before being forced to set up a ruck. Once again Stew/Mel could not keep possession, but Hillhead could not take advantage and kicked the ball straight into touch. From the lineout on the half way line, Stew/Mel turned the ball over again with an under throw, but Hillhead once again kicked the ball straight out and the forwards reconvened at the half way line for another lineout. This time Brewster managed to tap the ball down to Roddy while under a lot of pressure and Roddy made inroads into the Hillhead forwards. Hillhead were caught offside in midfield and Stew/Mel awarded a penalty. Stew/Mel kicked for the corner but missed touch. Luckily, Hillhead conceded again for holding on and this time Stew/Mel made sure of the lineout in Hillhead territory.
Unfortunately the throw was not straight and Hillhead managed to clear up to half way despite a good Stew/Mel scrum. From a driving maul Hillhead were awarded a penalty after Stew/Mel entered the maul from the side. Hillhead kicked for the corner and the resulting lineout took place on Stew/Mel’s 5m line. A catch and drive from the lineout led to another Hillhead try after 55 minutes. The conversion was missed and the score moved on to 23-9 to Hillhead.
Isaac replaced Roddy before the restart, which was kicked to the Hillhead tight head, who set off on a 20m plus run through poor Stew/Mel defence. Another Hillhead cross kick did not come off quite as well as the one in the first half and the ball was knocked on in the Stew/Mel 22 and a scrum awarded. Stew/Mel knocked on at the base of the scrum and Hillhead won a free kick from an early push at the resulting scrum. From the quick tap free kick, Hillhead progressed right up to the Stew/Mel line. The ball was moved wide and the Hillhead right wing crossed to score Hillhead’s fourth try of the afternoon after 60 minutes and earn his side a bonus point. The try was uncovered, taking the score to 28-9 to Hillhead.
Fraser Morrison replaced Ben – who had just put in another big hit but had probably broken his nose in the process – and Adam Greig came on for his 1st XV debut shortly after. Stew/Mel continued to try and put phases together and earned a couple of penalties which eventually led to a yellow card for one of the Hillhead forwards. A few moments later, Hillhead won a penalty at a ruck. Brewster reacted to something after the whistle and a good old 30 man handbag session took place. Once everything calmed down, the ref showed Brewster a yellow after consulting with one of the TJ’s. Hillhead opted to kick the resulting penalty, and the successful kick took the score to 31-9 to Hillhead.
The final 5 minutes of the match saw Stew/Mel win possession then lose possession far too easily, with no more scoring opportunities being created. Hillhead, on the other hand, created one final scoring opportunity. From a scrum in their own half, the scrum half passds to the stand off who dummied, turned on the gas and broke upfield. Play continued into the Stew/Mel 22, where the ball was passed wide for the Hillhead winger to go in at the corner. No try, however, due to a forward pass. The final whistle blew, leaving the final score at 31-9 to our hosts.
A much improved performance by the team after the Halloween Horror of Hawick, but, on the day, we were ultimately beaten by a better team which deservedly completed the league double over us this season. Congratulations to Adam Greig on his debut and to Johnny Macdonald for winning the Stew/Mel man of the match award (voted for by Hillhead Jordanhill). I am sure he will put his new Polaroid sunglasses to good use.
This Saturday we visit Biggar for the second time this year, for a Cup game. It is to be hoped that the boys can take the intensity from the first half of the Hillhead game into the Cup tie, but we also need to work on our set piece to give ourselves a decent platform from which to launch our talented backs.