Currie Chieftains 34
Glasgow Hawks 17
IAIN MORRISON @ Malleny Park
IT’S a new year but the same old Currie Chieftains. The Malleny mob have a habit of starting slowly and they did exactly that here against an inexperienced Hawks side before flexing their muscles and running out slightly uncomfortable winners by four tries to two with the bonus point try only arriving with the last move of the match.
“I always thought we could score if we just held onto the ball,” said Currie head coach Mark Cairns. “Scoring isn’t our problem, we have a lot of good attackers out there, it’s the other side of our game that we need to tighten up, especially since we are traveling to Hawick next weekend.
“When they beat us here (at Malleny) earlier in the season we gave them too many entries into our 22 with penalties. We know what we need to do next weekend, stop Hawick from scoring points because I know we will score a few.”
If everyone has had an enforced rest over the last five odd weeks, Currie’s classy playmaker Gregor Hunter has been out for longer than most with an injury. His return to action yesterday was typically understated but very welcome to Chieftains as we get to the sharp end of the season. Hunter invariably takes the right option and he also added an invaluable 14 points off the tee with a 100 percent success rate.
If you wanted to be critical, Currie perhaps played a little too much rugby, running the ball from all corners of the field, regardless of whether Hawks’ defence had been stressed out of shape or not. In contrast,. Hawks relied on the huge boot of fly-half Gavin Cruickshanks to lift the siege from time to time.
Hawks’ skipper Stephen Leckey set an industrious example in tackling everything that moved and his young side followed his admirable example as best they could. His cause was helped by the set scrum where Hawks won three straight arm penalties in the opening half but none after the break.
Despite boasting six teenagers in their starting XV (and another couple on the bench) the visitors bossed the opening exchanges, and they could have scored on two, maybe three, separate occasions in the opening quarter with just a wet ball and some loose passing coming between them and the try line. They looked the better side for long stretches, right up to the point that Currie opened the scoring on perhaps only their second visit to Hawks’ red zone.
Home full-back Charlie Brett set up the score with a chip and chase that Hawks could only scramble into touch. From the ensuing five metre line-out, Currie’s pick-and-drive assault on the line was rebuffed three or four times before the slippery Paddy Boyer found a scrum-half shaped hole right next to the breakdown to score beside the posts.
Hawks’ big men earned a penalty from the restart, which full-back Andy McLean converted to get his side off the mark, but the visitors were soon under pressure again. A ball ripped by lock Ally McCallum was hacked upfield and only heroics by Hawks’ centre James Pinkerton prevented a sure score.
That particular fire was extinguished but Currie had the bit between their teeth now, the home side set up camp inside the Hawks’ 22 and eventually the relentless pressure told when replacement Jamie Drummond snuck over from inches out to give Currie a 14-3 lead at the break.
If the home fans thought the match was won, Hawks had other ideas. The second half opened with a kicking battle that was won comfortably by the visitors, whose forwards raised a head of steam, with Leckey and No 8 Ryan Sweeney to the fore, before prop Mike Downer silenced the Malleny faithful with a try that Cruickshanks converted to narrow the gap to four points five minutes into the second half.
That proved as close as Hawks got. Hunter kicked two penalties in as many minutes, a sign of nervousness in the home ranks perhaps, to ease Currie’s advantage back out to ten points. The visitors did rally once more, stringing together a fluent movement involving backs and forwards that was only halted by a frustrating forward pass, a consequence of replacement Max Crumlish a tad too keen and getting ahead of the ball.
Any hopes of an upset went west when Currie’s livewire winger Kody McGovern skipped past three red-faced defenders to score in the right hand corner and Hunter’s perfect touchline conversion extended Currie’s lead to 27-10, a gap Hawks were never likely to bridge in the final 20 minutes.
It wasn’t for the want of any effort from the visitors, although running rugby was at a premium after the heaven’s opened and handling became a fool’s errand. Hawks looked to have scored following numerous pick and drives by the big men only to lose the ball on/over the try-line, and another ambitious break-out almost worked for the visitors when replacement Callum Harrison was beaten to a kick ahead by Currie’s Gregor Christie, who covered back doggedly.
Eventually the stalemate was broken when Hawks’ quick-thinking scrum-half Eric Davey tapped a penalty and sprinted 20 yards to score without anyone laying a hand upon him. The conversion by Harrison made it a ten point game with just five minutes left to play, and that time left was just enough for replacement scrummy Christie to pop over for Currie’s bonus point fourth try with the last play of the game. And Hunter did what Hunter does, flawlessly adding the extras.
“We should have been in front in the first quarter,” said a rueful Hawks coach Andy Hill. “I think we had as many entries [into the opposition red zone] as Currie had but we weren’t coming away with scores while Currie are.
“If we can get those entries right we are suddenly putting pressure on Currie rather than having to play a lot of rugby in our own half. It’s our Achilles heel. We are getting into the opposition 22 but we aren’t converting. We can score tries from 90 metres, we did just that last time we played Currie, but we can’t score from two!”
Currie Chieftains: C Brett; K McGivern, J McCaig, A Hall, R Daley; G Hunter, P Boyer; C Anderson, R Stewart, C Ramsay, A McCallum, E Stewart, J Duncan, G Nelson, R Davies. Subs: J Drummond, R Deans, J Rutherford, G Christie, G Cannie.
Glasgow Hawks: A McLean; S Graham, J Pinkerton, C Ferrie, R Darroch; G Cruickshanks, E Davey; M Downer, P Cairncross, G Strain, S Leckey, R Hart, O Baird, D Sweeney, R Sweeney. Subs: T McTeir, E Cairns, M Crumlish, C Harrison, E Muirhead.
Referee: John Smith.
Currie Chieftains: Tries: Boyer, Drummond, McGovern, Christie; Cons: Hunter 4; Pen: Hunter 2.
Glasgow Hawks: Tries: Downer, Davey; Cons: Cruickshanks, Harrison; Pen: McLean.
Sequence of scoring (Currie Chieftains first): 5-0; 7-0; 7-3; 12-3; 14-3 (h-t) 14-8; 14-10; 17-10; 20-10; 25-10; 27-10; 27-15; 27-17; 32-17; 34-17.
Man-of-the-Match: There are numerous candidates in what was a high quality match played in tricky conditions. Currie’s replacement scrum-half Gregor Christie stopped one Hawks’ score before grabbing the bonus point touchdown himself. His half-back partner Gregor Hunter was near flawless, but Hawks’ outside centre James Pinkerton stepped up on both sides of the ball and but for his defensive excellence you suspect Currie might have run away with this one.
Talking point: Hawks opening try early in the second half incensed the Currie’s coaches as it appeared to include an obvious knock-on although the referee may have adjudged it to be a charge down. Anyway the score stood and kick-started what proved to be a short-lived fightback from the visitors.