Stags leave it late
By Dominic Ward
Stags grab points with last 10 min effort
After an extended break over Christmas due to 2 cancelled matches the Stags were finally back in action last Saturday as they made the short trip to take on Hillfoots. The sides had already met twice this season with Grangemouth recording narrow victories in both games and another tight match was expected. Coach Deacons made a number of changes with starts for Tannahill, Hugh, Nesbitt,McNab, Harvey, Stangoe and Allan. On a decent day for rugby the Stags had the advantage of the Tillicoultry slope in the first half. However it was the home side who made the better start. An early line break by the Foots stand off took play into the visitors 22. The Stags defence was under severe pressure for several minutes before finally giving away a penalty in front of the posts to give Hillfoots an early lead. Grangemouth slowly eased their way into the game as they secured some possession. Skelton made a break from deep before linking with Hugh but a forward pass halted the move. On 20 minutes another break by Skelton took play deep into the Hillfoots 22. The Stags secured a 5 metre scrum and good handling in the backs gave Allan enough space to beat his man and dot down in the corner. Skelton was unable to add the extras. A few minutes later a Hillfoots attack was halted on the Stags 22. The ball was turned over and Allan raced upfield before kicking ahead to force the home side into touch on their 22. A good lineout take allowed the ball to be moved wide and this time Shannon was able to squeeze in at the corner. Once again Skelton was unable to add the difficult conversion. With 5 minutes left in the half the home side were rewarded with a second penalty to reduce the lead. HT Hillfoots 6 Stags 10.
Grangemouth made the worst possible start to the second half. From the kick off they lost the ball on their own 22 and after a couple of drives the Hillfoots number 10 pushed a speculative kick into the corner. The Stags defence hesitated and this allowed the home winger to follow up and dive on the loose ball for the score. The conversion attempt was unsuccessful. The game remained very tight before a Skelton penalty on 60 minutes restored the lead for the Stags. The closing 10 minutes was a very tense affair. The Hillfoots pack began to dominate the scrums and with 5 minutes left they were awarded a penalty in front of the posts as the Grangemouth scrum went into reverse. The kick was on target to give the home side a 1 point lead. The Stags rolled up their sleeves and went straight back upfield. They caught the home side on their 22 and were awarded a penalty which was converted by Skelton. Grangemouth secured the ball from the kick off and worked their way into the Foots half. Once again the home side were penalised at the breakdown. Much to the surprise of the crowd Skelton opted to kick for goal from 40 metres but the stand off nailed a superb effort which cleared the crossbar by a couple of inches to increase the lead. There was still time for another kick off and again the Stags secured the ball to take play to halfway where they were awarded a scrum. From a steady platform the ball was moved to the right where Allan skipped round his man before turning on the gas to beat the fullback and run round for the score. Skelton added the conversion with the last kick of the game.
FT Hillfoots 14 Stags 26
This was a hard fought and dramatic victory for the Stags. The forwards had a tough battle against the home pack and while the scrum was under pressure at times they defended well and scrapped hard at the breakdown to secure several turnovers. The backs looked lively with ball in hand with Skelton and Allan in top form. This week the Stags are back at home as they welcome Blairgowrie to Glensburgh for the Caledonia Shield semi final tie. The kick off is 1.30pm and all supporters are welcome