HILLS FALL AT ROUND 1 CUP HURDLE

Howe of Fife 1st XV 36 points Hillhead Jordanhill 1st XV 8 points

It was a much weakened team, both in terms of personnel and numbers, which travelled to Cupar for this Round 1 National Cup tie. Hills had just competed their National league 3 programme the previous Saturday with an unbeaten 4 game winning run and one of their opponents had been Howe whom they had just pipped at Hughenden 23-22. But there was to be no repeat of that encounter in the Cup with the visitors trailing by 19-3 at the interval and then by 36-8 at the final whistle.

It was not the best of days at the office for Hills who had only 17 players listed – Howe had the permitted 20 – and fielded blind side flanker, Andy Readman, on the wing, winger Lewis Herd in the centre, debutant Blair Forsyth at full back, and several positional changes in the pack. But that should take nothing away from the home XV which turned on an all action display which had their visitors in a defensive mode for virtually the whole of the game.

Thanks to the effective touchline work of Jaysen Denley, Hills had good lineout ball to work with but scrummage ball was frequently disrupted to the detriment of any quick release to the Hills backs. Breakdown chores, when Howe made the odd mistakes with their ball distribution, proved to be hard going for the visitors, although loose head prop, Niall Hall, proved to be a hard nut for the hosts to crack in the tight exchanges.

The tipping point in the game came at the end of the first half when Howe defended a series of close range attacks from Hills who had established good field position thanks to Rory Harte’s kicking from hand. A first half penalty goal was a meagre reward for a lot of effort from the visitors. But Howe’s 3 tries, 2 of which were converted was a fair reflection on their territorial dominance.

The second 40 minutes offered little cheer for either the Hills players or their small group of supporters, as the hosts continued to have the upper hand in broken play, adding 3 more tries to their first half treble. Hills did sparkle on occasions, but had to rely too much on their stand off, Rory Harte, for any offensive plays, although winger, Fionn Whyte, and back rowers, Calum Griffiths and Jaysen Denley, did show considerable resilience in running hard at Howe when they had the chance. Rory Harte added a trademark sidestepping try to his earlier successful penalty, to complete the visitors scoring on a bleak, grey day for weather in the Kingdom of Fife.

This cup defeat provided a low key end to what has been a reasonably successful season for Hills. Twelve league wins in an 18 game competition speaks of a Club performing well but not quite consistently enough to push for top place. Amateur domestic rugby is now becoming a harder playground for most Clubs where funding and player availability have become challenging. But it is to be hoped that the links with Glasgow University “freshers” XV might prove fruitful along with with the rejuvenation of the sport at Jordanhill School also offering encouragement for less turbulent times.

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