1st XV vs Hillhead Jordanhill: Match Report
Conceding 14 points after 7 minutes and 21 points after 15 minutes to a side that is, traditionally, strong in the forwards, meant, realistically, that there was no way back for us in this match after those three early tries.
Mark Wilson and Liam Steele crossed the try line either side of half time and both tries were converted. This brought us within a goal of our visitors, but the error count meant that there was to be no fairytale ending, and Hillhead went on to score a further two tries and a penalty.
The players and coaches dedicate their spare time to rugby, and nobody means to perform poorly – but this was a game where we did not execute our game plan.
We have played Hillhead Jordanhill many times over recent seasons, and have had many close games where we have prevailed due to our style of rugby. We have, in the past, moved the heavier Jordanhill pack around and attacked them though our threequarters, with support from the back row.
The lineout – which, apparently, works seamlessly in training – misfired on Saturday, and we were always going to struggle for parity in the scrums. We missed having Sangster to compete for the 50/50 balls, particularly as Hillhead Jordanhill had two ‘small bullets’ in the back row whose job seemed to be to get their bodies on the ball.
The flow of the game was not helped by the number of penalties. Apparently, according to Jim Fleming (the referee’s assessor), 36 penalties and two free kicks were awarded during the game. That is a penalty every two minutes.
You do still have to have some sympathy for the referee, who knows he is being assessed. I will give you an example: Mike Hanning tackled AJ MacFarlane by grabbing his shirt collar as he went past. The referee awarded a penalty for a high tackle. Now, ‘rules is rules’, and it was a high tackle; but the law was introduced for safety reasons, to stop Samoans and the like from decapitating the opposition – not to stop 12 stone number 10s from grabbing someone’s shirt a bit high.
Of the 36 penalties, 21 were awarded against Jordanhill, and there must have been five awarded in the last few minutes for deliberately slowing down the ball. The referee had already awarded two yellows, but I am sure he would agree that, in retrospect, he should have awarded the yellows earlier, rather than give final warning upon final warning.
If all that sounds like ‘sour grapes’, it still has to be said that we were beaten by the better side on the day – but the proliferation of penalties did mean that there was little chance for us to build momentum.
After the thrilling display against Hawick the previous week, this was all very disappointing. There were, however, still positives. Phil Hendry had a great game, always offering himself to carry the ball forward and always retaining possession. George embarked on some characteristic storming runs. The threequarters all ran full of intent, with Mike Hanning relishing every opportunity to run at his opposite man. The backs never had a platform, with Jordanhill never really being turned in defence. Ali Baxter did not let anybody down after coming on for the injured Angus Dixon, and the game time will bring him on as a player.
Next week it is Watsonians, and a big game for all concerned. I am sure the squad and coaches will be able to put this game behind them, bearing in mind that, as is always the case, the form book will go ‘out the window’ for the local derby.
Derek Busby (Hillhead Jordanhill coach)
‘The forwards gave us a great platform in the first 20 minutes – which, to be fair, they usually do. We dropped off the pace a bit after that, rather than pushing on. I am sure it will be a different game in October for the return.’