Glasgow Hawks 30
LEWIS STUART @ Balgray
TWO teams who looked destined to go places served up a feast of rugby in a game where the lead changed hands half a dozen times and both could make a decent case for saying they deserved the result.
In the end, Marr edged it by even less than the scoreboard suggests, but their city opponents could justifiably argue that it was more a case of getting the rub of the green on referee decisions than any superiority that won the match for them.
“I think in the end, the better team lost,” said Andy Hill, the Hawks coach. “Look at the tries we scored and the tries that Marr scored and there was a clear difference. Some of the scores were almost gifted to them with the bounce of the ball and all that.
“Our boys went to the well at the end, you couldn’t fault our effort. It was just that we had a poor five minutes at one point and then a few decisions went against us. I don’t mind wrong decisions but there were some that really cost us.”
The big difference in the end was that Marr were simply better at finding a way to win despite what was going on in the game.
Kenny Diffenthal, their coach, admitted he was not completely surprised that his players had failed to reach the heights they managed a week before in inflicting a first defeat in two seasons on Hawick. While there had been a nervous energy in the squad ahead of that game, they were a lot more laid back about travelling into Glasgow and were missing the intensity they had had seven days before.
“The pleasing thing is that last year we wouldn’t have won that,” he said.”It was great to see the last three or four minutes the guys really working hard for each other. Not great for the coach but you have to take that.
“These guys want to play for each other and you can see it there when they out in that bit extra . They were really tired at the end but they kept getting up and doing everything to close out the game. It showed guts and determination, just finding a way to stay ahead.”
It was always a tight encounter, though few could have imagined just how edgy it would be. Both were on a high after their outings the week before. The counter to that was that both teams had a lot to lose, and that might have been weighing on minds in a cagey opening period when scores were hard to come by.
Both sides collected penalty points on offer, first Calum Inglis for Marr and then Liam Briims for Hawks, but attacking play was thin on the ground in the opening quarter.
The visitors had the first clear-cut chance of a try with wing Jake Jacobson breaking from his own half and kicking ahead only for James Pinkerton, the Hawks centre, to race across field, scooping the ball one-handed and clearing the danger.
Enthused by that, Hawks took the attack to the visitors, won a penalty they kicked to touch and saw Paul Caircross, the hooker, drive over from the inevitable maul.
Marr were happy to keep taking points on offer with Inglis adding two more penalties before they got a stroke of luck as a kick from wing Scott Bickerstaff bounced kindly. He collected it himself and raced in for his side’s first try and the lead.
They were not in front for long as Hawks at last found the cohesion they had been looking for. Another penalty, another line-out maul but this time the ball went out to the backs and centre Wayne Burrows found the perfect offload to put his midfield partner, Pinkerton in for the try that restored their lead at the break.
Hawks increased their advantage early in the second half with Brims adding his second penalty but Marr were soon back in front with Conor Bickerstaff being given the space to dance through a broken defence with the Hawks players distracted by their own success at the scrum just before.
Marr soon added to their lead with Blair Jardine making a huge break from his own half to set up the attacking position. It was a question of patience after that with he forwards recycling until eventually lock David Andrews forced his way over.
Hawks could have had every reason to feel it was not going to be their day but showed remarkable resilience in fighting back yet again. They worked their way upfield, threatened the line on the left through the forwards, swung the ball right and found replacement wing Jamie Blair free on the outside to score.
A third Brims penalty put them back in front but Marr were not going to surrender their challenge as the game started to heat up with off-the-ball incidents mounting. Penalties gave them a way into the home 22 and the pack recycled over and over again until, eventually, prop Ali Rogers managed to burrow over with Inglis converting.
There was still time for Hawks to throw everything at a magnificent final go at rescuing the game, but the visitors defence was made of cast iron and refused to buckle as the phase count grew. Eventually, the home side made a vital handling mistake and Marr could celebrate a nervy win.
Glasgow Hawks: J Couper; R Darroch, J Pinkerton, W Burrows, J Adamson; L Brims, J Imrie; K Shanahan, P Cairncross, M Goodwin, S Leckey, A Syme, L Stewart, JP Thomson (sin bin: 40-49, T Wright. Subs: A Burgess, D Irvine, M Crumlish, G Cruickshanks, J Blair.
Marr: Jake J Scott; S Bickerstaff, G Paxton, C Bickerstaff, J Jacobson; C Inglis, G Baird; A Rogers, C McMillan, A Apthorpe, D Andrew, C Folan, F Grant, C Young, B Jardine. Subs: S Clelland, G Dick, M Blair, R Baird, J MacKinnon.
Referee: M Todd
Glasgow Hawks: Tries: Cairncross, Pinkerton, Blair; Cons: Brim 3; Pens: Brims 3.
Marr: Tries: S Bickerstaff, C Bickerstaff, Andrew, Rogers; Cons: Inglis 3; Pens: Inglis 3.
Scoring sequence (Glasgow Hawks first): 0-3; 3-3; 10-3; 10-6; 10-9; 10-14; 17-14 (h-t) 20-14; 20-21; 20-28; 27-28; 30-28; 30-35.
Player of the Match: Almost impossible choice as almost all the 40 players used had their moments. In the end, Conor Bickerstaff gets it for his solo try, but it really was a game that reminds us rugby is a team sport.
Talking Point: Marr didn’t live up to the standards they set themselves the week before but this is a much better Hawks squad than last season and they could well challenge for a place in the top four at the end of the season. A setback for them, but plenty to build on.