Hillhead Jordanhill 1st XV 23 points Howe of Fife 1st XV 22 points

On a fine, if blustery, day for rugby, Hills just held on to record the slenderest of margins of victory against their close rivals Howe of Fife by 3 tries, 2 penalty goals and 1 conversion to 4 tries and 1 conversion. Yet after 50 minutes of the game, few in the sizeable crowd could have predicted such a tight outcome, given that Hills, then at 23-5 up, gave the impression of coasting to the final whistle. But a deeper analysis would have produced the conclusion that the contest was much closer than the scoreboard indicated.

Howe had started the game as if they were going to blow Hills away with their attacking play forcing Hills into conceding penalties in their 22. But several driving mauls from close range lineouts by the visitors were successfully repulsed. Eventually the visitors forced their way over for a deserved lead but the conversion was missed, one feature of Howe’s play throughout the afternoon which was to be their Achilles heel, contributing to their defeat. Hills, however, hit back strongly and a bustling run from second rower, Lewis Lightbody should have produced a try. But good field position had been won with Howe conceding an offside penalty which Rory Harte converted. Hills first try came soon after when full back, Sean Black, luckily picked up the ball first on a charge down to race away unopposed to touch down. Further pressure in the visitors half allowed winger, Fionn Whyte to attack the visitors defence. Support came quickly from Scott Halliday and Fraser Ebbit with Sean Black burrowing successfully to record his second try of the afternoon. Captain, Rory Harte, converted successfully from the right hand side of the posts to take his side 15-5 ahead and then landed another penalty goal to make it 18-5 at the game’s mid point.

Some 5 minutes after the half time peptalk, Hills, now playing down the slope, and benefitting from Rory Harte’s long kicking from hand, scored another close range try from hooker Harry Perston. It seemed as if Hills might now pull away from Howe, but the latent menace of the visitors “big” players finally came to the fore to seriously threaten the hosts in the remaining 30 minutes of play. Howes stand off, Kain Duguid, and full back, Gregor Smith, ran straight and hard causing no end of panic in the home lines and gained many yards in their attacking ploys. Howe hooker, Fraser Allan, was powerful both in the tight and dynamic in the loose with many strength sapping runs. Fortunately Hills ho 8, Ryan Reilly, had another outstanding game and his tidying up of the ball in the retreating scrums of which there were many, was exemplary.

However Howe would not be denied and the scoreboard moved inexorably in favour of the visitors : 23-5 quickly became 23-10 and then 23-15. With some 10 minutes to play the away support were in full voice and the home support muted. And then a fine kick pass to Fowles on the Howe right wing allowed him to showcase his prowess and score. Finally Howe had a successful kick at goal and the margin had become only the 1 point with 4 minutes to play. Fortunately Rory Harte was able to take play back to the Howe 22 with another howitzer and there play ended with no side being blown by the admirable match referee, Sean Niven.

Hills survived just and battles will be resumed again with Howe of Fife on March 9th at Duffus Park in the first round of the National Cup. Before then, Hills National league games continue with this Saturday February3rd, Cartha QP being visitors for the next leg of this “Glasgow derby”. Kick off tbc 13.45.

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