Glasgow Hawks 29
IAIN HAY @ Braidholm
A TYPICALLY fierce Glasgow derby saw a reversal in fortunes from the previous week, but winning head coach Andy Hill of Hawks was keen to stress revenge was not in his mind when preparing the team ahead of their visit to the Southside of the city.
“The big focus for us is being in the top-four,” he insisted. “GHA’s just a team like any other and I don’t really see it being a massive derby.”
“There’s going to be rivalries between the players from the academies, and they’ll know each other from uni, but for us it’s a process of just beating whoever’s in front of us.
“It was a much more mature performance from us than the week before. We had a few guys unavailable but, no excuses, I thought we had the team to beat GHA last week, but they defended really well and we made a couple of costly mistakes. This week – even with the mistake near the end – there was no panic and we dominated the last six or seven minutes of the match down in their half.
“We still weren’t quite as clinical as we’d like to be, particularly in that first 20 minutes we could have been two or three tries up, then it became one-try apiece, but we were much better in the second half which has been our Achilles heel this season.”
Hawks were the better side over the piece, but there was a squeaky-bum moment when Gavin Cruickshanks threw an intercept pass which Charlie Lonergan ran home from his own half in the final ten minutes, but Hill was otherwise very happy with the stand-off’s performance.
“Mistakes like that are going to happen, we’ve had three in the last couple of weeks which have ended in tries [including last week when Dario Ewing won the game for GHA] but it’s about how we react to them.
“Gav came in today after he’d been poor against Selkirk – he admitted so himself, especially defensively – but I thought today he showed why he’s started more than any of our other 10s. He made really good decisions, and he’s got a boot which will be one of the best in Scotland. I thought he played really well.”
Hawks set about imposing themselves early, aided by Lonergan booting out on the full early doors to give the visitors a line-out in the 22 which Max Crumlish eventually finished off.
Istok Totic was then held up on the line from the same style of set-play, followed by some excellent breakdown work by Adam Barnett – on early as a replacement Walker Graham – to finish the Hawks’ threat, with all of the opening quarter being exclusively played in the GHA half.
The dangerous Luca Bardelli nearly scored from GHA’s first possession in the Hawks 22, stepping one and chipping over another but just unable to gather before it went dead, however they were playing with penalty advantage, and Chris Hyde stroked over to set the home side on their scoring way.
Archie Falconer had scored twice last time out at Braidholm against Heriot’s, and the hooker scored again from a maul to nudge GHA into a one-point lead, but Hawks regained the lead soon after when Ryan Sweeney scored his prototype of try, barging over from close range when his teammates couldn’t.
A crucial spell just before half-time could have turned the tide either way, but neither side were able to capitalise on the chances presented to them. First, Max McFarlane’s pass was picked off by James Pinkerton, but he didn’t have enough gas to go all the way, nor was he able to find support.
Oscar Baird and Stephen Leckey were then pinged for crossing, with Baird also absolutely drilled by Adam Kerr in the process. Baird was able to get the last laugh of the half however, when winning a vital turnover penalty in his own 22 with the clock in the red.
Hawks extended their lead early in the second half, Cruickshanks timing his pass for Pinkerton precisely, and he went out one further to Ross Darroch who squeezed in the left corner.
A sloppy period saw both sides making mistakes, and a possible error in judgement from Luke McCutcheon to not release the flyer Bardelli may have been the costliest, however his blushes were spared when Hyde ran on to replacement scrum-half Fergus Johnston’s pass to cut between two defenders on his way to the line.
Hyde missed the conversion with the strains of captain Dario Ewing’s rousing speech turning the air blue, and from the kick-off Hawks were awarded a penalty which Cruickshanks clipped the post with.
The game’s first scrum penalty led to the clinching Hawks’ try, and it was pretty much the work of one man.
Ryan Sweeney took the line-out, the maul rolled forward a couple of metres until being legally halted, then picked up from the ruck, and blasted through three defenders to within five-metres. Similar to his first try, he allowed a couple of team-mates to have a go, before deciding he’d finish the job himself, with only Lonergan’s consolation towards the end to finish off the scoring.
“Hugely disappointing from our point of view, we had a few good opportunities when in the Hawks’ 22 and didn’t quite execute, but full credit to Hawks, they defended well and played a very good tactical game in the second half,” said new GHA head coach Calum Forrester overseeing his first match at the helm.
“We just didn’t have a lot of the ball to begin with whereas Hawks looked after it. Opportunities were few and far between to put any attacking play together, but that second quarter up until half-time we started to show a bit of control and what we could do, then were very disappointed to lose that try just before half-time.
“We’ve got a good core of players here, the spine of the team has grown together over the last four or five years, so it’s about fine-tuning what we do and getting clarity on what we need to do.”
GHA: C Hyde; L Bardelli, C Lonergan, M MacFarlane, C King; T Lonergan, G Baird; E Cavan, A Falconer, M Fox, A Kerr, K Watt, W Graham, D Ewing©, L McCutcheon. Subs: J Low, L Barron, A Barnett, F Johnston, G Mollison
Glasgow Hawks: H Lapslie; S Graham, J Pinkerton, C Ferrie, R Darroch; G Cruickshanks, E Davey; I Carmichael, I Totic, G Strain, M Crumlish, S Leckey©, O Baird, D Sweeney, R Sweeney. Subs: P Cairncross, M Downer, L Stewart, C Harrison, E Muirhead
Referee: Ruairi Campbell
GHA: Tries: Falconer, Hyde, C Lonergan; Cons: Hyde; Pens: Hyde.
Glasgow Hawks: Tries: Crumlish, R Sweeney 2, Darroch; Cons: Cruickshanks 3; Pens: Cruickshanks.
Scoring sequence (GHA first): 0-5; 0-7; 3-7; 8-7; 8-12; 8-14 (h-t) 8-19; 13-19; 13-24; 13-26; 13-29; 20-29.
Player-of-the-Match: In contention before crossing for his second, Hawks back-rower Ryan Sweeney may be lacking a bit of match sharpness, but as a blunt object he makes metres, and a difference.
Talking Point: One of the stars in Ayrshire Bulls title-winning 21-22 campaign, Sweeney missed the entirety of this season due to injury so is looking for fitness and form back in the Premiership. “His goal will be to earn another contract with Bulls, or any other Super6 team,” said Hill. “He’ll tell you himself he’s not where he wants to be fitness-wise, but last week he put in 20 carries and eight tackles and he was disappointed with the number of tackles. That shows you about the next step up and his standards.”