Saturday was a superb day for Bishopton Rugby, one of those that will be talked about in future seasons as a milestone in the development of the club. Just three seasons ago the rugby club was on the ropes, struggling in the league and having a difficult time fielding just one full team with player numbers having steadily declined over the preceding seasons. Since then the club, under coach David Jackson’s careful stewardship, has grown in almost every aspect. On Saturday Bishopton played two matches at Holmpark in front of a very healthy crowd which included a good few of the junior section members.
The curtain-raiser was a tough one for the Bishopton 2nd XV playing against a Garnock development squad which included young players representing all three of the clubs’ teams. It is great to see a local club with the playing resources to put out such a team, although this wasn’t much comfort for the Holmpark men who were soundly beaten by a very quick, energetic and enthusiastic opposition. On the positive side Bishopton were extremely proud to field a team which boasted their fourth father/son combination of this season, the Seymours joining the Raineys, Salmons and Cattos on that exclusive list.
The weather couldn’t have been better for the headline Bishopton vs Hyndland match, the keenly anticipated contest which would see one of the two teams take the lead in the race to the league promotion prize. The pitch was still very heavy in places after the midweek rain but otherwise the conditions were perfect for a fast rugby match.
Bishopton won the toss and elected to start the match, kicking the ball into Hyndland’s end where it stayed for almost the entire half. The home team were rampant and buoyed by the noisy touchline they launched phase after phase of attack. The visitors are at the top end of the league for a reason and their defence was outstanding. Under all sorts of pressure their line remained intact for 25 minutes when scrumhalf Sandy Glassford finally broke the deadlock for Bishopton. The ball was taken into contact by captain John Lamb and recycled quickly. Glassford did what he does best in these situations and drove straight through the collapsed maul, emerging on the other side with just enough momentum to reach the line. Alan Lees knocked over the conversion to take the score to 7-0.
Ten minutes later Bishopton chose to run a short penalty rather than take an easy kick at goal. The ball was put through the forwards for two phases and then a training pitch backs move across the field gave flying winger Phil Speirs room to round his man and score in the corner. The kick wasn’t made and the halftime whistle went with the score at 12-0 to Bishopton.
Bishopton started the second half the way they finished the first, but within 5 minutes of the restart disaster struck. They had secured a strong attacking position in the Hyndland half, but then a fumbled ball was hacked on into space by the defence. The Bishopton attackers were slow to turn and the dangerous Hyndland stand-off scooped up the ball cleanly and set off for the try-line. The next sequence could not have been scripted. The attacker was brought down by the home full-back just short of the line. He flung the ball out of the tackle in the hope of continuing the move, but this was intercepted by a Bishopton forward. The scrambling defensive position quickly turned again into an attacking opportunity from deep, and with a large gap on the right of the pitch the ball was bravely spun wide. Unfortunately the second pass fell just short of the intended target and as the player reached out to collect the ball it was tipped it into the hands of the final remaining Hyndland player on that side of the field. He made no mistake scoring the try between the posts, converted to take the score to 12-7. This was a cruel blow for Bishopton, and severe punishment for one of the only mistakes they had made in the game so far.
As always in these games the pressure of the situation started to tell, and as the players tired the tempers flared. There were a few off-the-ball incidents, one of which led to a Hyndland player in the sin bin for ten minutes. This gave Bishopton a bit of a lift, and despite losing three players to injury they had enough left to control the pace and keep the ball in the visitors’ half for most of the remaining play. With four minutes to go Lees kicked a superb penalty to take the home team 8 points clear and deny Hyndland even a losing bonus point. The final whistle was drowned out by the roar from the touchline, this was the sweetest of Bishopton’s victories this season. The Holmpark team have one last game this season when they travel to Lochgilphead to play strugglers Mid Argyll on the 23rd April. They are now seven league points clear of Hyndland going into this match and a win of any sorts will finally guarantee promotion and mark this one down as a very successful season for the village team.