Hillhead/Jordanhill 13pts West of Scotland 5pts
Anyone coming along to Hughenden expecting to see a game full of thrilling, continuity rugby with end to end play would have been hugely disappointed with what transpired. No criticisms of the players efforts’ or Mhairi Hay, the match referee; rather the association of two closely matched teams, a heavy playing surface and the tension of the occasion in this game in the “league of death” all conspired to make the contest one which will not be eagerly recalled apart from its outcome, which saw “Hills” edge their city rivals by one goal and two penalty goals to one try. That the margin of the victory can be accounted for in Andrew Leslie’s 100% successful goal kicking record for the “Hills” set again that of the “West”, who missed all their penalties, rather underscores the assertion of the relative difference between success and failure in this fixture.
There were then few highlights in the game, characterised by numerous midfield collisions which saw water tight defences in charge, and frequent ball retention errors which neither side was able to capitalise on as much as they should have done. The visitors had already missed a kickable penalty by the time they edged forward again from their own half, only for them to lose the ball. “Hills” hooker and captain, Joe Stafford, immediately picked up and moved the ball blind finding second rower, Jonny Agnew, at his shoulder. Clever offloading allowed flying right winger, Daniel Ozugo, to turn on his afterburners and scorch up his wing, leaving two despairing visiting defenders well adrift, to touch down. Importantly, Andy Leslie converted the try from the extreme right hand corner to put “Hills” in the lead. But then Joe Stafford was yellow carded, stand-off Cameron McCulloch was injured and “West”, particularly through the runnings skills and angles of the Jordanhill schoolboy, Neil Herron, began to find space outwith the crowded midfield. A try was not long delayed, and it fell to “West’s” right winger, Olly Barker, who brushed aside some innocuous home tackling to score in the corner, but the conversion was missed, as was another penalty by “West”. In what remained of the first half, “Hills” worked their way well into the visitors twenty two, and awaited a “West” breakdown infringement which duly came along, allowing Andy Leslie to slot the penalty to take his side ten points to five ahead at the interval.
The second forty minutes had less rugby than the first period of play, but it was no less committed, as both sides continued to tear in to each other at all phases of the game. Andy Leslie took his side eight points ahead after fifty five minutes with another penalty goal from the right hand side of the posts to end the scoring for the day, but not the endeavour. The game had one more yellow card, and finished with uncontested scrums as the visitors had exhausted their front row resources. Certainly, the visitors were on the front foot, but they could not find away through the spirited home defence. Typifying the “Hills” approach to the contest was the sheer commitment of “DJ” Vinnie McAuley, who throughout the full period of the game, contested vigorously each ball on the deck or in the front row, and with his tackling ensured no “West” player got past him. On his debut in the 1st XV, Harry Boyd produced a quiet but effective performance and impressed through his ability to kick from hand into the prevailing wind, a skill which others had problems with.
While this victory helps “Hills” in their quest to remain a Premier club, there are still four “cup ties” to be played before the conclusion of the “C” division. The next one up is next Saturday, 25th February, when the long trip to Kelso in the Borders is made. The Kick-off at Poynder Park is 15.00 hours with the team bus leaving Hughenden at 11.00. All support is welcome.
Hills” 1st XV – Stuart Howie, Daniel Ozugo, Chris Butler , Will Marshall , Andy Leslie , Cameron McCulloch ( Harry Boyd ) , Haddon McPherson, Will Goulden, Joe Stafford ( C ) ( Corey Buchan ) , Nick McAuley , David Douglas Wood ( David Fisken ) , Jonny Agnew , Douglas Grove, Donald Pitkethly and Douglas Crichton . Subs David Mitchell