COLIN RENTON @ Malleny Park
CURRIE remain in the hunt for a BT Premiership play-off spot after posting a hard fought win in a fiercely contested clash with a Glasgow Hawks side that had already booked a place in the knockout stages.
The home side had regained the initiative after Heriot’s, their rivals in the race for fourth place, lost to Melrose seven days earlier. And by the end of this match the picture had become clear – with Heriot’s taking all five league points in their final league game at Stirling, Currie must now record a bonus point win in their rearranged match at Boroughmuir on 11 March, or their season is over.
“I actually thought we could have got a bonus point out of that with the amount of chances we let go. So, obviously delighted – any time you beat Hawks you have put in a performance and we definitely did that – it just felt like given the chances we had, we maybe let that bonus point slip”, said Currie coach Ben Cairns, who admitted to enduring a few nervous moments as the match unfolded. “I always get a bit worried when you’ve got real dominance but it doesn’t show on the scoreboard.”
His counterpart, Finlay Gillies, accepted that his plan to allow his men to focus on the way they played rather than the result may have backfired.
“It’s a disappointing way to end our regular season. I can maybe look at myself – preparation wasn’t ideal. I maybe didn’t apply the right kind of pressure and I maybe took all the pressure off and said to enjoy it,” he explained, before giving credit to the hosts.
“They were determined and dogged and they were always going to be difficult to beat today. It would have been slightly different circumstances if we’d had to come here and win.”
However, Gillies is now fully focused on achieving success on two fronts, with a BT Premiership and BT Cup double still a possibility. “We now need to reboot our season. We have to work extremely hard and the boys are going to enjoy working hard,” he added.
With defeat unthinkable, the pressure was firmly on the hosts and they offered an early glimpse of their pace behind the scrum when Harvey Elms broke from deep and released Ben Robbins, although the move came to nothing after a spilled inside pass.
The same duo combined a couple of minutes later as the home side continued to enjoy the territorial advantage, but this time Matt Hooks was hustled into touch just short of the whitewash.
Having soaked up that pressure, Hawks showed for the first time when Jack Steele broke from inside his own half and powered through two tackles before offloading to Paddy Kelly. His pass was plucked from the air by Currie’s Ratu Tagive, who then set in motion a counter-attack that took play to the Hawks 22, where Matt O’Neil fed Elms. And the full-back’s elusive running saw him squeeze in at the corner.
Hagan Schulte had the chance to cut the deficit with a penalty after 28 minutes, but his effort went wide and he was short with another shot at goal from long range a minute later. However, the momentum was with Hawks and it took a last-ditch tackle by Ross Weston on Jack Steele to keep the visitors at bay.
The pressure continued and, despite a solid defensive effort by Currie, the Hawks breakthrough was inevitable. It came a minute before the interval when the ball was shipped out to Sean Yacoubian and the full-back dotted down in the corner to square matters at the break.
With news coming in that Heriot’s appeared to be in control at half-time in their match at Stirling County, Currie’s season hung on the outcome of the next 40 minutes.
With that in mind, the hosts restarted well and earned two penalties. Both were booted into touch but on each occasion, Hawks stole possession at the ensuing line-out. Elms then came up just short and a series of pick-and-drives ended with a knock-on that handed Hawks possession.
However, an offence at the next breakdown yielded a penalty for Currie and, from just to the right of the posts, Jamie Forbes stroked over the kick to edge his side in front.
With 26 minutes still to play, that slender lead was unlikely to be enough to win the match, and Currie’s tenuous advantage looked even shakier as Hawks launched a string of attacks. Currie’s defence held firm but tension among the home supporters was palpable.
Currie’s next visit to the opposition half earned another penalty and Forbes again kept calm to bang over the kick and create a six point cushion with seven minutes left on the clock.
And the hosts grabbed some breathing space three minutes later when Weston pounced after Hawks failed to protect line-out ball, and a swift transfer along the line allowed Robbie Nelson to crash over. If Currie needed proof that things were going their way, it came with Forbes’ conversion which rattled off both posts before falling over the bar.
And the result was made safe deep into injury time when Robbins showed his sprinters pace to race onto a kick ahead and he coolly applied a final touch with the boot before overtaking the final defender for a fine opportunist try.
That score added polish to the score-line although the absence of bonus point ensures a league contest that has produced some fantastic entertainment already still has more to give.
Currie: H Elms; M Hooks, R Tagive, R Nelson, B Robbins; J Forbes, M O’Neil; J Cox, G Carson, A McWilliam, S Ainslie, M Vernel, S McGinley, R Davies, R Weston©. Subs: C McEvoy, R Patterson, P Mundell, C Smith, R Smith.
Glasgow Hawks: S Yacoubian; E Oag, P Kelly, J Steele, K Gossman; H Schulte, A Lowrie; S Finlay, G Stewart, G Strain, A Linton, A Kirkland, S Leckey, M Smith, T Spinks©. Subs: S Rodgers, C Barnes, R Miller, D Milne, R Houlihan.
Referee: Lloyd Linton
Scoring sequence: 5-0, 5-5 (h-t) 8-5, 11-5, 16-5, 18-5, 20-5, 25-5
Currie: Tries: Elms, Nelson, Robbins; Con: Forbes 2; Penalties: Forbes 2
Glasgow Hawks: Try: Yacoubian
Man-of-the-Match: With tired bodies all around as Currie battled for the win, the main man was Ross Weston, whose composure and experience were vital in a frantic finale.
Talking Point: This was Currie’s final home match of the season, leaving them six months with no match-day revenues. Is it time to revamp the club season?
Image: David Gibson – www.fotosportuk.photoshelter.co.uk