STUART BATHGATE @ Scotstoun
AFTER having no more than two losing bonus points to show for their first two games, Heriot’s are back on track towards the play-off places after a battling bonus-point win over previously unbeaten Glasgow Hawks. It was a curious, unpredictable game for the most part, with both teams being notably better in attack than in defence, and as a consequence there were half a dozen momentum switches. In the end, though, Heriot’s deserved the win because they finished the game more strongly, fighting back from an 11-point half-time deficit then closing the game out with some defiant defending.
“They started well, we got back in, they got back in, they maintained it in the second half, and then we flipped it,” said Heriot’s coach Phil Smith. “It’s a great result.
“It has been quite difficult the last two weekends. The reality is we got beat: we played some good bits, but we did some really silly things, so this will have given them some confidence for the next two weeks.”
For Hawks, the picture is the other way round. After winning their opening two games, they could do no more here than pick up two losing bonuses, one for the narrow defeat, one for scoring four tries – the same as Heriot’s. Given that half-time lead, however, they have to regard this as one that got away.
The match got under way after a minute’s silence in memory of Steve Begley, the former Glasgow Hawks, Glasgow Accies and Watsonians player who died last week aged 42.
Hawks quickly got into their stride, and took a fifth-minute lead through scrum-half Paddy Boyer. They opted for a scrum when awarded a penalty in front of the Heriot’s posts, then tapped and ran when awarded another. The forwards took it on through several phases, and in the end Boyer was able to gather from the base of the ruck and dart over for a try which Jack Steele converted.
After being pinned back inside their own half for almost all of the first quarter of an hour, Heriot’s got back on terms after their first attack of any note. A scrum five after a Hawks knock-on gave them the platform, and centre Rory Carmichael scored from close range off second phase. Ross Jones added the two points, then put the Edinburgh side in front with a penalty from the edge of the 22 midway through the first half.
Hawks’ problems mounted when Andy Linton, just minutes after replacing the injured Kiran McDonald, was sinbinned for pulling down a maul. Heriot’s sent the penalty into touch, then from the lineout made good use of the extra man to drive over, with hooker Michael Liness getting the unconverted try.
Seconds before Linton returned to the pitch, Martin Bouab, who himself had just come on as a Heriot’s substitute, was yellow-carded following a string of penalties in the 22. Hawks quickly made the pressure tell, and in the last 10 minutes of the half took back control of the game with a trio of tries.
First, straight from the sin-binning, Cammy Fenton drove over to take them back to within three points. Then Grant Stewart broke clear from midfield, bouncing off one tackle then having the strength to withstand another as he dived over the line and touched down. Steele converted that try, and was also on target with an another conversion, the last kick of the half, after an excellent move down the left wing saw Robert Beattie get the better of an overstretched defence then run round behind the posts to claim the bonus-point try.
An 11-point lead at the interval was somewhat flattering to Hawks given the long spell in which Heriot’s had been on top, but they deserved credit, too, for their clinical exploitation of their numerical advantage. The home team were unable to stretch their lead further before Bouab returned five minutes into the second half, but should have done so a little later when awarded a penalty in front of the Heriot’s posts. Instead, they went for the scrum, not only then but in the three penalties which followed, and, while a penalty try must have been close, in the end Hawks coughed up possession.
A pointless third quarter left Heriot’s feeling that they could yet snatch something from the match, and that feeling grew in the 65th minute when Adam Sinclair forced his way over from close range and Jones’ conversion made it a single-score game again. Two minutes later, Heriot’s were three points ahead, and assured of at least a bonus point of their own, as Craig Robertson rounded off a fine passing move by squeezing in at the left corner.
Jones’ conversion still only meant that Hawks were three points down, and one further twist in a topsy-turvy contest seemed certain. But instead, Heriot’s were able to stifle their hosts’ attempts at a late counter-punch, and held on for their first win of the season.
“Our penalties and indiscipline with the ball was what killed us today,” Hawks assistant coach Andy Hill said. “Giving away cheap possession gave Heriot’s some easy outs, and credit to them, they managed to squeeze a result towards the end of the game. We’ve got two losing bonus points, but we’re at home, or at least home from home, so we’ve let ourselves down.”
Glasgow Hawks: R Beattie; K Rowe, B McGroarty, J Steele, S Yawayawa; R Thompson, P Boyer; S Findlay, C Fenton, L Skinner, A Kirkland, K McDonald, G Stewart, M Smith, H Livingstone. Substitutes used: A Linton, G Blackwell, G Strain, E Oag.
Heriot’s: R Jones; C Simpson, R Mulveena, R Carmichael, R Kay; S Edwards, T Wilson; M McCallum, M Liness, S Cessford, C Marshall, A Sinclair, M Maltman, J McLean, M Hughes. Substitutes used: M Bouab, L Sinclair, N Sutherland, C Robertson.
Glasgow Hawks: Tries: Boyer, Fenton, Stewart, Beattie. Cons: Steele 3.
Heriot’s: Tries: Carmichael, Liness, A Sinclair, Robertson. Cons: Jones 3. Pen: Jones.
Scoring sequence: 5-0, 7-0, 7-5, 7-7, 7-10, 7-15, 12-15, 17-15, 19-15, 24-15, 26-15 half-time, 26-20, 26-22, 26-27, 26-29.
Yellow cards –
Glasgow Hawks: Linton.
Referee: I Kennedy.
Man of the match: In a game which saw both sides flourish in attack, it was defence which in the end won the game for Heriot’s, and openside flanker Jack McLean played a vital role in that respect.
Talking point: The Scotstoun pitch was, as always, conducive to fast, running rugby, and it will be interesting to see if Hawks have to adapt their style when they play their next home game at Balgray.