Edinburgh Accies 32
Glasgow Hawks 7
IAIN MORRISON @ Raeburn Place
THIS was regulation stuff for Accies, who had almost complete control of this game from first whistle to the last. The only hiccup all afternoon was a random score, against the run of play, that was grabbed by Hawks’ veteran centre Brendan McGroarty just before the half-time break. It was the first time that the visitors had entered the Accies red zone and it was just about the last.
“In the first half we played far too much rugby in our own half, attempting to run the ball out and it didn’t work for us,” conceded Andy Hill, the Hawks’ coach. “Accies got to the edge, kicked the ball and chased hard, putting us under pressure. They instigated a kicking duel and won it. But we did ourselves no favours with all our individual errors.”
As Hill alluded to, the cold and wet conditions meant that handling was difficult throughout and Hawks attempted far too much on the day. Playing the first half into a stiff breeze, the visitors insisted on running the ball out of defence, and, hampered by the slippy ball, their skill-set simply wasn’t up to the task. Time and again Hawks’ hands let them down and Accies won the field position for their second score from just such an error.
The line-outs were a lottery for both sides, but it’s fair to say that Accies reacted better to lost ball than Hawks managed. And while the visitors won several scrum penalties in the opening quarter, that advantage disappeared in the second half when Accies demolished one scrum to kick-start great celebrations in the home front-row.
There was a great battle between two muscular wingers, Lewis Wells for the home side against Sam Graham for Hawks, the pair horsing into each other with evident glee. Honours were just about even. It was perhaps the one area in which Hawks matched the home team.
Accies enjoyed almost total control of territory thanks to not one, but twin kickers. Full-back Ben Appleson and fly-half Jamie Loomes shared the duty of first receiver and as kickers almost equally, and the pair were equally efficient in turning Hawks, with the chase then adding pressure. In one instance Hawks full-back Matthew Stewart was left teetering on the brink of the sidelines only for the eagle-eyed touchie to spot a toe in touch and give Accies a huge 50-metre gain … and the throw at the lineout.
Loomes also added two penalties and three conversions with the boot, missing just the one kick all afternoon, and causing Hawks no end of problems.
Accies were denied an early score when Kerr Gossman was only milliseconds late to latch onto Loomes’ teasing grubber. The fly-half eventually opened the scoring with a penalty after 13 minutes, and it says something about Hawks’ spirit that, despite the more or less constant pressure, the visitors kept their line intact for the opening 30 minutes, when Ruairi Campbell dived over after Accies had driven a line-out and Appleson had carried the ball almost all the way.
That score was followed up pretty quickly by another. This one went to Clem Lacour, who burrowed over from short range after a couple of driven lineouts, a speciality of the long-serving prop.
It looked like this one was going to be entirely one-sided when Hawks conjured up a try from nowhere. A penalty led to a five-metre line-out, when that was held up the ball was moved to the left, and, after several charges at the line, McGroarty used all his experience and bulk to barrel his way over to make it 15-7 at the break, a scoreline that flattered the visitors.
If it’s possible, the second half was even more one-sided than the first, even if it started in the same way, with Loomes kicking a penalty.
Sadly for Hawks, not all of their substitutions were as successful as McGroarty. Chasing back to deal with another of Loomes’ teasing grubber kicks, replacement Callum Harrison got hands on the ball just yards from his own line only to see his attempted clearance kick charged down by Wells, who went on to score a simple try despite Harrison tackling him without the ball (so if he hadn’t scored it would have been a penalty try instead – and a possible yellow).
Another substitute, Ryan Flett, looks like a dangerous runner, but the poor man was unable to hold onto the ball long enough to settle the matter either way. He only arrived early in the second half and still managed three knock-ons in next to no time. It sort of summed up Hawks’ somewhat hapless afternoon.
Accies opened up and played some good rugby as they went in hunt for the fourth, bonus-point try. Lock Richard Thompson showed soft hands when combining with Campbell up the right-hand flank, while Gossman and Vincent Hart did the same for no tangible return.
Finally, with ten minutes left to play, a driven line0out by Accies in the right-hand corner was stopped by the doughty Hawks pack, only for the visitors’ back-line to allow Accies centre Neil Armstrong to dummy his way over the line. Loomes added the extras for the third time in four attempts.
“That was probably the most controlled match that we have played this season,” said Accies coach Iain Berthinussen, who would have been beaming if he hadn’t been too busy shivering. “We have some big ball-carriers in the backs who can take some of the pressure off the forwards. We maybe overdid the number nine channel in the first 40, but then we probably tired them out so it maybe worked out for us.”
Edinburgh Accies: B Appleson; K Gossman, M Wallace, N Armstrong, L Wells; J Loomes (capt), S Broad; C Imrie, C Black, C Lacour, J Mills, R Thompson, T Drennan, J Sole, R Campbell. Replacements: G Ratcliff, H Campbell, S Whittaker, M Love, V Hart.
Glasgow Hawks: M Stewart; S Graham, J Pinkerton, C Ferrie, R Darroch; L Brims, E Davey; M Downer, I Totic, G Strain, M Crumlish, R Burke, S Leckey (capt), A Syme, O Baird. Replacements: P Cairncross, E Cairns, C Harrison, B McGroarty, R Flett.
Referee: Rob McDowell.
Accies: Tries: Campbell, Lacour, Wells, Armstrong; Cons: Loomes 3; Pens: Loomes 2.
Hawks: Try: McGroarty; Con: Brims.
Sequence of scoring (Edinburgh Accies first): 3-0; 8-0; 10-0; 15-0; 15-5; 15-7 (h-t) 18-7; 23-7; 25-7; 30-7; 32-7.
Man-of-the-Match: Hawks’ giant lock Ryan Burke showed up well on debut but most of the contenders came from Accies. Flankers Tom Drennan and Jamie Sole carried and harried relentlessly but fly-half Jamie Loomes was the key to Accies success, constantly turning Hawks with his teasing and probing kicks.
Moment of the match: In the second half, with the wind at his back (more or less) Hawks fly-half Liam Brims kicked one clearance from behind his own goal-line that landed in touch several yards inside Accies’ half of the field. You might imagine that that would have persuaded him to kick a lot more, but he seemed reluctant – although it’s possible he didn’t have enough possession to waste?