GLASGOW HAWKS have had to come through three tough away games to make it to the Scottish Cup semi-final stage and they are ready to give it everything they have got in the last four on Saturday against Hawick.
So promises 26-year-old centre James Pinkerton who has been one of the club’s most consistent performers this term and who has a bit of history with the Cup.
In 2018-19 – the last time the Cup was played – he just missed out on the Ayr match-day 23 that defeated Heriot’s 27-25 at Murrayfield in the final to complete the double.
Despite this, Pinkerton played his part in his former club’s Cup run to get to that stage and in the Premiership triumph – and now he is keen for more success with his current club Hawks.
“To get to a Scottish Cup final with Hawks would be great,” the PE teacher who is in his probation year at Johnstone High School said.
“It was good to be part of the Ayr wider squad that went to Murrayfield four years ago and the buzz around the club leading up to that match and then the celebrations afterwards were something else.
“It is not lost on me that if we win on Saturday and Ayr manage to beat Marr in their semi then I could be playing against my old club in the final.
“However, there is a lot that needs to happen before now and then and all of us at Hawks are just focusing on the big match with Hawick.
“Hawick will come into the game as favourites given that they won the league a few weeks ago and have been undefeated all season, but we have built into this Cup run and now we are 80 minutes away from going to Murrayfield we want to throw everything we have got at this opportunity.”
To get to this point Hawks have had to tough out wins on the road against National One sides Gala and Dundee Rugby before getting the better of fellow top-flighters Heriot’s Blues at Goldenacre in the quarter-finals.
“The word I would use to describe the Gala game is nervy,” Pinkerton said about a 26-23 extra-time win at Netherdale in February thanks to Gavin Cruickshanks’ late penalty.
“Gala had a good home support down and I think some of our younger boys got a bit caught up in that to start with. Gala put real pressure on us at times, but we managed to edge through in the end and the feeling was one of relief.
“We started well in the next round against Dundee [a 33-27 win in March], but then we let them back into things with a couple of easy scores and that has probably been the tale of our season.
“However, we found a way to win in the end and I was saying to the boys afterwards that we know we are a good team when we get things right.
“On the whole, we were much happier with the way we then played against Heriot’s [a 23-14 win earlier this month]. The big lads up front deserve a lot of credit for the way they set up the victory for us in that one and we have been building and building in this Cup run.
“We know we’ll need probably our best performance of the season to defeat Hawick, but we feel that when we click we can cause teams problems in attack. We lost to them in February [39-21 in the league], but there were patches in that game where we did create chances and we have to take confidence from that.”
Hawks have a fine Cup pedigree having won it three times in 1998, 2004 and 2007 while they were runners-up in 2000, 2002 and 2014.
This term they finished seventh in the Premiership table and had plenty of ups and downs with consistency not helped by using a Premiership-topping 58 players in 18 games.
For all the chopping and changing that head coach Andy Hill had to do though, there is no doubting that the Hawks squad has quality in it with a number of players being part of the Scotland under-20 squad and some having now moved onto the Super Series.
Experienced players like skipper Stephen Leckey and Gary Strain will look to lead from the front against Hawick in a match moved to Hillhead Jordanhill’s Hughenden ground from Balgray.
Pinkerton – whose rugby journey started at Portobello in Edinburgh and has since seen him play for Ayr, the Ayrshire Bulls and now Hawks – will be important too if they are to cause the visiting defence problems.
“I have loved my time with Hawks so far since I joined during the pandemic,” Pinkerton, a former rugby development officer, said.
“Training this year has moved to Nethercraigs and that has been a positive thing, it has made us feel like we have more of a home now.
“Senior players like Stephen, Gary and Liam Brims – as well as [the recently retired] Brendan McGroarty – try to drive a lot of what we do along with the coaches, but I’ve also been impressed with the way a lot of the younger guys have stepped up this season.
“They have taken real ownership of things while backs coach Thomas Davidson wants us to play with a bit of freedom, so we are all enjoying our rugby and looking forward to the weekend.”