“Hills” Shaded At Sunnyside

Falkirk 15 pts Hillhead Jordanhill RFC 13pts

This was a game that the “Hills” dominated for the first 30 minutes, but then gave ground for the remainder of the game to an ultimately more powerful Falkirk side to lose by a goal, a try and a penalty goal to a goal and two penalty goals. The outcome opens up the race for the promotion spots to SHE Premier 2 for season 2010/2011, but there is all still to play for as each of the three contenders, Falkirk, “Hills” and Howe, have differing numbers of games to complete. “Hills”, however, remain in pole position, being seven points ahead of Howe with one game fewer played, and Howe and Falkirk still to play each other.

On an eminently playable but ultimately energy sapping surface, “Hills” monopolised the early phases, being quicker to the loose ball and dominating the frontal exchanges with their well practiced pick and drive techniques, but even then there was evidence of the latent talents of the home three quarters with Haddon Macpherson having to look lively in his defensive chores. But the cohesion of the “Hills” pack ensured most of the early part of the game was played in the Falkirk half of the field with all the major line out plays being grabbed by Marty Lane; and it was from a series of thrusts in the home twenty-two that captain, Stuart Ross, opened the scoring by out thinking his opposite number, Bob Wyllie, to touch down. Gus Twaddle converted and “Hills” lead was well merited. Falkirk showed only in individual bursts, but one of these was to provide the cameo moment of the game: the well nourished wrecking ball, David Jamieson the Falkirk tight head, in open field play with the ball on the charge against, in comparison, the distinctly undernourished, but hugely spirited “Hills” scrum half, David Armstrong. The “Hills” supporters and players knew there was only one winner, and the “Goliath” from Falkirk was halted. “Hills” were again able to work the ball into the home team’s danger areas, and from a delicate piece of play by Archie “Dean” Miller, “Hills” were awarded a penalty and Gus Twaddle obliged by kicking his team into a ten-point lead. It was, however, from this point on that the visitors hold on the game began to be eroded by an increasingly influential Falkirk team.

The turning point in the game came from just one loose pass that went to ground during a “Hills” raid. Falkirk quickly regained possession and following two quick phases of play their scrum half, Mark Bruce, went out a diagonal run of some 60 metres, darting here and there and leaving several “Hills” players in his wake with his elusiveness to touch down between the posts. The conversion for Adamson was a formality, and it was now “game on” at Sunnyside. Worse was to follow for “Hills” when the Falkirk full back, Harris, ran well through a splintered “Hills” defence to score in the left hand corner. But the conversion was too difficult for Adamson; Falkirk, however, were now ahead. Their lead was very short lived with the visitors profiting from a “Hills” there quarter movement from which Falkirk were penalised at the breakdown to allow Twaddle to kick his side ahead, 13 pts to 12, at the interval with his second, successful penalty goal.

Any thoughts the “Hills” had in building on this lead were to be cruelly shattered, however, with Falkirk virtually monopolising all the possession in the second half with their lively backs being well orchestrated by their stand of David Adamson. Time after time, waves of attacks were repulsed by the “Hills” team whose tackle count was highly impressive against the rampaging Millard and McAllister for Falkirk. Attempts to turn the tide were restricted to runs out of defence by wingers, Macpherson and Mitchell, but these were few and far between. The sole score of a highly tense second 40 minutes fell to home no.10 Adamson who kicked his only penalty goal of the game after 58 minutes play to take his side 2 points ahead. The “Hills” defensive heroics were shared by backs and forwards alike, but one try saving tackle by David Paterson when a Falkirk attacker was manoeuvred out of play by the corner flag was memorable.

As so often happens, however, in tightly contested games, one slight slip can turn defence into attack, and thus it was in the 78th minute of the game that a loose ball was fly hacked hard up the field into the Falkirk twenty-two with MacPherson and Witko leading the chase. The breakdown was controlled by “Hills”, and at least five phases of pick and drive were won by “Hills”, but with the Falkirk try line in touching distance and the ruck activities still in “Hills” control, the ball was released inexplicably to their back line where Falkirk’s onrushing defence forced a handling error. The ball was lost, kicked downfield, and after two more phases of play, the Falkirk scrum half unceremoniously dispatched the ball into touch to the sound of the final whistle and the unbridled, but relieved joy of the home support. In truth if “Hills” had scored in their only second half attack and won the game, it would have been an outcome that “Hills” would not really have deserved considering their lack of territorial dominance for at least 50 minutes of the game. Reverses do, however, happen in sport and that is why games like this can be so exciting.

After the game, home President, Alex McQuade, noted: “This was a tremendous advert for the game of Premier 3 rugby. I am still suffering palpitations”. Visiting head coach, “Hills” Keith Robertson, stated: “These days defence is as much a part of the game as is attack, and today the 17 players used showed tremendous commitment. I have players absolutely out on their feet and distraught at the defeat, but I am immensely proud of them. We shall be regroup next week up at Dundee to play Morgan. We shall be ready for it.”

Hillhead/Jordanhill RFC – Angus Twaddle, Haddon McPherson, Archie Miller, David Paterson, David Mitchell, Dan Witko, David Armstrong, William Goulden (Steven Longwell), Fraser Paul, David Simm  (William Goulden), Martin Lane, David Fisken (Christopher Tulloch), Stuart Ross (C), Donald Pitkethly, Stuart Rose. Subs – Christopher Craig, Craig Bryson.