Glasgow Hawks 9
IAIN HAY @ Balgray
A FEROCIOUSLY competitive match at a blustery Balgray stadium saw both sides lose one talisman each. But when the final whistle was blown – eventually, there was a bit of confusion as to whether the full 80 minutes had passed – it was Marr who took the spoils, having weathered the storm and battened down the hatches to keep the home side from crossing their line.
“In the first half I thought we were really good,” said Hawks’ head coach Andy Hill at the end of proceedings. “We got into some key positions and won the territory battle with the help of the wind, but we couldn’t really convert anything when we got down there.
“It was one of those ‘Do we build scoreboard pressure or do we kick to the corner and look to score tries?’ It’s easy here standing after it – hindsight’s 20:20 – but I thought we made the right decisions, just we lost too much line-out ball in that first half.
“We’d get into positions to strike, build phases and build pressure, and then we’d lose the ball. Second half we were looking to keep up the physicality, keep winning that territory battle, but we had a couple of really poor kicks at the start and that gave them the ascendancy. They kicked better to the corners, kept us there and kept us under pressure the entire time and made it difficult for us.”
The opening few minutes were a mixed bag for Marr. After losing David Andrew to injury and replacing him with Mackenzie Pearce, they soon found themselves knocking on the Glasgow Hawks try-line with a touch of good fortune.
Hawks wing Thomas Glendinning had launched a clearing kick from well inside his own half which the wind took a hold of and made skip and roll dead behind the Marr goal-area.
From the scrum Marr went left, the in-form Jamie Shedden shoved past Harry Hughes but was stopped on the line by Hamuera Lee. The visiting forwards had a couple of attempts at the pick-and-go, and although they did cross the line, eagle-eyed referee Duncan McClement spotted a double movement.
The intermittent rain and howling gusts meant this was destined to be a match for the forwards and there were some huge tackles being made in the middle of the park. Former Bishopton RFC and Hawk back-row Rory Jackson was welcomed back with a thundering hit from Sione Halafihi, to remind him what life is like in the Premiership, and Gary Strain crunching Harry Murray was just as wince-inducing.
A wind-assisted 50-22 by Matthew Stewart gave Hawks some territory and soon after he was tackled high, allowing Liam Brims to belt one over from distance, and he doubled the advantage soon afterwards, this time after Jamie Drummond was penalised for holding off the ball.
Marr aren’t in their lofty position near the top of the table by accident, and they took the lead despite seemingly being under the cosh and playing into that wind. A jinking break down the right flank by Jack Scott set them on their way and early sub Pearce was the man to break Hawks’ resilience.
With Marr now starting to feel their way into the game, disaster struck when captain Conor Bickerstaff, whilst in possession of the ball, tried to side-step but instantly collapsed to the deck. A lengthy stoppage ensued for what appeared to be a severe injury.
A third Brims penalty made it 9-7 to Hawks going into half-time but now the wind was on Colin Sturgeon’s side. The Marr stand-off’s clever nudge put Hawks in danger, and although they cleared their lines – and won a subsequent penalty for reasons unknown, possibly backchat – they were now having to do it all in their own half.
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Marr managed to take possession after another stray, wind-affected line-out. Calum Inglis looked like he may have got away with a knock-on as they aimed to go wide, forcing Lee to scramble across and prod into touch.
The Marr maul rolled on, penalty advantage was being played, but they didn’t need it as Sturgeon and Scott Bickerstaff combined for the latter to go in under the posts.
Sturgeon’s first penalty of the afternoon followed after replacement Iosefo Turaga’s weaving kick return had put Marr within striking distance, and then it was Hawks’ turn to lose a key player to injury.
Brims was thumped hard and fair by Fraser Grant, causing damage to both men and an immediate whistle from McClement. Brims – the joint top points scorer in the league at the start of the day – eventually got up and walked off with his arm in a makeshift sling, and in considerable pain.
Soon followed another Sturgeon penalty and with Hawks having to run everything back at Marr from deep in order to try and claim the losing bonus point, they couldn’t breach the visitors’ solid wall of purple shirts.
“Delighted with the win – it’s a tough place to come” said the winning coach Craig Redpath. “If I’m being critical we maybe could have taken two or three other opportunities and got the bonus point, but the win’s the most important thing. Discipline was poor, but I felt Hawks never really put us under pressure on our line and we gave away some soft penalties, so delighted with the win even though it’s come at a cost.
“We’ve dug in after losing our captain – and he is a talisman for us, a lot of the boys look up to him. It’s not nice after losing anyone to injury but we just have to get on with it.”
Glasgow Hawks: H Lee; H Hughes, B McGroarty, M Stewart, T Glendinning; L Brims, F Burgess; A Rogers, P Cairncross, G Strain, S Halafihi, J McLean, A Syme, I Carmichael, L McNamara. Subs: I Totic, E Rintoul, J Porter, J Strain, J Pinkerton.
Marr: C Inglis; J Shedden, S Bickerstaff, C Bickerstaff, J Scott; C Sturgeon, R Frostwick; B Sweet, C McMillan, W Farquhar, D Andrew, H Murray, R Jackson, J Drummond, F Grant. Subs: C Miller, M Pearce, B Johnson, G Montgomery, I Turaga.
Referee: Duncan McClement.
Glasgow Hawks: Pens: Brims 3.
Marr: Tries: Pearce, S Bickerstaff.; Cons: Sturgeon 2; Pens: Sturgeon 2.
Scoring sequence (Glasgow Hawks first): 3-0; 6-0; 6-7; 9-7 (h-t), 9-14; 9-17; 9-20.
Man of the Match: Just before Marr’s second try the shortlist was mainly made up of Hawks players, but, for the assist, the boot accuracy and the leadership qualities displayed – particularly off the back of losing his captain – Colin Sturgeon walks away with the prize.
Talking Point: It was probably the most physical contest I’ve seen this season, and at what a cost to both sides. We wish both Conor Bickerstaff and Liam Brims speedy recoveries.