Tennent's Caledonia Region League, Division 1

HILLFOOTS welcomed Ellon RFC to Tillicoultry on Saturday for a game of rugby that would be hugely influenced by the effects of Storm Dennis.

While the forecast gales did not materialise, the torrential rain did not let up all afternoon.

The Hillfoots boys were expecting a very tough test against an Ellon outfit who have had a fairly successful season, making good use of their strong, fast back row and intelligent half--backs. Indeed, Ellon had put more than 60 points on the board when these two teams met back in September so the omens were not good.

However, what transpired was one of Hillfoots' best performances of the season so far, but also one of the most agonising results.

Hillfoots kicked-off playing up the famous slope and soon set up camp in Ellon's 22. The early pressure was all on the Ellon boys as Hillfoots quickly got their systems working, probing and testing the opposition defence. Eventually, after about 15 minutes, strong running by the Hillfoots back-line led to Elliott Chadwick bursting through under the posts for the opening touchdown, converted by Fraser Christie.

The few hardy souls who had braved the elements to support the boys from the touchline were impressed by the effort being put in by the Tilly boys, particularly in such foul conditions. The rest of the first half was played mainly between the two 22s as a slippy ball led to multiple scrums due to handling errors.

Just as it looked like the half-time break would be reached with Hillfoots narrowly in front, a rare defensive lapse allowed Ellon to exploit on the overlap to dot the ball down over the line in the right hand corner. With the conversion sailing over it was 7-7 at half-time and all to play for.

Coach Murray Brown provided his words of wisdom during the break, encouraging more of the same from the boys. In particular, the defensive effort had been excellent, much improved from recent weeks.

The second half progressed much the same as the first with countless scrums and little progress from either team. The defences were cancelling each other out in the atrocious conditions as the both the rain and the temperature continued to fall.

An accidental high tackle by Keith Slade earned the skipper 10 minutes in the sin-bin which forced the Hillfoots pack into a reshuffle and injuries meant that there was no-one to replace debutant Tom Humphries when he had to retire shortly afterwards.

A burst of pressure by the Hillfoots boys led to a penalty opportunity on the 22, about 10 yards in from the left touchline with only four or five minutes remaining.

Despite the blustery conditions, classy stand-off Christie bisected the uprights with the kick and a fine victory, against the odds, looked on for Hillfoots.

Unfortunately, it wasn't to be. Ellon came roaring back from the restart and worked themselves a useful overlap on the right. A couple of crisp passes later and their winger was scuttling under the posts and Ellon had snatched the win at the death.

It was a game that the form book suggested would yield nothing for Hillfoots so to have been so close to a famous victory made defeat all the more agonising.