Edinburgh Accies 0
Glasgow Hawks 17
DAVID BARNES @ Raeburn Place
HEROIC defence provided the platform for a thoroughly merited away victory, which moved Glasgow Hawks to five points ahead of their opponents in the battle to avoid relegation from the Premiership at the end of this season.
Accies have a game in hand on Hawks, and two games in hand on Musselburgh (seven points ahead), but their remaining outings are against second-top Currie Chieftains next Saturday and top of the table Marr the week after, so the task that faces them is daunting.
It has been a tough old season for Accies. Losing 10 players to Super6 and a further 10 to changed personal/work circumstances last summer left them with a callow squad, and the disruption of not really having a base while their historic Raeburn Place home is being renovated has undoubtedly had a disruptive effect. But they have, for the most part, remained competitive, and while they were a distant second here they didn’t ever look like giving up, so they might be down but they are not out until the final whistle is blown on this campaign.
Hawks, meanwhile, have been equally ravaged by player turnover, plus are still bedding in at their new Balgray base, so they have not had their troubles to seek either, and head coach Andy Hill was clearly delighted with how his squad lifted themselves for this crunch match.
“The boys deserved that,” he said. “When you look at the table and see that we’ve lost seven games by less than seven points – and five of those games were within three points – so it was good to get one over the line.
“We were far superior today in terms of the way our defence worked,” he added. “For that first 20 minutes they were camped in our half and we came away 3-0 up, which was pretty massive for us. We said at the turn of the year that if we are going to be anything this year then it has to be based on our defence because attack is harder to put in place and we’ve had a lot of change from last season, so we’re now beginning to see the attack come together but defence has to be your foundation.”
“Having watched the video we felt like we knew what Accies were going to bring and knew that if we fronted up and did what we did against Marr the previous week, then we would give ourselves a chance.”
Accies had the lion’s share of the opening half hour, but struggled to make headway against Hawks’ suffocating defence, although Ruari Campbell was a threat when he got a sniff in the outside centre channel until his early departure with an arm injury on 32 minutes. That was a big loss for the home team, who struggled thereafter to find any sort of penetration in the wider channels.
By the time they lost Campbell the hosts were already 0-3 down thanks to a 35-yard Liam Brims scrum penalty. This didn’t reflect the general pattern of the game up to that point, and Iain Berthinussen’s men must have been particularly frustrated that they’d come away with nothing from a 20-plus phase period of pressure on the Hawks line a few minutes earlier, especially as there was more than a hint of a high-tackle going unchecked by the referee just before the ball was turned over.
Brims had another penalty effort just as Campbell was being helped from the filed, but he was being over-optimistic on this occasions from just inside the Accies half, and his effort didn’t have the legs. However, the full-back soon made amends with a crucial role in the lead-up to the game’s opening try just before the break, with his break and pass sending powerful No 8 Ryan Sweeney on an unstoppable surge to the line, making it a ten-point game at the turnaround.
With the strong wind at their backs, the game was still there for the taking for Accies at the start of the second half, but they seemed to run out of ideas against Hawks’ resolute defence, and when replacement loose-head Lyall Archer hit a ferocious line in the outside centre channel and then sent Max Priestly scurrying home – with Brims adding the tricky conversion – the hosts were left with a mountain to climb.
Accies continued to huff, and continued to buff, but Hawks’ defensive wall was built with bricks and high-quality cement, and it was going to take a bit more ballast than the Raeburn Place could muster to blow that sturdy barricade down.
“For the first 25-30 minutes, we did really well, but then they get up the other end and score 10 points and that was a bit deflating,” reflected Berthinussen. “I think in the second half we expected the wind to do it for us, instead of going out and doing it ourselves, and that’s the story of our season, if I am being brutally honest.
“But we’ve still got Currie Chieftains and Marr so we can still be in this league if we are willing to work hard enough to do it,” he concluded. “We have shown we can compete against any team in this league, but beating them is a different matter, but I will never fault their effort, and sometimes when you are in a scrap it isn’t about experience, or game understanding or anything else – it is about who wants it most.”
Edinburgh Accies: B Appleson; M Cairnes, R Campbell, R Mill, C Ramm; W Stephen, M Love; C Imrie, C Black, C Lacour, R McConnell, C Bain, A Inwood, J Sole, J Bruce. Subs: S Crombie, D Anderson, D Dinnen, M Sinclair, R Wilson.
Glasgow Hawks: L Brims; K Gossman, M Stewart, C Harrison, M Priestly; J Strain, P Boyer; G Strain, P Cairncross, E Rintoul, S Halafihi, A Kirkland, S Leckey, F Christie, R Sweeney. Subs: P Henderson, L Archer, C Holborn, M Godsman, Y Alagilly.
Referee: Jonny Perriam
Edinburgh Accies: No scorers.
Glasgow Hawks: Try: Sweeney, Priestly; Con: Brims 2; Pen: Brims.
Scoring sequence (Edinburgh Accies first): 0-3; 0-8; 0-10 (h-t) 0-15; 0-17.
Man-of-the-Match: Liam Brims seems to be revelling in his switch of role to full-back, creating a point of difference for Hawks in the wider channels, and the visiting back-row of Stephen Leckey, Fraser Christie and particularly Ryan Sweeney had huge games, but replacement loose-head prop Lyall Archer made a big impact in the scrum and the loose, with his bullocking run in the lead-up to Priestly’s try the icing on the cake,
Talking point: Whoever decreed that league rugby is better without relegation needed to get along to Raeburn for this match. Two teams who have not had their troubles to seek this season put it all on the line, and whatever the game lacked in quality was compensated for in tension and guts. Relegation creates pressure, and pressure creates good rugby players.