Glasgow Hawks 41-28 Marr.
STUART RUTHERFORD @ Scotstoun
GLASGOW HAWKS’ new-look squad – which featured only six players from last season’s play-off defeat to Ayr – proved that they are, once again, one of the BT Premiership’s most deadly sides in attack, as they over-powered Premiership newcomers Marr to secure an opening-day bonus-point victory.
With Old Anniesland currently under maintenance due to a sink-hole appearing on the main pitch, the match took place at Scotstoun, where the wide, artificial ground suited Hawks’ running style of play. In a back-and-forward first half, where neither side was able to get a grasp on the match, it was the hosts who held a slender 24-17 lead at the break following tries from the exciting Sam Yawayawa and Stephen Leckey.
Marr, who were never overwhelmed by the sense of occasion, hit back in the second half with a fine try from Scott Bickerstaff to set up a nervy finish. However, when referee Ben Bain awarded a penalty try to Hawks in the dying seconds, the visitors’ hopes of ending up on top were finally over.
The result left Hawks head coach Fin Gillies with mixed emotions. “I’m obviously happy with the result, but we were really inconsistent today,” he said. “It really is a new team and you could see that with some of the mistakes that appeared in our play. But we had a lot of guys out there today who are teenagers and perhaps not used to the physicality of the Premiership, so to get a win against a side who are used to winning was a great feeling.
“We probably leaned on our pack too much today, which is getting away from the rugby that we played last season. The difference today was probably the two push-over tries. But I was really happy with our new recruits. Jake [Eaglesham] carried well from No 8 and Sam [Yawayawa] offered us something different out wide. I don’t think we’ll play as bad as that again this season; we will get better. However, unfortunately, we play Ayr next weekend, so it doesn’t get any easier.”
It was the hosts who showed the early impetus as they attacked the Marr 22 via a series of dynamic breaks from hooker Grant Stewart. With the Hawks pack edging slowly towards the whitewash, the ball was eventually recycled wide to Yawayawa, a summer recruit from Leicester Tigers, only for the winger to be stopped just shy of the try line by Marr’s frantic cover defence. Although the visitors would eventually clear their lines, Hawks were soon back in their opponents’ territory and this time they were able to leave with three points, via a simple George Horne penalty.
The Glasgow outfit suffered an early setback when Paddy Kelly suffered what appeared to be a serious leg injury, and moments later Gillies’ side conceded the first try of the afternoon following a powerful goal-line drive from prop William Farquhar.
However, it wasn’t long until Hawks got their noses back in front and their try arrived following a fantastic solo-break from Kelly’s replacement, Callum Harrison. After collecting a loose kick, the centre turned on the burners and carried the ball 30 metres into the visitors’ half. With Marr full-back Craig Kolarik closing him down, Harrison threw a beautifully lofted pass back inside to the trailing Stephen Leckey, and with no-one at home in defence, the back-row was able to stroll under the posts for the easy score. With Horne chipping over the simple conversion, the hosts led 10-7.
Marr’s Colin Sturgeon hit a raking penalty to level the score, and with the wind in their sails the visitors looked the more likely to take the lead. However, against the run of play, Hawks scored their second try of the day thanks to some electric footwork from Yawayawa after a neat blindside link-up between Horne and Robert Beattie.
With former Hillhead-Jordanhill stand-out Ross Thompson pulling the strings at fly-half and the mercurial Yawayawa a constant threat out wide, the hosts were in the ascendancy. However, whilst the flair of the back line was entertaining, it was the brawn of Hawks’ pack that was the key to their effective attacks. The front eight – not for the only time of the afternoon – proved that they were worth their weight in gold when they had the put-in to a scrum on Marr’s five-metre line. With an almighty shove, there was no stopping Hawks’ ferocious pack, and the referee had no other option but to award the penalty try, which extended their lead to 24-10.
Before half-time Marr cut the deficit to seven points with a tenacious drive to the line by former Hawks No 8 Ross Miller, but after the break Hawks drove home their advantage. Kyle Rowe stretched their lead with an adventurous run, beating three defenders before touching down under the posts for the bonus-point try. Horne added his second conversion of the day to give his team a 14-point cushion, but with 20 minutes left he was sent to the sin-bin following persistent handling in the ruck. Sturgeon and Thompson traded penalties to leave the match still in the balance at 34-23, and when Scott Bickerstaff ran in a tremendous individual effort from 20 metres out, the visitors’ hopes of snatching a victory soared. However, with the last play of the game, Hawks provided the hammer-blow as they were once again awarded a penalty try following another push-over scrum from the five-metre line.
Glasgow Hawks: R Beattie; K Rowe, B McGroarty, P Kelly, S Yawayawa; R Thomson, G Horne; S Findlay, G Stewart, G Strain, A Linton, A Kirkland, S Leckey, O Blackwell, J Eaglesham. Subs used: C Fenton, L Skinner, H Livingston, C Harrison, P Boyer.
Marr: C Kolarik; S Bickerstaff, C Bickerstaff, C Sturgeon, R Dalgleish; D Steele, K Barreto; A Actorn, O Rossi, W Farquhar, K Hatherell, E Bulger, M Pearce, A Johnston, R Miller. Subs used: S Adair, C Nisbett, R Jackson, T Buchanan, T Steven.
Glasgow Hawks: Tries: Leckey, Yawayawa, Rowe, penalty try 2. Cons: Horne 3. Pens: Horne, Thomson.
Marr: Tries: Farquhar, Miller, S Bickerstaff. Cons: Sturgeon 2. Pens: Sturgeon 3.
Scoring sequence (Hawks first): 3-0; 3-7; 10-7; 10-10; 17-10; 24-10; 24-17, half-time; 31-17; 31-20; 31-23; 34-23; 34-28; 41-28.
Yellow card –
Glasgow Hawks: Horne.
Referee: B Bain.
Man of the match: Hawks’ dynamic pack proved to be the difference between the two sides, and leading from the front was prop Steven Findlay. The loose-head carried well all afternoon and showed just how powerful a weapon he can be at the scrum.
Talking point: Hawks proved today that continuity doesn’t always equal success. With 11 new recruits in their starting XV, they seemed to gel instantly. However, will their new-look squad be able to go the distance with such little playing time together?