Glasgow Hawks 27
STEPHEN BRUNSDON @ Balgray
A LATE try from Max Outram gave Musselburgh a much-needed bonus-point victory over Glasgow Hawks to keep their hopes of making the Premiership play-offs well and truly alive.
When these two sides last met earlier in the season at Stoneyhill, it was an end-to-end 42-42 draw that left neither coach particularly satisfied. But while the chances of a repeat scoreline at Balgray were slim, it was a fixture that went right down to the wire once again.
Hawks looked to have secured the win courtesy of Ryan Flett’s try with just under four minutes remaining, but Burgh showed impressive resilience to steal the match at the death.
“We came out of the game on the right side this time around,” said Musselburgh head coach Derek O’Riordan. “For us, going in at half-time the message was to do the simple things well and stop having single runners. We made it difficult for ourselves and I was a bit nervous when they scored near the end but I’m really pleased with how the boys found another try.”
Keen to reverse a poor run of form dating back to before Christmas, Hawks got the perfect start after just five minutes, with captain Paul Cairncross bumping off Burgh winger Rory Hindhaugh to touch down in the corner. Fly-half Gavin Cruickshanks, who struggled from the kicking tee all afternoon, pushed his conversion attempt wide.
Missed points would prove to be a deciding factor in Hawks’ afternoon, and Burgh leapt on that inaccuracy when they responded with their first try of the match, via second-row Michael Badenhorst. Cruickshanks’ fly-half counterpart Matthew MacMillan slotted the extras, giving the visitors a two-point lead.
While lacking off the tee, Hawks looked by far the more dangerous side in attack during the first half and they hit back soon after with Torquil MacLeod touching down in the corner. The home side extended their lead to 10 points after Max Crumlish went over following a lovely one-two move with Cairncross at the lineout.
For their part, Burgh began to struggle and were now a man down after Hindhaugh was sin-binned for a high tackle on Finlay Callaghan, who had nearly gone the length of the field after Burgh’s attack fell apart.
With fading discipline and a lack of precision in the red zone, Burgh needed a slice of luck to get back into the game, and Hawks provided it. A miscommunication meant that Cruickshanks kicked the ball dead inside his own 22, but time had not yet been called by referee Michael Todd.
Burgh, handed a promising attacking line-out, latched onto this opportunity with Badenhorst crashing over for his second, with MacMillan’s conversion making it a three-point game at half-time.
“Our kicking success has not been good enough recently to win these close games, and with what happened at the end of the first half, that’s five points minimum that we conceded, and we lost by two in the end,” pointed out Hawks coach Andy Hill afterwards. “It’s all about managing the game; Gav’s got the call to get the ball off the pitch and he thought it was time.”
Desperate not to compound that error, Hawks came out of the blocks in the second period and duly bagged the bonus point through Fraser Muir within two minutes of the restart to edge clear again.
With the conversion again wide, Burgh were in no way out of the contest at 22-14. Having ironed out the handling errors from the first half, the visitors were soon on the attack and orchestrated a number of penalties under the posts. Eventually the pressure told, and Jack Haynes’s converted try made it a one-point affair.
Invigorated, Burgh now looked a totally different side, and MacMillan kicked them back into the lead with a 59th minute penalty.
In stark contrast to the first half, it was Hawks who began to look shaky. Things didn’t get much better as they lost JP Thomson to a yellow card for a late challenge on MacMillan.
Despite this, Hawks somehow found themselves on the press in the closing stages and looked to have secured the win when Flett went over in the corner.
But a final penalty and driving maul from the resulting line-out for Burgh gave replacement Outram the chance to steal the game with almost the final play.
“We talked about how to find a way to win and today was another example of us being able to do that, especially after the last three games,” O’Riordan added. “It’s nice to get the bonus point and it puts us back in the position of finishing the season strongly, which is kind of in our hands again now.”
Glasgow Hawks: J Couper; T Macleod, F Callaghan, C Ferrie, R Flett; G Cruickshanks, J Imrie; F Muir, P Cairncross©, K Shanahan, M Crumlish, S Halafihi A Syme, R Howie, T Wright. Subs: C Nolan, M Goodwin, JP Thomson, D McCartney, J Blair.
Musselburgh: P Cunningham; R Hindhaugh, B Heber, R Watt©, S Watt; M McMillan, R Condie; R Brown, C Owenson, N McNairn, J Haynes, M Badenhorst, J Lister, M Crawford, P Bogie. Subs: R Mackie, E Bonthron, M Outram, R Smith, T Foley.
Referee: M Todd.
Glasgow Hawks: Tries: Cairncross, MacLeod, Crumlish, Muir, Flett. Con: Cruickshanks.
Musselburgh: Tries: Badenhorst 2, Haynes, Outram; Cons: MacMillan 3; Pen: MacMillan.
Scoring sequence (Glasgow Hawks first): 5-0; 5-5; 5-7; 10-7; 12-7; 17-7; 17-12; 17-14 (h-t) 22-14; 22-19; 22-21; 22-24; 27-24; 27-29.
Yellow cards –
Glasgow Hawks: Thomson
Man-of-the-Match: He didn’t score, but Rory Watt was outstanding in the midfield for Musselburgh all day. A solid ball-carrier, he played a key role in Badenhorst’s first score, getting to within a couple of yards while taking in Hawks defenders. He was also typically robust in defence and lived up to his reputation as a reliable warhorse in the Musselburgh squad.
Talking point: It’s easy to say that, had Hawks not kicked the ball out too early at the end of the first half, Andy Hill’s men would have come out as winners, but that was just one moment. Ultimately, Hawks had several chances to win, just as Burgh did – but it was the latter who kept their cool and took their chances when it mattered most. Another closely fought affair between two very similar sides, Burgh just had enough at the end.