Eight Try Romp Gets PL Over The Hills
PL finish off their home season in style despite a shaky start against Hillhead Jordanhill
It's 30 years since Preston Lodge had their only season in Scotland's top league so there were plenty famous faces in the big crowd marking that special anniversary on Saturday. It's just as well then that the stars of today saved one of their best performances of the season for the occasion, despite a slow start against Hillhead Jordanhill.
Things could hardly have started worse for PL because right from the kick off, Hills' Josh Thom casually stripped the ball from the receiving defence and forced his way over for a try. The conversion was missed but at 0-5 down, PL needed to give themselves an early shake.
Fortunately they got themselves right back into the game immediately after Paul Glynn with Dale Gordon and Greg Walker in support got the ball into the 22. Colin Arthur and Jason Reilly also charged forward towards the line and the pressure forced the visitors into conceding a penalty which was confidently sent to touch rather than taking the points. The decision was rewarded with a good catch from Chris Dixon who fed on to Nick Hart and the rest of the pack did their job and drove him over the line for a try that levelled things up at 5-5 after only five minutes.
Unfortunately though, the next 30 minutes or so would prove less exciting for the home support as handling errors at one end prevented some scoring opportunities while defensive errors at the other allowed Hills to score two fairly easy tries that would propel them into a comfortable 5-17 lead.
Injuries to Nick Hart and Sam Stuart also meant changes to the pack in the shape of Paul Dixon and youngster Jack Gordon but both players looked confident with the ball in hand and PL were generally starting to play better as they began to cut out the errors. In the 33rd minute, scrum half Gordon was quick to spot a half chance when he got the ball near the visitors' 22 and he needed no help to step inside three players before diving over to score under the posts. Thomas McMann added the conversion and things looked a whole lot better at 12-17.
The changes to the pack didn't alter the driving power from the line out and Ronan Rafferty took full advantage as from a distance, it seemed that he had got the ball down for the third try but the referee decided that Hills had illegally prevented the touch down and awarded a penalty try instead. The conversion was easy for McMann and PL were in front for the first time a 19-17.
There was better news to follow as they managed to secure the bonus point before half time after Gordon had set things up with a good run out of defence that gained 30 metres before the ball was recucled out to the backs. Antoin Penrose stormed down the left before it was calmly sent back into midfield where Pete Johnstone was on hand to stroll through and score. McMann's conversion brought the half to a close but after the eraly setback, PL had played well to come from 5-17 to lead by 26-17.
That lead was extended immediately after the restart when good work by Walker and Blair Robertson caught Hillhead with the ball behind their own line resulting in a scrum, five metres out. From there, No. 8 Jason Riley had the easiest of jobs to pick up the ball at the back and beat the helpless defence. McMann added the conversion and PL were 33-17 up.
Jonathan Brash and Jonny Sked caught the eye with good carries inside the visitors 22 but it wasn't until the 65th minute that the score would change again. After a good spell of defence, Greg Walker found himself with the ball inside his own 22 and with two good side-steps, he got himself clear, albeit with 50 metres to go. Despite the close attention of the chasing defence, he made it to the line to score a great try in the corner that made the score 38-17.
That try appeared to have completed the scoring as the match moved into the final two minutes but Nathan Ross and Antoin Penrose still looked lively as they continued to cause the defence problems and Gordon and Dixon were also keen to secure the ball on the ground. Following an error strewn passage of play, PL were allowed advantage in their own 22 and Colin Arthur and Paul Dixon were able to get it to speedy Paddy Cooney and he was too fast for everyone as sprinted from his own 10metre line to score under the posts with an exuberent dive. McMann's conversion made the score 45-17.
There was still time for a restart though and unfortunately for Hills, their defence was missing when Sked got the ball near the half way line and he carried it all the way for the eighth and final try. This time, McMann's successful conversion was the final kick and PL had run out comfortable 52-17 winners, much to the delight of the home support.
The five points means that PL are assured of a creditable fifth place in the league with one more match to play and that will be the rearranged fixture away to Cartha Queens Park next Saturday. Kick off 3pm.
Preston Lodge Team:
J Brash, A Penrose, G Walker, B Robertson, P Glynn, T McMann, D Gordon
C Arthur, P Johnstone, N Hart, J Sked, R Runciman, S Stuart, C Dixon, J Riley
P Dixon, J Gordon, N Ross, P Cooney