Glasgow Hawks 15
LEWIS STUART @ Balgray
HAWICK underlined their title credentials as they travelled to Glasgow, and dominated the start and finish of the match to head back home with a bonus point win in their pocket. It was impressive stuff from them apart from a sticky spell on either side of halftime when Hawks gave some hint of the rugby they can produce when things go right.
The visitors, however, had the whip hand when it mattered with the forwards carrying hard, led by Joe Linton at No 8 and his back-row colleagues, helped by a slow start and sloppy handling from their opponents.
No wonder Matty Douglas, the Hawick coach, was purring with satisfaction afterwards. “I’m really happy, everything we worked on this week I saw us doing out there,” he said. “This is a tough place to win; Hawks are a good side but we played some exceptional rugby.
“To come here and bring that away from home really pleases me. We are coming off a couple of home games where we were not at our greatest but we came away and produced a complete performance.
“We’ve got a team playing for the jersey and defensively bang on. We also had a strong set-piece. Some individuals again were outstanding so I’m really happy. Now all our focus is on next week and a huge game against Marr.”
The problem for Hawks was that after a dreadful start they got their game together but could not sustain it. “We made two mistakes at the start and against a top side you are always going to concede points,” said Andy Hill, the home coach. “That’s something we need to learn, we can’t afford to make those mistakes and then we need a better reaction
“We’ve now got a huge game at Selkirk next week, one we have to win to keep ourselves in contention. If we are going to get ourselves in the top four, we need consistency. We have a team who should be competitive and if we want to get into the play-offs we need to be beating these teams.”
It was always going to be a tough task for Hawks but they made life hard for themselves. With six places in the league and 16 points separating the home side from their table-topping oppponents, the one thing Hawks needed was a strong start. What they got was the opposite. Disaster struck the first time they got a chance to run the ball.
An intricate backs move went horribly wrong, the ball went loose and visiting centre Lee Armstrong was first to it, hacking his way upfield and winning the race to touch down for the opening try with only four minutes on the clock.
Hawick were obviously in ruthless mood because almost from the kick off they created space for Linton to hammer his way down the left before his perfectly timed offload to supporting flanker Calum Renwick put the latter in for the second score.
Kirk Ford, the Greens full-back, converted both but Hawks did at least get themselves on the scoreboard when Gav Cruickshanks, the fly half, landed a penalty, though he was also short with two more from long range.
It didn’t seem to bother the Borderers at all, as they went back on the attack, helped by a yellow-card for Glasgow wing Ryan Flett for a deliberate knock-on. Hawick kicked for the corner and though forwards Russell Anderson, Shaun Muir and Linton were all stopped short, they did win another penalty. Scrum-half Deaglan Lightfoot took a quick tap and Andrew Mitchell, the outside centre, did the rest.
At that stage, the big question was whether Hawick could collect the scoring bonus point before half-time but what actually happened was that Hawks suddenly started to find their rhythm. Tiaan Wright, their No 8, started it with a drive into midfield where his offload to Joe McConkey put the centre through, Though he was stopped, Hawick were penalised and home hooker Paul Cairncross took a clever feed off the front of the resulting line out to go over.
The home side kept the momentum through the half time break, and started the second period by again driving into the Hawick 22, winning a penalty and this time Cairncross only needed to latch onto the back of the maul for the rest of the pack to drive him over for his second touchdown.
Cruickshanks converted to cut the deficit to six points but Ford landed a long-range penalty to bump it back up again and that again seemed to turn the tide, though it was the reaction to their own yellow-card for prop Nicky Little that really seemed to wake Hawick up again.
Helped by a series of high tackles from Hawks, they got up to the home line where another line-out maul tied in the defence and created the space for wing Charlie Welsh to claim the bonus point try.
The league leaders were now rampant as Hawks discipline cost them dearly. Another penalty gave the visiting forwards a chance to drive at the line before a high overhead pass from replacement scrum-half Ben Scott put Ronan McKean in for another try.
It all looked pretty comfortable on the scoreboard as Hawick took all five points, and apart from that spell of about 20 minutes on either side of half-time they were almost as comfortable on the pitch with Hawks simply making too many mistakes to challenge them.
Glasgow Hawks: J Couper; R Flett, J Pinkerton, J McConkey, T Macleod; G Cruickshanks, J Imrie; K Shanahan, P Cairncross, M Goodwin, S Leckey, M Crumlish, E Brannan, A Syme, T Wright. Subs: A Burgess, F Muir, Y Shaheen, W Burrows, S Graham.
Hawick: K Ford; M Tait, A Mitchell, L Armstrong, C Welsh; K Brunton, D Lightfoot; S Muir (C), R Anderson, N Little, D Redpath, C Sutherland, S Graham, C Renwick, J Linton. Subs: R Graham, T Hope, F Wilson, B Scott, R McKean.
Referee: Gordon Galashan
Glasgow Hawks: Tries: Cairncross 2; Con: Cruickshanks; Pen: Cruickshanks.
Hawick: Tries: Armstrong, Renwick, Mitchell, Welsh, McKean; Cons: Ford 4; Pen: Ford.
Scoring sequence (Glasgow Hawks first): 0-5; 0-7; 0-12; 0-14; 3-14; 3-19; 3-21; 8-21; 13-21; 15-21; 15-24; 15-29; 15-31; 15-36.
Yellow cards –
Glasgow Hawks: Flett (26 mins)
Hawick: Little (55 mins)
Player-of-the-Match: Both sides had their moments but what really won the game for Hawick were their ball carriers with Jae Linton making a number of big breaks that made sure his foot were on the front foot. That is what earns him this reward.
Talking point: In a game of nearly 30 penalties, a disturbing number were given for high tackles. On the whole, the Premiership has been pretty good when it comes to tackle height, but this was an exception to that general rule with both sets of players struggling to go low.