GLASGOW HAWKS 26
DAVID BARNES @ Balgray
IT was a case of job done and move on for Glasgow Hawks as they scrambled to a bonus point victory which keeps them in the top four and provides at least some momentum ahead of a tricky trip to Malleny Park to take on Currie Chieftains next weekend.
But it was not a performance head coach Fin Gillies, or any of his players, will look back upon with any great affection. The heavy pitch and intermittent deluges of rain did not help this game as a spectacle, and certainly did not suit Hawks who pride themselves on playing an expansive brand of rugby, but they need to accept that in difficult conditions it is possible to be positive without being reckless.
“We were nowhere near our best,” said a frustrated Gillies afterwards. “We tried to play too much rugby in really difficult conditions, and there was times out there where we were trying things that you wouldn’t even think about trying on a beautiful summer’s day.”
“We did not disrespect Hawick,” he stressed. “We knew it was going to be a really tough game – especially after what happened last weekend – so we didn’t talk once this week about getting five points, only about winning the game at all costs. So, I suppose I should be satisfied with that, but on the day we have to be smarter than that.”
“I’m all for us running the ball, but we shouldn’t be scared of kicking. If you kick well on the front foot, and you re-apply pressure, then you get a counter-attack – and that’s what excites me.”
Hawks dominated possession and territory from the start, but couldn’t translate pressure into points. George Horne knocked-on within a few feet, Bobby Beattie sent a pass forward when a clear overlap was there of the taking on the right, and then there was a moment which should have acted as valuable lesson about the importance of adapting your approach to suit each situation, when the home team tried to force the ball wide and ended up gifting Gary Johnstone an interception – which the Hawick centre did awfully well to turn into five points by completing a 60-yard dash to the scoring zone through what looked like quicksand beneath his feet.
Hawks continued to pile on the pressure and it looked like hooker Grant Stewart had tied the contest when he scrambled up the touchline and over the line, but a foot had slipped into touch along the way. Horne was also held up over the line, before the dam finally burst at the resulting scrum.
Hawick illegally splintered the first set-piece as it marched backwards over their own line, and Hawks naturally went for the reset. This time visiting flanker Guy Graham kicked the ball away when it was still sat at Hawk’s number eight Jake Eaglesham’s feet and was rightly yellow-carded as a consequence. At the third time of asking, a simple pack and pass from Horne sent Kyle Rowe in under the shadow of the posts.
Hawks nearly paid a second hefty penalty for over-ambition when a loose ball was flipped back as if the Harlem Globetrotters were in town, and Eaglesham did well to clean up the mess.
Another dominant scrum was the source of Hawks’ second try, although the vision and technical ability of Horne was also key, with the scrum-half using the stolen possession to send Rowe in for his second with a brilliantly judged chip-kick into space.
After last week’s debacle, Hawick could sniff a chance at redemption, and they fired out the blocks at breakneck speed at the start of the second half. Ali Weir fired over an offside penalty and Hawks continued to make life hard for themselves with some careless mistakes and silly decisions.
Eventually, they did click, with Ross Thompson sending Beattie home with a well angled chip into he corner; and then Thompson and Matt Smith combined superbly to put Stephen Leckey in for the bonus point score. Full-back Robert Houliston also got over the line but that try was pulled back for an obstruction earlier in the move.
Much to Gillies’ annoyance, rather than build on this momentum, Hawks ended up getting even looser with the ball in hand and compounded that by allowing their discipline in defence to slide. Horne seemed to become obsessed with the idea of creating an overlap with a cross-field kick, trying it three times to no avail.
After an unseemly but fairly innocuous fracas, New was shown a yellow-card, and Hawick kicked to the corner for Matt Carryer to score off the back of a driven line-out. A few minutes later the home team were down to 13 men when Fraser Hastie was punished for stepping over the ruck and kicking the ball away, and this time Ali Weir stepped up for his third successful penalty of the afternoon – which earned his team a bonus which could be very important in the final reckoning.
“The galling thing for me is those two yellow-cards. The game was dead so it didn’t really mater, but it is just crazy. Our defence is good so let’s stick to the system and trust ourselves to make the tackles, because as soon as we try to sniff for that fool’s gold we end up just giving away penalties and yellow-cards, and that is what keeps teams like Hawick alive,” was Gillies’ disgruntled parting shot.
Glasgow Hawks: R Houliston; K Rowe, R Beattie, B McGroarty, S Yawayawa; L Brims, G Horne; S Findlay, G Stewart, L Skinner, A Kirkland, S Leckey, C Kerr, M Smith, J Eaglesham. Subs: P Cairncross, G Strain, F Hastie, M New, R Thompson.
Hawick: L Armstrong; G Welsh, G Johnstone, D Buckley, L Anderson; A Weir, G Cottrell; S Muir, F Renwick, N Little, D Lowrie, D Redpath, G Graham, R Gibson, S Graham. Subs: M Carryer, M Landels, C Hamilton, K Davies, K Brunton.
Hawks: Tries: Rowe 2, Beattie, Leckey; Con: Horne 3.
Hawick: Tries: Johnstone, Carryer; Pens: Weir 3.
Scoring sequence (Hawick first): 0-5; 5-5; 7-5; 12-5 (h-t) 12-8; 17-8; 19-8; 19-11; 24-11; 26-11; 26-16; 26-19
Yellow cards –
Hawks: New (77mins), Hastie (79 mins)
Hawick: Graham (26mins)
Referee: O Taylor (England)
Man-of-the-Match: It was not a day for thoroughbreds and if a few more of the home team had shown as much mongrel as blindside flanker Callum Kerr then they might not have had such a frustrating afternoon.
Talking point: Hawks head coach Fin Gillies gets more and more exasperated with every passing week at his team’s penchant for picking up yellow cards. Can they do him a favour next Saturday and keep all 15 players on the park for the full 80 minutes against Currie Chieftains?