Premiership: Glasgow Hawks v Aberdeen Grammar: dominant home team stroll to victory

Glasgow Hawks coach Andy Hill. Image: Craig Watson.
Glasgow Hawks coach Andy Hill. Image: Craig Watson.

Glasgow Hawks 28

Aberdeen Grammar 8


GLASGOW Hawks registered their first win of the season at the second attempt and a little bit late after Aberdeen’s bus got stuck in traffic. The home side finished the game comfortably ahead on the scoreboard but even the lop-sided final tally failed to properly reflect the almost total dominance they enjoyed at a sunny Balgray. 

Grammar were still in this game at the break, thanks to a late try at the end of the first 40, but the second half was played almost exclusively in the Aberdeen half of the field and the visitors failed to add to their half-time total.

Poor discipline helped undermine Hawks on the opening weekend of the season but yesterday it was Grammar who played 20 of the opening 40 short-handed, centre Tom Aplin earning the first yellow of the day for a deliberate knock-on inside two minutes. He was followed into the sin bin by fly-half Ali Addy for a high tackle.

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This was a funny old game that only sparked into life with the first try around the 30-minute mark and only after Grammar had opened the scoring with a well-taken penalty from Aplin on an exceedingly rare visit to the home half of the field.

Hawks bossed the opening exchanges with ease and that despite playing into a handy westerly wind. The forwards were equally matched, both hookers and number eights showed up well in the tight exchanges, but Hawks boasted much the more dangerous back-line, superbly marshalled by fly-half Liam Brims who also kicked 100% off the tee and used the west wind better than the visitors.

Five times Hawks were awarded penalties inside the Grammar half of the field, two of which were absolute gimmies, and five times Hawks chose to kick to the corner or, even more bizarrely, opt for two set scrums straight in front of the posts.

Only at the fifth time of asking did Hawks’ bravado result in something other than disappointment. The driving maul was stopped short of the line, the ball moved quickly to the right wing and when it came back inside second-row Sione Halafihi barged his way over the Aberdeen line.

The confidence of that opening try gave the home players a spring in their step – especially classy centre Fraser Gosse who collected the ball around his own 22 line and weaved his way almost 75 metres, through increasingly desperate Aberdeen defenders, until off-loading for winger Hamuera Lee to pretty much fall over the try-line. Sadly for Hawks, Gosse failed to reappear for the second half after pulling or tearing his hamstring.

With Brims adding the extras Hawks were good for their 14-3 lead but Aberdeen weren’t quite finished. The visitors kicked a penalty to the corner and the big men marched Hawks back towards their own line. With a penalty advantage coming their way Grammar moved the ball to the blindside where no one was stopping burly centre Mark New from short range.

After the break, Aberdeen picked up where they left off and would have narrowed the gap even further after a beautiful break from replacement fly-half Sam Knudson. Only an even more impressive tackle back from Hawks’ hard working Irish number eight Lewis McNamara saved the day.

As the match moved into the final quarter, Hawks returned the favour to the visitors; messing up a second score for Lee thanks to a forward pass in the build-up. In fact, the basics of catching and passing the ball proved problematic for Hawks throughout this match. A little more accuracy would have resulted in a much more emphatic victory.

Still Hawks were dominating both territory and possession and, with the breeze at their backs, more points were inevitable. Centre Matt Stewart made the initial break, taking advantage of some tired defenders, for replacement Andrew Syme to score the third try around the 65-minute mark.

Hawks messed up another scoring opportunity almost immediately when replacement scrummy Finlay Burgess dropped a pass that was aimed too far in front of him but man-of-the-match Brims grabbed the final bonus point score of the game after good work by Hawks’ skipper Stephen Leckey.

Their handling continued to frustrate Hawks in the opposition red zone but Grammar proved the disease was catching, the match ending with another forward pass from the visitors wiping off Greg Ryan’s last ditch try.

“We need to be more clinical,” stated Hawks’ coach Andy Hill after the match. “When we play against better sides we won’t be gifted that many chances so we need to be better at finishing them off.

“I asked the players to back themselves by kicking to the corner simply because it’s a huge let off for the defending side when a side opts for the three.”

His opposite number from Grammar, Ali O’Connor, bemoaned the three serious injuries his side suffered, including one to centre Mark New in the final play of the game, but he didn’t try and sugar-coat what had been a bitter pill to swallow.

“We were off the pace, we haven’t had that sort of opposition in pre-season, and we have to get up to speed quickly,” admitted the Aberdeen coach.

Teams –

Glasgow Hawks: Y Alagilly;  T Glendinning, M Stewart, F Gosse, H Lee; L Brims, J Hastings; M Downer, P Cairncross, G Strain, S Halafili, S Leckey, L Stewart, T Brown, L McNamara. Subs: I Carmichael, A Rogers, A Strain, F Burgess, J Strain.

Aberdeen Grammar: R Cameron; B Renton, M New, T Aplin , D Russell; A Addy, T Morrison; C Reddish, B Inglis, M Schosser, S Renfrew, C Buchan, N Coe, M Emmison, G Ryan. Subs: J Robertson, L Buchan, P Mulholland, E Fairweather, S Knudson.

Referee: D Young.

Scorers – 

Glasgow Hawks: Tries: Halafihi, Lee, Syme, Brims; Cons: Brims 4.

Aberdeen Grammar: Try: New; Pen: Aplin.

Scoring sequence: 0-3; 5-3; 7-3; 12-3; 14-3; 14-8 (h-t) 19-8; 21-8; 26-8; 28-8.

Yellow Cards –

Aberdeen: Aplin, Addy.

Man of the match: Sam Knudson looked dangerous when he appeared for Aberdeen in the second half, Hawks’ hooker Paul Cairncross got through a bundle of graft but fly-half Liam Brims oozed class throughout.

Moment of the match: It occurred in the final ten minutes of the first half when Hawks’ leggy centre Fraser Gosse appeared to run through half the Aberdeen back line on his way to setting up a try for winger Hamuera Lee.

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About Iain Morrison 143 Articles
Iain was capped 15 times for Scotland at openside flanker between his debut against Ireland during the 1993 Six Nations and his final match against New Zealand at the 1995 World Cup in South Africa. He was twice a Cambridge ‘Blue’ and played his entire club career with London Scottish (being inducted into the club’s Hall of Fame in 2016). Iain is a lifelong member of Linlithgow Rugby Club. After hanging up his boots, he became rugby correspondent for The Sunday Herald, before moving to The Scotland on Sunday for 16 years, and he has also guest written for various other publications.