Glasgow Hawks 27
Heriot’s Blues 19
DAVID BARNES @ Balgray
EVERY silver lining has a cloud and for Hawks coach Andy Hill the achievement of securing a bonus-point win over the team that started the day fourth in the Premiership table was off-set by results elsewhere in the battle to make the play-offs not going the way he hoped (and reasonably expected) they would … while he also expressed frustration at his team not quite producing the polished all-round performance over the 80 minutes they hinted at during an impressive first half.
“We started well and played some great rugby then I just felt we struggled to get going after the break” Hill reflected afterwards. “I don’t quite know what happened, but we got on the wrong side of the penalty count during that period, picked up a yellow-card, and it was just a strange game – but we dug in and got the result I believe we deserved in the end.
“The big goal was to get five points and to prevent Heriot’s from getting anything to help us move up the table, so it is mission accomplished in that sense – but then you look at the results with Musselburgh [who beat top of the table Marr] and Edinburgh Accies [who beat Currie Chieftains] and they were shocking for us!”
As the adrenalin wore off, Hill reflected that this was indeed a good day at the office, in which his side confirmed that they can be genuine play-off contenders.
“It was a do or die game for us because we’ve got Hawick next week and we know how well they are going at the moment so we really had to get a result today to have some momentum going forward,” he added. “We’ve got no new injuries today and we’re getting close to a position I’ve never been in as head coach of Hawks with almost all of our squad fit for this key period in the season. To have a chance of some continuity and consistency in selection makes a huge difference.”
Hawks flew out the blocks and were 14-0 up inside 10 minutes thanks to James Imrie finishing off a free-flowing try which featured telling interventions from Jos McConkey and Ryan Flett among others, followed by an equally slick score from Flett which owed much to a mazy run back in-field from Torquil Macleod. That early home advantage on the scoreboard could have been more because Kyle Shanahan was held up over the line following some good build-up play from McConkey, Max Crumlish, Lewis Stewart and James Couper.
Heriot’s managed to steady the ship and had a period of pressure, and although they initially couldn’t quite find the accuracy with the final pass needed to open up Hawks’ defence, they did eventually get off the mark when an overthrown home line-out was seized upon and Archie Bogle harnessed his considerable bulk to barge under the posts.
Hawks struck back quickly with Paul Cairncross dragging two Heriot’s tacklers 20-yards on the left, before the ball was swept across the park and James Pinkerton sent an inch-perfect diagonal into the in-goal area on the right for Couper to finish.
The home bonus-point was secured in the last play of the first half when Hawks twice turned down kickable penalties and had their boldness rewarded with a Cairncross try from a powerful line-out drive.
Hawks started the second half in the same style as they had finished the first, but it was Heriot’s who struck first after the break with full-back Angus Hunter finishing off on the right following some slick hands from the men inside, and the visitors got back into the home 22 again a few minutes later but Luke Townsend opted to send a cross-kick towards Hunter rather than keep the ball in hand and the bounce didn’t quite go the chasing man’s way.
A major momentum shift had occurred, however, and with the penalties against the hemmed-in Hawks piling up, referee Gordon Reid decided it was time to go to his pocket, with centre Pinkerton being send to the cooler for 10 minutes following an offside. In the very next play, Pinkerton’s opposite number Bobby Kay offloaded out of contact to send Kentu Kutsuna under the posts, with the conversion by the try-scorer making it a five-point game on the hour mark.
Wayne Burrows had a chance to take the home lead back beyond seven points with a long-range holding-on penalty but his effort floated to the left of the posts and Heriot’s were soon back on the front foot, with Kutsuna’s straightening of the line and slick hands creating opportunities.
Hawks, however, weathered the storm, and set up camp during the final 10 minutes deep inside their opponents half, and a perhaps rather fortuitous playing the ball on the deck penalty gave Burrows another, slightly easier, shot at goal, which he had no problem sending home this time. Then a late scrum penalty from the same man was off target but it didn’t matter because that was the last action of the match.
“That was really rubbish,” said Heriot’s head coach Phil Smith – clearly in no mood for pulling his punches – after the match. “We got to 24-19 by doing the simple things well and we just needed to carry on with that, but for some reason we decided to change it up, play out of our pwn half, get ourselves on the wrong side of the referee having been on the right side of him at the start of the second half, and just keep doing things that were incorrect like kicking the ball inside their 22 when all the momentum and pressure was on our side.
“It is just disappointing because we haven’t backed up recent positive performances. That was a poor performance.”
Glasgow Hawks: J Couper; R Flett, J Pinkerton, J McConkey, T Macleod (H Provan.50); G Cruickshanks (Burrow 75), J Imrie; K Shanahan (F Muir, 75), P Cairncross (A Burgess 76), M Goodwin, M Crumlish (W Burrows 58-71), S Leckey, A Syme ((Y Shaheen 76), L Stewart, T Wright.
Heriot’s Blues: A Hunter; P Christie (P Burns 34), B Kay, K Kutsuna, F Stanier L Townsend, G Wilson (K Singleton 58); J Lascelles, R Jackson (D Dineen, 41), A Bogle (A Munro 41), N Docherty, M Keough, R Kirkpatrick, M Dillon, A Johnston.
Referee: Gordon Reid
Glasgow Hawks: Tries: Imrie, Flett, Couper, Cairncross; Con: Cruickshanks 2; Pen: Burrows.
Heriot’s Blues: Try: Bogle, Hunter, Kutsuna; Con: Wilson, Kutsuna.
Scoring sequence (Glasgow Hawks first): 5-0-7-0; 12-0; 14-0; 14-5; 14-7; 19-7; 24-7 (h-t) 24-12; 24-17; 24-19; 27-19.
Yellow card –
Glasgow Hawks: Pinkerton (53 mins)
Player-of-the-Match: Glasgow Hawks hooker Paul Cairncross helped set the tone in the first half with a series of bulldozing runs, he competed ferociously over the ball when the tide turned against his side in the second half, and he had another big carry which helped the hosts back onto the front foot during the final quarter. He was also a key component of a dominant home scrum.
Talking point: Results at Balgray, Fullarton and Raeburn confirm that this Premiership race is wide open.