Glasgow Hawks 36
STEPHEN BRUNSDON @ Braidholm
GLASGOW HAWKS bounced back from defeat last weekend in fine fashion with a bonus-point victory against city rivals GHA, keeping their hopes of breaking into the Tennent’s Premiership top four firmly alive.
For Hawks, it was a much-altered side from the one which narrowly fell to Currie last weekend, with head coach Andy Hill opting for four personnel and one positional change for the Glasgow derby. Five tries, three in the first half and two in the second, made sure of the win which proved to Hill that Hawks are now able to kick on into November.
“As much as we never like losing, the match against Currie showed how far we have come as a group, that maybe we could be up there with the top teams,” Hill said. “The first quarter probably showed that we weren’t quite there, but the rest of the time we were a step above.
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“This was always going to be a big game for us, we gave ourselves a hard time in the first half, a lot of the tries came from errors but we stuck in and got through in the end.”
The Glasgow derbies have historically been tightly-fought affairs, with just six points splitting the two sides – in GHA’s favour – across the pair of matches played in the abandoned 2019-20 season. With both teams eager to bounce back from defeats last weekend and inter-city pride at stake, neither coach had to try especially hard to motivate their players ahead of this crucial encounter.
Unsurprisingly, the tempo was high early on, with the hosts laying down a marker with a try inside the opening four minutes. They’d been close earlier as Sean Carden hacked on a loose Hawks ball in midfield, taking GHA to within yards of the line before being pinged for holding on too long.
Fly-half Ciaran Armstrong got the home side to within five metres soon after with a penalty line-out maul allowing hooker Erik Cavan to burrow over for the score, which went unconverted by scrum-half George Baird.
GHA had a second just minutes later as Hawks endeavoured to spring their attack into action, but a loose ball from out-half Liam Brims went to deck, giving GHA a scrum set-piece from which winger Nigel Kelly chipped into space. Hawks full back Yousif Ala-gilly failed to gather the ball, which sat up perfectly for Luke McCutcheon to slide over.
Stunned into action at 12-0 down following Baird’s successful conversion, Hawks started their fightback through the first of Lewis McNamara’s tries, with Brims adding the extras.
Having conceded a try in slightly calamitous fashion early doors, Hawks benefited from an equally clumsy period of play for GHA to score their second, through Finlay Burgess. A misfiring set-piece from GHA coughed up possession inside the Hawks half, with Burgess hacking on. Tracking back, Max Macfarlane slipped while trying to gather the ball, leaving Burgess a clear run-in under the posts, with Brims’ conversion taking Hawks into the lead.
From then on, it was a case of GHA trying to hold on as Hawks finally got into their rhythm approaching the break. The hosts lost full-back Grant Mollison through injury and then conceded a third try before half-time as Hawks debutant Harry Hughes stormed over after neat interplay from the visiting pack.
“We were off accuracy-wise, which cost us a few scores, and better teams might not have given us that chance to get back into the match,” Hill said of his team’s first-half showing. “We had the resilience, and we started the second half much better than we did the first.”
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Proof of that came with the bonus-point try, secured just eight minutes into the second period, through McNamara once more. GHA had already fallen foul of the referee twice prior and looked to sack the driving line-out maul as Hawks thundered towards the line. McNamara peeled off the maul and bundled over, with Brims again slotting the conversion.
The rain, which had threatened much of the day, finally appeared midway through the half but this didn’t seem to affect GHA’s style of play as Trevor Carmichael’s side looked to strike back.
They managed to do so through a penalty which yielded vital territorial gains and subsequently their third try through Lyall Archer. It was a score which, Carmichael admitted after the match, he felt signalled GHA’s second wind before ultimately falling short.
“I thought that was exactly what we needed at that point in the game, and it gave us a bit more confidence,” he said. “Good set-piece, try and a good exit afterwards, but we just fell off the pace after that, and made too many errors.”
Hawks, by contrast, didn’t allow this GHA riposte to fluster them and they hit back with their fifth score, courtesy of Fraser Gosse, who breezed in under the posts after winger Ronan Joy did all the hard work with a sumptuous midfield break.
Brims added the conversion and a further penalty to balloon the score to 36-19, with Hawks reverting to a more kicking focused game to close out the match.
For Hill, it was a job well done. “There’s been a couple of time this season where we’ve gone behind early and fought back,” he said. “Against Jed, we did it twice and got the win, in the past we might not have taken those chances. So we’re really happy with the performance, especially getting the bonus point which we really needed.”
HCarmichael now has to rejuvenate his side ahead of a must-win match next weekend up north against Aberdeen. “These are big matches now, the next three are really important and we need to win them,” the GHA coach added. “The mistakes that we made today were silly, cheap and they’re not the sort of errors you can coach out of a side, we just need to be better in these crucial moments of the match.”
GHA: G Mollison; N Kelly, C Lonergan, M MacFarlane, S Carden; C Armstrong, G Baird; T Brogan, E Cavan, M Fox, J Bruce, J McCarthy©, W Alton, W Graham, L McCutcheon. Subs: E Cavan, L Archer, J McEntegart, J MacKinnon, A Stirrat.
Glasgow Hawks: Y Ala-gilly; H Hughes, M Stewart, F Gosse, R Joy; L Brims©, F Burgess; M Downer, I Totic, G Strain, A Syme, J McLean, L Stewart, T Brown, L McNamara. Subs: P Cairncross, M Ogunlaja, R Chisholm, M Donaldson, J Pinkerton.
Referee: F Brown
GHA: Tries: Cavan, McCutcheon, Archer. Cons: Baird 2.
Glasgow Hawks: Tries: McNamara 2, Burgess, Hughes, Gosse. Cons: Brims 4. Pen: Brims.
Scoring Sequence (GHA first): 5-0; 10-0; 12-0; 12-5; 12-7; 12-12; 12-14; 12-17; 12-19 (h-t) 19-24; 19-26; 19-31; 19-33; 19-36.
Man-of-the-Match: Two tries in the match might suggest this is an obvious choice, but Lewis McNamara’s work rate around the fringes in both attack and defence was far more important in securing Hawks’ fourth win of the campaign. He played the whole 80 minutes and looked a mountain in defence, as well as a downright nuisance when Hawks had the ball in hand.
Talking point: Realistically, if Hawks are to maintain hopes of finishing this season in the top four or better, they needed to win, and win well at GHA. So, this was a job well done, despite a scare in the opening quarter of an hour. Hawks have the momentum back after two defeats on the bounce. But a win is meaningless without it being backed up, which Hawks will need to do when they receive Selkirk at Balgray next weekend.