Glasgow Hawks 20
STEPHEN BRUNSDON @ Philiphaugh
ANDY HILL’s Glasgow Hawks bounced back from a pair of heavy back-to-back Premiership defeats to claim a morale-boosting on-the-road victory over Selkirk at Philiphaugh.
Although this match had something of a damp squib feel to it – Hawks’ play-off chances had all but been extinguished following last weekend’s derby defeat to GHA while the hosts remained well clear of bottom side Aberdeen – it was an evenly fought affair throughout.
Having successfully braved the remnants of Storm Malik during the pre-match warm-up, Hawks enjoyed a bright start with ball in hand while the hosts struggled to back up the advantage of a howling gale behind them. Indeed, it was a somewhat scrappy opening period, with both sides making a number of handling errors.
Adding to Selkirk’s woes in the first 40 minutes was a frustrating inability to make their attacking chances – of which they had several – pay off. Scrum-half Jack Hamilton nearly bagged himself an interception try in the early stages while his half-back partner Callum Anderson also missed an opportunity after knocking on from close range.
Hawks withstood the attacking onslaught well and grabbed the lead after a quarter of an hour through winger Ronan Joy, off an attack off the back of a scrum featuring Callum Harrison, Lewis McNamara and James Pinkerton. Harrison’s attempted conversion bravely battled the wind but strayed wide of the uprights.
They trailed on the scoreboard, and Selkirk’s domination of territory merited more. Twice they missed touch from a penalty and there was a morale-sapping knock-on by the forwards five yards out. But the home side did get their rewards at the half-hour marker when Anderson slid over following a period of well-worked play.
From a loose pass from Hawks scrum-half Sandy Greig, Selkirk got back onto the front foot through Ross Nixon, and following a series of pick-and-goes, Anderson finished off following a lovely dummy to winger Callum McNeill.
And that was that at the break. 5-5, with Hawks by far the more content heading into the changing rooms.
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For Hawks coach Hill, the psychological advantage of keeping Selkirk level was certainly not lost on his team. “That score in the first half was crucial for us since they had the wind, so keeping them level was a big mental boost for us coming out in the second half,” he said. “I felt that we should have kicked on after the break, but we just didn’t, and it’s always so difficult to do so in these conditions.”
Knowing they would now have the wind behind them, Hawks started the second half in much the same fashion they had in the first. High tempo and accuracy helped them take the lion’s share of the possession but their second score of the game came in bizarre circumstances.
Going nowhere against a solid Selkirk defence, Hawks, through Harrison, kicked past full-back Ryan Cottrell, and the ball had looked like going dead, but calamitous defending from Selkirk’s Nixon and Hamilton allowed Hawks full-back Matthew Stewart to steal the try. Selkirk could at least remain somewhat relieved that Stewart’s conversion attempt from the touchline was pushed wide, leaving the score at 10-5.
Voicing his complaints post-match, head coach Scott Wight was left bemused. “Ross saw the ball going dead and he touched it down with two hands, we saw him,” said the former Scotland 7s captain. “But apparently him using two hands and then jumping out of the way of the other guy is not putting enough downforce force. It’s ridiculous!”
Despite this setback, Selkirk needed to respond, and Wight’s side did just that. Prop forward Luke Pettie barged over for the equalising try after 50 minutes, the result of Selkirk now finally finding their groove and making Hawks pay for increasing indiscipline.
However, it came at a cost, as both Cottrell and back-rower Andrew Cochrane went off, the former with an apparent knee injury.
With the sides now level at 10-10, the match tightened even further, with neither side really finding the necessary momentum to make a clear break on the scoreboard.
Another lengthy injury delay cost Selkirk another player, centre Ben Pickles, which limited their attacking options further.
Then pressure from Hawks yielded a penalty in front of the posts inside the closing 10 minutes. Stewart duly slotted the simple kick, giving the visitors a decisive three-point margin.
From then on, Hawks and Harrison began to pull the strings, pinning Selkirk back with some probing kicks behind.
The hosts had their chances in the final minutes, but a dropped pass from Clark Young gave opposite number Harry Hughes an easy walk-in to seal the victory, with Stewart converting.
Weather conditions dictated much of this encounter, and it was Hawks who managed that better.
“We’re obviously happy with the win today, but maybe not the performance so much,” Hill said. “It was a really tight match and the two big injuries for Selkirk really sort of killed any momentum we had, but it’s good to get there in the end.”
On the other side of the result, Selkirk were made to pay for their own mistakes. “Defensively, we went a bit off-script again, but fair play to Hawks, they played to the conditions really well in the first half,” said Wight.
“The mistakes we were making in the first half were really unacceptable, but we managed to play a lot better in the second half. It’s just a shame that it took us the best part of 40 minutes to start playing.”
Selkirk: R Cottrell; C McNeill, B Pickles, R Nixon©, C Young; C Anderson, J Hamilton; L Pettie, B Riddell, Z Szwagrzak, T Brown, A McColm, R Cook, S McClymont, A Cochrane. Subs: J Bett, M Haldane, D Broach, S Clark, A Penman.
Glasgow Hawks: M Stewart; H Hughes, J Pinkerton, B McGroarty, R Joy; C Harrison, S Greig; G Strain, P Cairncross©, E Rintoul, R Campbell, S Leckey©, L Stewart, I Carmichael, L McNamara. Subs: I Totik, A Ala-gilly, C Sreenan, F Burgess, J Thompson.
Referee: B Blain
Selkirk: Tries: Anderson, Pettie.
Glasgow Hawks: Tries: Joy, Stewart, Hughes; Con: Stewart; Pen: Stewart
Scoring Sequence (Selkirk first): 0-5; 5-5 (h-t); 5-10; 10-10; 10-13; 10-18; 10-20.
Man-of-the-Match: A behemoth in the loose and a solid presence in defence, Hawks centre Brendan McGroarty was outstanding in both facets of the game and made the Selkirk team work immensely hard for their territorial gains.
Talking point: On a day where either side could have won, the match was all about small margins. Without their handling errors, Selkirk may well have taken the victory, while Hawks probably felt a bit lucky to get their second try in contentious fashion. 13-10 would probably have been a fairer reflection but the final score by Hughes, from a Selkirk mistake, typified the game.