Premiership: Glasgow Hawks edge low-scoring thriller against Kelso

Visitors draw positives from defeat ahead of play-off showdown against Hawick

Glasgow Hawks dug deep to defeat Kelso at Balgray. Image: Bob Coats
Glasgow Hawks dug deep to defeat Kelso at Balgray. Image: Bob Coats

Glasgow Hawks 17

Kelso 15

LEWIS STUART @ Balgray

WHO says you need tries and flowing play to make for an exciting game? Not Glasgow Hawks or Kelso, who produced a game with only one try but with the lead changing hands nine times before the home side ran out winners by the narrowest of margins.

It was far from the warm-up Kelso had been looking for as the lay their plans to produce the biggest shock of the season when they visit Mansfield Park in a fortnight for their Premiership semi-final showdown versus Hawick, but coach Bruce McNeil was far from despondent after making selection changes and learning a lot about the resources he has to call on

“Absolutely full credit to Glasgow Hawks,” he said. “They brought a lot to that game with the pressure from both forwards and backs, their kicking game and everything. It was a great warm-up for Mansfield Park because it will be just as hard there, if not harder.


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“We’re not scared to change the team and positions in the semi-final squad are up for grabs. Me and the other coaches have to put our heads together after this and see what team we’re going to take to Hawick because a few boys disappointed in this game and a few others put their hands up.

“We want to make sure that we put our best best foot forward, go and play our game and give a good account of ourselves. We are there and mingling with the best and you have to play the best to get the accolades.”

Hawks also have another game to go. It is a far lower profile appointment away to already-relegated Jed-Forest on the same day as the play-off, while this was a satisfying way for Andy Hill‘s charges to finish their home season as they proved to themselves they have what it takes to battle out a tight game and come out on top.

“I think we have had five defeats within a bonus point and in at least three of those games I felt we were the better team but couldn’t quite finish it off,” Hill pointed out. “We showed here we are not far off. We were able to fight with Kelso, who are in the top four, and come out on top.

“It was also good to get one back for the game down there which was probably our worst performance of the season. We challenged the boys to show they can be physical and can have the fight to get a result and they did front up and showed they can produce that physicality they need.”

So, in a way, both sides were able to come away feeling they had got something positive out of the game with the pack power and defence from Hawks enough to edge them in front when it really mattered.

Given that both sides had gone into the game knowing it was a dead rubber, and with sporadic showers making sure the whole game was played with a slippery ball, you might have expected a half-hearted affair, only nobody suggested that to the players who looked as fired up for this encounter as they would have been if it had been played on either of the previous scheduled weekends.

It was Kelso who dominated the opening minutes and they had the first chance with a maul on the home line, but were held up by determined and ferocious defence led by hooker Paul Cairncross and came away with nothing.

Instead it was Hawks who moved play slowly upfield, helped by a string of penalties and the domination of their forwards, to set up camp on the visitors line. Two mauls were held short before they elected to run further penalties. A series of pick and drives from the forwards took them into the shadow of the posts. With the defence sucked in, all the Glasgow club had to do was shift the ball to the backs where wing Torquil MacLeod had enough room to squeeze inside the corner flag for the opening and, it transpired, only try.

With their forwards under pressure but the backs looking bright and full of running, Kelso were finding the weather a problem, but when they did move the ball they looked dangerous and a kick through gave them a glimpse of a chance only for Ryan Flett, the home wing, to win the race by inches and deny James Thompson, the Kelso wing.

The pressure told with a series of offside penalties handing Kelso a chance to slot their first points and Dwain Patterson, the centre, didn’t need to be asked twice.

The Hawks defence was still holding firm, however, and another extended period of Kelso pressure came to nothing with McNeil and Euan Knox being held short with Sione Halafihi, the lock, winning the key turnover for Hawks.

 

 

The second half was more of the same though Kelso’s Patterson and David McCartney of Hawks did manage to keep the scoreboard moving with an early exchange of penalties.

Some off-the-ball monkey business saw a penalty reversed and handed Kelso the initiative, but they yet again failed to turn a series of line out drives into scores.

However, Patterson was handed an easy chance to take the lead for his team with his third penalty, only for Hawks to again motor upfield, earn an offside penalty and regain the lead again with McCartney kicking the points.

By now it was getting nervy. Patterson restored Kelso’s lead after a dangerous tackle on McNeil only for Hawks to regain the lead for the final time with an offside decision going their way from the kick off.

There was still time for Kelso to mount a final assault but when Hawks replacement Craig Nolan got to the ball in a ruck to win a penalty, the game was over with his side just in front.

Not a classic in terms of the rugby played but still plenty of satisfaction in a tense clash where the result was always doubt.

 

 

Teams 

Glasgow Hawks: J Couper; R Flett, F Callaghan, J Blair, T Macleod; D McCartney, J Imrie; K Shanahan, P Cairncross©, M Goodwin, S Leckey©, S Halafihi, L Stewart, R Howie, T Wright. Subs: M Crumlish, E Cairns, C Nolan, J McConkey, R Speers.

Kelso: A Barbour; J Thompson, D Patterson, F Robson (C), N Stingl; M Hastie, A Tait; A McGregor, E Knox, T Logan, E Thompson, C Thompson, K Melbourne, C Brown, B McNeil. Subs: J Glendinning, C Marshall,  A Asante, M Woodcock, M Wilson.

Referee: M Bosman

 

Scorers 

Glasgow Hawks: Try: McLeod. Pens: McCartney 4.

Kelso: Pen: Patterson 5.

Scoring sequence (Glasgow Hawks first): 5-0; 5-3 (h-t), 5-6; 8-6; 8-9; 11-9; 11-12; 14-12; 14-15; 17-15,

 

Player-of-the-Match: In the end, it was the sheer power of the Hawks pack that made the difference in muddy conditions. In reality, any of the front five could have taken the plaudits but Marcus Goodwin gets the nod for his carrying and scrum power.

Talking point: Conditions were awful but both sides served up an enthralling game with neither side able to get a proper grip on the game and the lead changing hands regularly. Maybe not the highest quality of rugby in the rain but still exciting.


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About Lewis Stuart 67 Articles
Lewis has been writing about rugby for almost 40 years, the last 18 as a freelance based in Scotland bringing his wealth fo experience to just about every publication in the country. These days you can hear him as well by tuning in to his Wednesday night show on Rocksport Radio.

6 Comments

  1. It will be interesting to see if Hawks finally fold at the end of the season as the constant rumours are claiming. Also if they keep trying to push forward this shambolic idea of a Glasgow city team.

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    • What have you been smoking, WEW? Or are you simply an envious Anniesland die-hard with an axe to grind against Hawks, Glasow’s sole representative club in Prem 1?

      FWIW, the smart money whispers from Balgray say that Hawks officially rejected the “shambolic idea” you mention, advanced as a discussion point by one of its members.

      That said, given the parlous state of Glasgow club rugby generally, it might not prove to be such a daft thing to see some constructive collaboration amongst the city’s clubs.

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  2. I had in my mind that the kick off was 3.00 and got a shock when I checked, but I’m glad that I raced across town to see the second half! ‘In my day’ the ball would have weighed a ton in those conditions and there would not have been 9 successful kicks at goal: well done, kickers. Another instance of Hawks booting the ball out prematurely nearly cost them dearly at the end: someone else whose time clock was out! Do the referees get Rolex knock offs from Bulgaria? Respect to the big support that Kelso brought for a dead rubber game, travelling 2 hours or so on a dreich day.

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