Glasgow Hawks 13
Currie Chieftains 14
IAIN HAY @ Balgray
NARROW home defeats were a feature for Glasgow Hawks during the curtailed 2019-20 Tennent’s Premiership campaign, and another one was to befall them this afternoon as Currie saw out the remaining few minutes for their fourth win on the bounce.
On an afternoon that began dreich and ended manky, the ball kissed the rain-soaked sky on a number of occasions which was all part of the home side’s plan.
“We reviewed the first five games of the season, and we’ve kicked less than any opposition we’ve played so far this season – not once had we kicked more often, and people often say that kicking wins the game these days, even though we’re the kind of team who wants to play an expansive brand of rugby,” said Hawks’ head coach Andy Hill.
This weekend’s other Premiership match reports:
Hawks’ stand-off Liam Brims and his opposite number, former Hawk Gregor Hunter, were the main players throughout, their boots proving the best way to gain territory with an element of waiting for your opponent to make a mistake thrown in.
First blood went to Brims with a penalty, but Currie took the lead when Adam Hall broke in midfield – one of the few clean line breaks throughout the match – and Currie were subsequently awarded a penalty when Hawks were caught offside as they scrambled back.
Hunter kicked to the corner and although the line-out wasn’t taken cleanly, Rhys Davies gathered the loose ball and managed to power his way over the line.
Another excellent Hunter kick which put Hawks in coffin corner nearly saw Davies’ second-row partner Hamish Ferguson getting on the scoresheet when Hawks spilled their own throw, but they held out and eventually won a penalty for DJ Innes doing his impression of a caterpillar five metres short of the line after a solid tackle on him by Brims.
Despite losing captain Stephen Leckey midway through the first half (more about that in the Talking Point at the end of the article), the home side took a one-point advantage going in at half-time through another Brims penalty with the last kick of the half. Hawks had just edged that first 40 thanks to Brims’ arsenal of kicks, utilising contestable bombs, deep kicks for territory, and dinks and cross-kicks for his team-mates to latch on to. There was also a nicely delayed flat-pass for Lewis McNamara to run on to, but the big No 8 couldn’t decide which supporting player to pass to and the move petered out as Currie swarmed back.
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In the opening exchanges of the second half, both sides managed to win scrum penalties only to then not use them to their full advantage. Firstly, Currie’s Hunter missed touch as he went for a line-out deep in the 22, and then Brims pulled an effort wide as he sought to extend the Hawks lead.
With defences and a heavy pitch making sure space was at a premium, it was going to come down to who got the upper hand in contact, and during the third quarter Currie managed to get on top and get the points on the board which would see them through.
Earlier try-scorer Davies worked in tandem with Wallace Nelson to win a turnover penalty for not releasing against Gary Strain, which Hunter slotted to put Currie in the lead, and another two efforts from his boot extended the lead beyond a converted score.
With under 10 minutes remaining Hawks won a scrum penalty against the head, Brims went to the corner and Currie captain Fergus Scott, tireless as usual, was then maybe a touch fortunate not to see yellow for a high tackle – the fourth in total by Currie during the game – five metres short of the line. But the ever-vigilant Brims tapped quickly and went himself to dive over for a converted score and make it a one-point game again.
A knock-on by the otherwise impressive Jack McLean just inside the Currie half was Hawks’ final realistic shot at glory, as Hunter did what was necessary to keep the ball away from Currie’s line.
After a second consecutive narrow defeat in testing conditions, Hawks’ head coach Hill seemed satisfied enough with his side’s effort. “It’s a loss, and we’re never happy with a loss, but Currie will be a top-four team, they’re a quality side, and we were only one point off that. Guys will get knowing each other better, knowing the systems and that’ll make a huge difference.”
Opposite number Mark Cairns noted his counterpart’s tactics and was full of praise for the Hawks after holding on for victory: “I thought Hawks executed their gameplan really well against us. They managed to make the match stop-start because they used the kick really well.
“We didn’t deal with that very well. We gave them opportunities to kick by not putting enough pressure on them when we gave them possession, and we didn’t help ourselves with our ill-discipline, so the game ended up quite fragmented but we found a way to win. I have to give a lot of credit to Hawks, they caused a lot of our problems, it wasn’t all our own doing.”
Glasgow Hawks: J Thompson; T Glendinning, B McGroarty, M Stewart, R Joy; L Brims, F Burgess; M Downer, I Totic, G Strain, S Leckey, J McLean, L Stewart, T Brown, L McNamara. Replacements: T McTeir, M Ogunlaja, S Hastings, M Donaldson, Y Alagilly.
Currie: C Brett; C Meagher, A Hall, DJ Innes, J McCaig; G Hunter, C Lessels; AP McWilliam, G Carson, G Scougall, R Davies, H Ferguson, G Nelson, F Scott, W Nelson.
Replacements: R Stewart, C Roman, A McLean, C Gray
Referee: David Young.
Glasgow Hawks: Try: Brims. Con: Brims. Pens: Brims 2.
Currie Chieftains: Try: Davies. Pens: Hunter 3.
Scoring sequence (Hawks first): 3-0; 3-5; 6-5 (h-t) 6-8; 6-11; 6-14; 13-14.
Man-of-the-Match: He hit tackles, he annoyed at line-outs, he scored a try and won the turnover which got his team ahead: Currie lock Rhys Davies.
Talking Point: Hawks captain Stephen Leckey’s injury is feared to be a bad one, with early thoughts being that he’s done his medial cruciate ligament. If so, it means his season is over, and despite Hill admitting he will be a “massive loss”, he sees it as an opportunity for those in the 2nd XV to step up.