1st XV vs Hillhead Jordanhill: Match Report
‘There is no proof that a rugby brain / Weighs less than that of Swift or Twain’
Adapted from Philip Larkin*
It’s been a long season for our opponents, and it is to their eternal credit that they travelled along the M8 on an international weekend gamely to fulfil their fixtures on pitches 1 and 2. Indeed, they even managed to put out a third team that recorded a win against their GHA counterparts.
Once scrum dominance had been established by Stewart’s Melville – as early as the fourth minute, Howie engineered a push-over try against the head – the result was never really in doubt.
Such is the nature of sport and the league table that a four try bonus and healthy points difference were the minimum requirements from this fixture. These goals bring with them their own pressure, but were comfortably achieved by full time – though, if our Points Against total was higher than anticipated in this game, it was no more than Hillhead/Jordanhill deserved.
Nicholas McCashin, our captain and playmaker, sat this one out, with Mike Hanning starting at 10 and Ciaran Whyte replacing Mike at 15. The management decision was fully justified as the performance of Ciaran at full back was a revelation, with three tries.
In general terms, being a good rugby back, in attack, is as much about reading the game, the art of the possible: when to pass … when to go … not getting isolated … anticipating where the play breaks down and when to support. Very few are born with these attributes – they only develop after experience in a competitive situation – and Ciaran is developing all the time. He has a step off his left foot and this changes the natural angle of the defender and can buy him time – a valuable asset if not overdone.
Another late change saw Hugh Lindsay miss this match with an ankle knock – but this seemed to galvanise Stu Wilson into making the kind of ball carries that are normally the preserve of the aforementioned Hugh.
Adam Howie controls the ball at No. 8 better than most, and he was another beneficiary of the late changes.
Ciaran’s first try came after eleven minutes and Hanning added the extras to give Stewart’s Melville a fourteen point cushion. Back came Hill/Jills, however, through the experienced campaigner AJ McFarlane, who made it to the try line with a series of show and goes. Buzov ran strongly to cut the deficit to two points, but, shortly after that, Whyte danced through in the corner to keep us in the ascendancy.
In Hills/Jills’ position, what are the options? All you can do is live close to the offside line and fly up to disrupt the opposition in the hope that you may be able to build something from broken play. This is difficult to counter from our point of view unless you do the basics well to create room; any other response develops into a scrappy spectacle – a sort of glorified Sevens.
Matt Morrell motored in shortly after the break, and his body position and balance make him very difficult to nail. Matt looks in the mood on the harder grounds and he will be a key man in the weeks ahead.
Fraser Morrison – when he leaves his position on the left wing – has found his way to the try line several times this season, and he was next to score after several ‘pick and go’s.
Mike Hanning converted those three tries and also Angus Rennie’s effort, when he appeared in the inside centre position and discovered clear blue water in front of him.
The bench was emptied, with Ruaridh Stewart, Connor McKay, Scott Brewster and Chris Beattie providing fresh impetus. Play was then adjourned for a lengthy delay for Hills/Jills’ Craig McLenneghan – the unfortunate victim of a dislocated knee cap.
It was heartening to record some sterling defensive work by Willie Aitken and Ruairdh Mitchell to keep our line intact. With the last play of the match, however, Harte touched down for Hillhead.
When we play well there is no one in the division that can live with us (with the possible exception of Selkirk) – but, when, we lose concentration, it’s a different story. We all know what is required – see you at Dundee.
* Less is more? As a young man, Philip Larkin (1922–1985) realised that “an enormous amount of research is needed to form an opinion on anything.” And so, apart from jazz and poetry, he gave up expertise – for life. Even in his prime, he published an average of only four poems a year.
“Silence,” Larkin said, “is preferable to publishing rubbish and far better for one’s reputation.” His standing rests primarily on three volumes published at the rate of one a decade – The Less Deceived (1955), The Whitsun Weddings (1964) and High Windows (1974). If they were short on quantity, they were long on quality.