Glasgow Hawks 14
IAIN HAY @ Balgray
IT was the best of scrums, it was the worst of scrums. In this tense tale of two halves, the introduction of Luke Pettie off the bench turned the tide for Selkirk, who came from behind to eke out a victory over their hosts.
For all the world, it didn’t seem like they would after the first half hour. Two early penalties from Liam Brims, both awarded after Selkirk were adjudged to have pulled down scrums, gave Hawks an early 6-0 lead.
Brims and half-back partner Paddy Boyer were intent on not giving away any territory, and the tactic of booting the ball into the corners did pay dividends when visiting winger Jacob Henry’s fingertips rolled the ball forwards as he slid to collect.
Hawks’ scrum dominated to give the home team clean ball to work with, and although a backs move didn’t quite pay off – Brims being snaffled when trying to exploit a half-gap – the home retained possession and auxiliary second-row for the week, Lyall Archer, crashed over from close range, abetted by a shove from boiler-room buddy Andy Kirkland.
The dominant Hawks thought they had scored again, this time in the left-hand corner, when Max Priestly finished off, but Ryan Sweeney’s second to last scoring pass was adjudged to have gone forward.
With over 35 minutes played, Selkirk hadn’t been in Hawks territory for any period of note, but when Brims was pinged for offside around the halfway mark, the visitors took advantage, picking to the 22 and squeezing a penalty out of Archer. Selkirk went back to touch and eventually game-changer Pettie breached the last line of defence to make it 11-7 going into half-time.
Whatever it was about playing westwards (there was only a mild breeze on a typically dreich autumnal day) that had seen Hawks dominate territory and possession, the fever also took a hold of Selkirk in the second 40.
When Matthew Stewart was penalised for not rolling away, Selkirk stand-off Aaron McColm put Hawks into the same corner that Archer’s try had come from.
Gary Strain took a yellow card for pulling down the maul, and with the man advantage Ross Nixon looked for all the world like he would score, but he was stopped just short of the line, and somehow Boyer came up with the ball in his own in-goal area.
He used his acceleration to find himself some space and cleared to touch, but rolled his left ankle in the process, meaning he was unable to play any further part. It was a blow because Hawks could have done with his experience.
From the resulting line-out, an overthrow created an unlikely opportunity for Selkirk’s Donald Nichol, who kicked ahead with unerring accuracy towards the sticks, but as he and Nixon both went to dive on the ball just shy of the try-line, it was knocked on.
Hawks cleared their lines through the boot of Brims, but all the action was centred around their final third of the pitch.
The relenting pressure eventually told, and a penalty awarded against Erland Oag for coming in at the side of a ruck offered McColm a straightforward kick at goal, which reduced the Hawks’ lead to a single point.
A scuffed clearing kick from the restart by Luca Merrole gave Hawks a platform to work on, and their first venture into Selkirk’s half for nearly half an hour paid an almost instant dividend when Brims knocked over his third penalty of the afternoon following some hands in the ruck.
But Selkirk came at them again. Oag made a hash of dealing with McColm’s low-trajectory restart, then both Brims and captain Stephen Leckey went down injured whilst defending. Leckey was removed to get checked over, but once satisfied he hadn’t suffered any ill-effects of his head knock, he wasn’t allowed to re-enter the field of play as there are no return to play protocols at Premiership level, so it was viewed as a straight replacement.
Missing their hard-hitting captain, Hawks succumbed once again. Their scrum was marched backwards, a penalty was awarded, Selkirk went quickly through Merrole, and Nichol dived over with only two and a half minutes remaining.
A long-range penalty effort from full-back Henry Bithray dropped just short as Selkirk looked to take their lead out of site, meaning Hawks would have one last bite at the cherry.
Selkirk captain Ewan MacDougall, who had worked tirelessly throughout, was penalised for not rolling away, but with an eminently kickable three-points on offer to tie the match, the on-field decision was to go for broke and kick to touch.
That decision may come back to haunt the Balgray men, however, as referee Lee Fish blew the whistle for crossing, and then signalled the match was over.
“It felt like we got a bit of a lead, bit of a hold in the game and enough to win, and then we dropped in the level we were playing,” said Hawks head coach Andy Hill. “We had opportunities, there’s a penalty in front of the posts in the first half and we kick that we’re two scores up. Then that kick at the end could be a penalty to get the draw. It’s fine margins, but we didn’t come out on the right side of it.”
Glasgow Hawks: Y Alagilly; K Gossman, E Oag, M Stewart, M Priestly; L Brims, P Boyer; G Strain, A Cooper, E Rintoul, A Kirkland, L Archer, S Leckey, F Christie, R Sweeney. Subs: T McTeir, P Henderson, C Harrison, G Armstrong, C Harrison, N Moffat
Selkirk: H Bithray; J Henry, J Welsh, L Berte, R Cottrell; A McColm, L Merolle; S Rankin, J Bett, B Riddell; P Forrest, D Nichol; J MacKay, S McClymont, E MacDougall. Subs: A MacKay, L Pettie, J Huston, R Nixon, F Anderson
Referee: L Fish
Hawks: Tries: Archer; Pens: Brims 3.
Selkirk: Tries: Pettie, Nichol; Cons: McColm 2; Pens: McColm.
Scoring sequence (Hawks first): 3-0; 6-0; 11-0; 11-5; 11-7 (h-t) 11-10; 14-10; 14-17.
Yellow Cards –
Man-of-the-Match: Strong showings from both back-rows, but the match winner Donald Nichol gets the nod. In the first half he put in a lot of good tackles, and was on hand to seal the deal.
Talking Point: Although we usually complain about the lack of offside calls in many games, both coaches mentioned that they thought some of the refereeing was a bit pernickety. One of the touch judges wasn’t miked-up either, which made communication between officials difficult.