Glasgow Hawks 35
Aberdeen Grammar 19
DAVID BARNES @ Balgray
RUMOURS of Glasgow Hawks’ demise appear to have been greatly exaggerated. Not only did they pick up their first win of the season here, they did so with a four-try bonus point and a definite hint of swagger by the end. Last week at Philiphaugh was a chastening experience but head coach Andy Hill had insisted after that game that the situation was salvageable, and his faith was rewarded by this performance which was both spirited and disciplined.
“That’s what the boys have been needing and that’s what they deserved,” he said. “It was about getting the guys to a point where they understand that they can win in this league, that they’ve not been asked along here just to make up the numbers.
“Looking at stats in previous years, the difference between winning and losing in this league has always been about the number of entries into the 22, and we actually had that last week but didn’t make it count. So, that was maybe down to us as a coaching team having neglected that part of the game, but we had two really good training sessions this week and were able to transfer that work onto pitch.”
This was a tough one to take for Aberdeen after a positive start to their Premiership campaign when they beat Edinburgh Accies at Rubislaw last week. They started brightly enough here but struggled to impose themselves on the game after losing loose-head Callum Reddish, second-row Robin Cessford and No 8 Greg Ryan before the break.
“Early changes always disrupt a team, but we’ve got enough faith in the players coming in behind to do a better job than they did today,” reflected head coach Ali O’Connor, who was obviously keen to avoid making excuses for his team’s failings. “We’ve got to be able to adapt and carry on playing our game, but the whole second half performance just wasn’t quite there.
“Credit to Hawks, they stepped it up and took their chances, but we’re bitterly disappointed with our lack of composure. Our error count and our penalty count were both through the roof.
“Last week was a positive step, this week was probably a couple of steps backwards, but we know we’re better than that, so we just need to regroup and come back stronger next Saturday.”
Hawks were reduced to 14 men when Gary Strain picked up a yellow card for a lassoing Nat Coe by the collar as the visitors surged for the line – with the felony compounded by the fact that the Aberdeen centre hadn’t even collected Ryan’s offload yet – and several minutes later Aberdeen made the numerical advantage count when Sam Knudson ran back a loose kick from Liam Brims. Chris Jollands, Ryan and Cessford all got in on the act, before Nathan Brown finished off the sweeping move in the corner.
With Strain back in action, Hawks had a ten minute spell encamped on the Aberdeen line, and when their pick-and-go driving game was repelled by a brick wall of Aberdeen resistance, they switched tact and got their reward when some slick handling sent Matthew Stewart over in the corner.
Having done so well to get themselves back on a level footing, Hawks then shot themselves in the foot when Lyall Archer was intercepted as the hosts tried to attack straight from the restart. Aberdeen ruthlessly capitalised to send Brown over for try number two.
It is to their credit that Hawks recovered almost instantly from that self-inflicted wound, squeezing Aberdeen again with their powerful line-out drive, before moving the ball in-field for Stewart to step his man and nip home just to the right of the posts, making it 12-12 at the break.
Premiership match reports:
Aberdeen conceded a penalty at a ruck in front of the posts within seconds of the resumption and Brims made no mistake with a straight-forward three points, but once again Hawks failed to press home their advantage and ended up falling behind again when they tried to attack from deep off turnover ball. Stewart’s loose pass landed at Brown’s feet, and the 19-year-old winger – who played soccer for Scotland at age-grade level and was offered a full-time contract at St Johnstone before opting to study law at Aberdeen University instead – had no problem dribbling the ball over the line for his hat-trick score.
But Hawks now had the bit between their teeth, and they once again bounced right back, with that well-controlled line-out drive providing the platform for hooker Paul Cairncross to power in for their third try, which was converted by Brims to edge the hosts into a 22-19 lead.
With Aberdeen falling mould of the ref at scrum time, Brims then pulled one penalty to the left of the posts, but nailed a second one a few minute later from almost exactly the same spot to open up some daylight.
The stand-off then added an offside penalty to stretch his team’s lead out to nine points, and after a brief Aberdeen rally – which involved a fair amount of possession but not much penetration or territory – Hawks regained control to finish with a flourish when Callum Harrison scooted in for the bonus-point score in the last play of the game.
Glasgow Hawks: C Harrison; C McCarron, M Stewart, D Milne, M Godsman; L Brims, K Kay; L Archer, P Cairncross, G Strain, S Halafihi, A Kirkland, P Henderson, S Dow, R Sweeney. Subs: G Armstrong , E Rintoul, N Moffat, S Grieg, M Priestly.
Aberdeen Grammar: S Mills; N Brown, N Coe, T Aplin, D Russell; S Knudson©, T Morrison; C Reddish, J Spence, M Schosser, J Robertson, R Cessford, C Jollands, W Alton, G Ryan. Subs: R Anderson, M Anderson, C Robertson, P Ritchie, B Perrot.
Referee: Jonny Perriam
Glasgow Hawks: Try: Stewart 2, Craincross, Harrison; Con: Brims 3; Pen: Brims 3.
Aberdeen Grammar: Try: Brown 3; Con: Aplin 2.
Scoring sequence (Hawks first): 0-5; 5-5; 5-10; 5-12; 10-12; 12-12 (h-t) 15-12; 15-17; 15-19; 20-19; 22-19; 25-19; 28-19; 33-19; 35-19.
Yellow cards –
Glasgow Hawks: Strain
Man-of-the-Match: This was about attitude and intent for Hawks, and New Zealander Sione Halafihi‘s ferocity in the collisions gave his team-mates a lead to follow. He’s under-sized as a second-row but punches well above his weight.
Talking point: A morale boosting win for Hawks but a tough trip to Riverside awaits next week. It will be Jed’s third consecutive home match and having lost the previous two they will be desperate for a win, so Andy Hill’s side can expect fire and fury. Grammar also face a bus trip to the Borders and will be desperate to prove at Philiphaugh that they can win on the road.