Glasgow Hawks 43
IAIN MORRISON @ Balgray
WITH both teams having the exact same record going into this game – won 2, lost 1 – it was a contest that looked like it could go either way on paper. On the green grass of Balgray, however, Hawks had other ideas. The four-try bonus point was bagged before half-time, and the game was effectively over at the break with the home team 31-0 to the good thanks to those four tries and a rogue penalty.
The scoreboard kept ticking over in the second 40, albeit a little more slowly, with the try count finishing six-three in favour of the home side, so Musselburgh actually edged the second half, which says something about their resilience.
It had seemed a very different game in the opening exchanges when Musselburgh, despite missing a slew of key players, played keep-ball and ran through the phases without ever overextending the Hawks defence. The visitors probably enjoyed their fair share of territory and possession throughout this match but struggled in converting possession into points.
Neither side committed numbers to the breakdown so Hawks’ jackals filled their boots with turnovers going to Lewis McNamara and Liam Brims, and even winger Ronan Joy had a successful bite. Every time it happened Musselburgh found themselves 50 yards further back from where they started so could be forgiven if their enthusiasm for the fray was waning.
The visitors started brightly enough but faded quickly and their heads dropped somewhere around the middle of the first half when the writing was clearly visible on the wall. Their first points of the match didn’t arrive until the 51st minute of the match and, while they won’t be panicking with plenty of fresh talent to call upon, this game surely put paid to any pretence of a shot at the title.
Hawks had the nudge in the set scrum, deservedly so, and at the sidelines where Andrew Syme and Jack McLean proved a reliable source of ball despite giving up inches to the visitors who rarely, if ever, challenged the Hawks’ throw.
In contrast to their guests’ poor conversion rate, Hawks scored just about every time they set foot inside the Musselburgh red zone, at least in the first half, with the tries split between forwards and backs. Prop Ali Rogers opened the scoring from close range after good approach work from fellow-forwards Lewis Stewart and McLean, the two outstanding forwards on the field. The match was 13 minutes old.
Brims added a penalty but when Hawks won another penalty in the shadow of the Musselburgh posts the home team opted for a set scrum and scrummy Finlay Burgess slipped over for Hawks’ second try.
With Musselburgh already reeling, worse was in store as the visitors lost for 10 minutes full-back Rory Hindhaugh who was carded for lifting Brims upside down in the tackle (although he put him down gently!). They then lost a third try when breakaway Stewart barrelled over from short range after Brims ran back a poor goal-line drop-out.
Hindhaugh was back in harness by the time Joy finished off the best move of the match immediately before half time. Coming straight from the kick off, the ball was whipped to the left where a miss-pass found inside centre Fraser Gosse lurking in the 13 channel. He made good ground before sending Joy hurtling towards the try line with Brims converting all four scores to give Hawks that 31-0 lead at the break.
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More tries followed after the break with Brims and McLean touching down for Hawks, while Musselburgh winger Sandy Watt opened the visitors’ account after finding space on the right wing. A little later, Hawks dropped a Musselburgh maul marching towards their try line and the visitors were awarded a penalty try for their second score.
This time Hawks’ lock Syme was shown yellow, although the visitors were unable to capitalise on the numerical advantage. But once Hawks were restored to fifteen, visiting winger Gregor Tait took advantage of turnover ball to score Musselburgh’s third try in the top left corner of the field inside the final ten minutes, lending the final score a smidgeon of respectability in the process.
“We played some good stuff in the second half,” said a frustrated Musselburgh coach Greame Paterson. “But by then we were just chasing a four-try bonus. We lost the game in the first half when we had enough possession but the turnovers killed any momentum.”
A cheerier looking Andy Hill conceded that it was just one of those days when things clicked into place for Hawks but he insisted that he had always suspected that this side had just such a performance in them. “It was almost inevitable that the quality would drop off (in the second half),” he said.
“They had a few key players missing, we knew that and thought it might make a difference but we maybe didn’t expect that much difference! It was just one of those days.”
Glasgow Hawks: L Brims (captain); K Gossman, T Glendenning, F Gosse, R Joy; J Strain, F Burgess; A Rogers, I Carmichael, G Strain, A Syme, J McLean, L Stewart, T Brown, L McNamara. Substitutes: E Rintoul, M Ogunlaja, S Greig, J Pinkerton, J Thompson.
Musselburgh: R Hindhaugh; S Watt, J Ferguson, R Watt (captain), G Tait; P Cunningham, L Kotze; P Brown, A Forbes, C Arthur, W Fleming, J Haynes, R Stott, J Crain, J Lister. Substitutes: D Hodge, D Slaven, M Outram, A Reddick, T Foley.
Referee: Ross Mabon.
Hawks: Tries: Rogers, Burgess, Stewart, Joy, Brims, McLean. Cons: Brims 5. Pen: Brims.
Musselburgh: Tries: Watt, penalty try, Tait. Cons: Cunningham.
Scoring sequence (Hawks first): 5-0, 7-0, 10-0, 15-0, 17-0, 22-0, 24-0, 29-0, 31-0 half-time, 36-0, 36-5, 41-7, 43-7, 43-14, 43-19.
Yellow cards –
Glasgow Hawks: Syme
Man of the match: Any number of Hawks players put their hands up for this award but it came down to two forwards. Flanker Lewis Stewart enjoyed a blinder, with a huge tackle count, a turnover and a try but even he was just shaded by lock Jack McLean, who brings a bit of X-factor to the tight five! He sparked Hawks’ best try, their fourth, by running back the kick-off.
Moment of the match: Musselburgh full-back Rory Hindhaugh saw yellow just before the break for upending Hawks’ Liam Brims but was a card really necessary? He put Brims down gently, no damage was done and playing with 14 men appeared to finish off Musselburgh’s already fading resistance.