Glasgow Hawks 12
Currie Chieftains 38
DAVID MACADAM @ Balgray
AFTER losing to Marr in Troon seven days ago, Currie Chieftains were facing the prospect of another defeat on the road when they went in at half-time 10-12 behind to Glasgow Hawks. Instead, they showed great determination to score four second-half tries without reply, and secure a bonus-point win which preserves their advantage at the top of the Premiership.
“The first half was a real good contest and we kept ourselves in it at times,” said Currie coach Mark Cairns after the game. ‘‘I was very happy with the response at half-time, because to have lost two in a row, having gone 19 unbeaten last year, would have been a new experience. So I’m really pleased with how the guys handled the pressure of the situation at half-time. We were really clinical in the second half.”
Hawks were without their young breakthrough star Andy McLean for this game, as he was called up to the Boroughmuir Bears Super6 squad, and they missed his dynamism from full-back as well as his goal-kicking. Yet in one sense Hawks – a super-club before Super6 was invented – are used to this situation, having seen several players move on since the equivalent fixture last season to the semi-professional level.
They have a real knack of attracting ambitious young players, and have another crop of them gathered from clubs across the West of Scotland this season, being built on the solid core of experience that Gary Strain, Stephen Leckey and Brendan McGroarty provide.
In contrast, although the Chieftains have lost three youngsters from last season to Super6, they have added significant experience in players returning to the club game from the franchised teams with eight of their starting team having tasted game time at the higher level.
With the pitch heavier underfoot after significant rain this felt like the first real autumnal game of the season and there was a bit of kick tennis at the start of the game as both teams felt their way into the playing conditions. It took 15 minutes for the first score to arrive, and when it did it was Currie’s experienced midfield that made it happen, with quickly recycled ball from Paddy Boyer allowing James Forbes to put Greg Cannie through a gap in the stretched home defence.
Hawks responded well, with a mazy run from the impressive Ryan Flett and some solid tackling from McGroarty and Tiann Wright the stand-out moments. It was a typical pin-ball run by the Hawks inside centre, bouncing off three or four would-be tacklers, that led to the home team’s first try, when veteran Strain burrowed under from two yards out to score. Matthew Stewart converted to draw the teams level after 27 minutes.
When Currie’s aggressive captain Rhys Davies found his match in Daniel Sweeney, both players received yellow cards, much to the disappointment of the home crowd. Hawks took advantage of the extra space on the field moments later when Sam Graham ran from his own line, dummying twice before the half-way line, then offloading to Strain and Wright before McGroarty finished off an end-to-end contender for try of the season. Moments later Forbes kicked a penalty to bring the visitors back within two points at the interval.
“We put ourselves in a good position in the first half and the message at half-time was discipline, because we had lost the penalty count eight to one,” Hawks coach Hill explained. “But we just didn’t tighten up, and lost out massively on penalties in the second half. And when you do that it’s hard to win any game.”
Currie’s first try of the second half came on 50 minutes from Kody McGovern after Forbes had spread play quickly from a scrum on halfway. The small winger used his speed to accelerate away from the defence and round the last tackler to put Currie ahead and they never looked back after that.
A few minutes later Matthew Stewart saw yellow for Hawks for a late tackle on DJ Innes, and when Forbes kicked the resultant penalty to the corner, Currie won the line-out, and Innes himself took the pass to score under the posts. Five minutes later, half-time substitute Charlie Brett injected pace into a midfield move that stretched the Hawks defence, and Ewan Stewart powered over for the bonus-point try.
Forbes’ conversion, maintaining his 100 percent strike rate, put Currie 31-12 up after a scoring burst of 21 points in just 15 minutes.
There was only one more piece of scoring action, when Innes intercepted in the final minute to run in under the posts and complete an impressive second half for the away team.
Glasgow Hawks: M Stewart; S Graham, J Pinkerton, B McGroarty, R Flett (E Muirhead 55); G Cruikshank, E Davey (S Greig 75); G Strain, I Totic, M Ogunlaja (A Al-agilly, 40), M Crumlish, S Leckey, T Wright, D Sweeney (T McTier 75) , Oscar Baird (L Stewart 48).
Currie Chieftains: A Hall (C Brett 40); J McCaig (C Meagher 60), G Cannie, D J Innes, K McGovern; J Forbes, P Boyer; C Anderson (E McCallum 40), R Stewart, C Ramsey; W Inglis, E Stewart, A McCallum (A MacLean 13, J Halliday 55), G Nelson, R Davies.
Referee: Ross Mabon.
Hawks: Tries: Strain, McGroarty; Con: M Stewart.
Currie Chieftains: Tries: Cannie, McGovern, Innes, E Stewart; Cons: Forbes 5; Pen: Forbes.
Scoring sequence (Hawks first): 0-5; 0-7; 5-7; 7-7; 12-7; 12-10 (h-t) 12-15; 12-17; 12-22; 12-24; 12-29; 12- 31; 12-36; 12-38.
Yellow cards –
Hawks: Sweeney, M Stewart.
Currie Chieftains: Davies.
Man-of-the-Match: Hawks had a number of good performers on the day with veteran Gary Strain showing up well, with a try, an assist, and leading a pack which put Currie’s scrum under pressure at times, while hard-working flanker Tiann Wright always seems to be on the shoulder of the ball-carrier to take a pass. But in the end Currie’s pressure told in the second half, as they took the game away from the hosts, and stand-off Jamie Forbes gets the award for consistently putting his team in the right areas of the pitch and then picking the right options to create tries.
Talking point: With the Hawks’ 2nd XV game called off due to a water-logged pitch, most of that young squad turned up to support their team mates. There is clearly a good spirit around Balgray these days, and with a host of impressive youngsters waiting their chance in the first team they will surely bounce back from this defeat