After a gruelling 80 minutes of rugby in the top-of-the-table clash on Saturday it was quite fitting that the honours were shared in a 12-12 draw.
The two teams last met in March when the result was a frustrating 13-13 draw, it was obvious from the outset of this match that both teams were desperate to win this one. On a perfect day for rugby played on the spectacular new pitch in the centre of Scotstoun Stadium, the home of the Glasgow Warriors, this was as close to a ‘war of attrition’ as you will get in this league. Hyndland have a huge young pack who are used to dominating their opposition in the set piece. Bishopton are nowhere near as big but have plenty of experience and used every bit of it to combat Hyndland’s brawn. After the match the Bishopton pack believed they had the better of the opposition in the scrum claiming more balls ‘against the head’, but the slight advantage this might have had in terms of possession was nullified by the ferocious tackling dished out by Hyndland.
During the warm-up Bishopton were unusually subdued, and despite coach David Jackson’s best attentions they started the match slowly. On the other side Hyndland were ready for the challenge and made it clear from the start that their game plan was going to revolve around the big forwards crashing the ball into contact. Bishopton did very well to absorb the onslaught for just over ten minutes without offering much in return, eventually the pressure did pay off and Hyndland found a gap big enough to allow their speedy winger to score the first five points of the game. As has been the pattern this season this first score acted as the wake-up call for the visitors and there was a distinct change to the pattern of play following the return of kick. Bishopton took the ball back into Hyndland territory and remained there for most of the half. Several promising attacks succumbed to the committed defence, while others fell victim to some uncharacteristically poor handling by the backs. Two minutes before the half-time whistle blew there was a minor scuffle between the two packs and with the forwards tied up Stuart Smith took advantage of the extra space and sliced through the defending backs to score a try. Alan Lees knocked over the conversion and Bishopton went into the break up 7-5.
The second half was more of the same. There wasn’t much glorious rugby for the spectators to get excited about, the match was dominated by the forward play in both attack and defence. The referee did well to contain the increasing pressure and players from both teams experienced the yellow card. There were two tries scored in this half, both when the defending team had a man in the sin bin. Visiting scrum half Sandy Glassford scored the first with a trademark dart around the fringe of an attacking ruck. With the ball in his fingertips and his arms at full stretch he somehow managed to get the ball in contact with the whitewash – unconverted to put Bishopton 12-5 up.
With five minutes remaining Bishopton were awarded a penalty and opted to kick for goal to go 10 points clear. The kick fell tantalisingly short and Hyndland returned the ball with enthusiasm, pressing forward with drive after drive repelled just short of the line. As often happens in these situations the defence became increasingly frantic and Bishopton started conceding penalties. A player was lost to the sin bin after the third of these, and after the sixth Hyndland finally found the gap they had searching for with their stand-off breaking the defence to score a try on the wing. With the final play of the game he went on to kick a spectacular conversion from the touchline to secure the draw.
Bishopton were disappointed at losing the lead they had worked so hard to secure and will need to improve their decision-making under pressure if they are to go on to win this league. One thing is certain – the return match at Holmpark on 22nd January will be interesting! Next up is a home draw on Saturday to mid-table Mid Argyll, Bishopton will be targeting a bonus point win from this match to get back on track.