ALAN LORIMER @ Netherdale
GLASGOW Hawks may have had realistic ambitions of achieving a win over Gala in the first round of the BT Premiership but the Anniesland outfit would not in their wildest dreams have forecast a half-time lead of 38-8.
On a day made for flowing rugby, Hawks turned on the tap big style, hitting 31 points in the opening 20 minutes of play. It was devastating rugby from the Glasgow men but generously aided by a first quarter performance from Gala that could have been bettered by decapitated poultry.
“We gifted them four tries in the first half from a missed tackle, an interception, a scrum turnover and dropping a restart kick.” reflected Gala’s head coach, Chris Dalgleish.
Moreover the Maroons kicked away far too much possession providing unearned opportunities for Hawks eager backline to run the ball. In conclusion it was little short of a shambles and had former coach George Graham still been in charge one could only imagine the colour of the dressing room walls at the interval.
There was some consolation, however, for Gala in winning the second half, the Maroons effecting an extraordinary turnaround in their performance to outscore Hawks three tries to one and in the process earn themselves a bonus point.
Admittedly Gala were without Ruairi Howarth, who is studying at Northumbria University but the biggest absence at Netherdale is the quartet of players allegedly lured to Watsonians by financial incentives.
If Gala were without several players then there is a veritable queue of players knocking on the door of first team places at Glasgow Hawks. But even without a number of luminaries still to make an appearance for the Anniesland outfit, Hawks still looked ominously strong.
New coach Finlay Gillies has been around the block often enough not to become seduced by an early season result. “We’re keeping our feet firmly on the ground.” he said, adding: “This is a young side with a lot of exciting players.”
The list of exciting players would certainly include half backs George Horne, looking sharp after tasting life at London Scottish, and Josh Henderson. The pair played together at Strathallan School and look destined to make a significant impact in Premiership rugby this season.
The other youngster to catch the eye was another Strathallan product , Matt Fagerson, who, one assumes, will follow elder brother, Zander, into the professional ranks. “Matt is an exceptional player. I’ve no doubt that he could play professional rugby.” suggested Gillies.
Fagerson in fact opened the scoring with a close range try after Gala had turned over ball at a set scrum. Then ten minutes later the young flanker showed how to sniff out tries by taking a pop pass before sauntering over for Hawks’ second touchdown.
Gala’s attempt to respond ended in disaster as full back Graham Spiers gave Hawks’ wing Kerr Gossman an easy interception score. Then when Craig Robertson failed to nail Gossman the Hawks’ flier was in for his second try to bring up the bonus point. And this with only 21 minutes registering on the Netherdale clock.
All four tries were converted by Horne, who also added a penalty goal. Gala meanwhile had only a Gregor Hunter penalty to show for their presence on the field but finally they eked out a score, Robertson putting number eight Steve Cairns in for an unconverted try.
Hawks were not finished with their first half demolition and when centre Erland Oag ran in try number five and Horned converted the half time curtain left Gala fans staring at a 38-8 interval lead.
To his credit Dalgleish inspired his players to hit back, evidenced by a crisp handling in the backs that ended with Robertson crossing in the corner. The wing then made it a brace from a similar move, this time Hunter converting
A try by Horne proved to be Hawks’ only second half points leaving Gala to have the final say as replacement front row Dean Brooker burst over from a driving maul, Hunter converting from the touchline. Gala should have added a further try only for replacement centre Gregor Mein to lose possession of the ball over the line, cruelly confirming that this was not Gala’s day.
Gala: G Spiers; A Turner, P Hendry, R Jeffrey, C Robertson; G Hunter, G Lott; C Keen, M Cattyer, G Robertson, R Louw, C Weir, A Emond, S Chapman, S Cairns. Subs used: D Brooker, R Todd, G Mein, R Coombe, J Irvine.
Glasgow Hawks: J Steele; R Beattie, E Oag, D Milne, K Gossman; J Henderson, G Horne; S Findlay, G Stewart, G Strain, K McDonald, A Kirkland, A Hill, M Fagerson, T Spinks. Subs used: S Rodgers, B Cullinane, M Smith, P Boyer, H Schulte.
Gala: Tries Cairns, Robertson (2) , Brooker Cons Hunter (2) Pen Hunter
Glasgow Hawks: Tries Fagerson (2), Gossman (2), Oag, Horne Cons Horne (5) Pen Horne
Referee : M Adamson
Man-of-the-match : Matt Fagerson – the teenager showed that he has the skill and physicality to play at a high level.
Image courtesy of Scottish Rugby/SNS Group