Heriot’s Blues 10
Glasgow Hawks 19
COLIN RENTON @ Goldenacre
GLASGOW HAWKS applied the fatal blow to the Heriot’s play-off bid with a gutsy win built on a solid defensive effort and a clinical edge that saw them finish off the opportunities that came their way. The success was fully merited by the visitors, although the hosts had plenty of chances and were left ruing their inability to finish off those opportunities.
Hawks coach Andy Hill has been toiling to instil self-belief in his men, and he was delighted that they had finally emerged victorious in a tight encounter.
“Our problem has been not playing for the full 80 and we managed to do that,” he said. “We didn’t have much of the ball in the second half but we fronted up in defence, had some massive turnovers then when we needed to we got in their 22 and that made a big difference.
“The boys deserve more. It’s about them having the belief that we are more than capable of beating teams. We’ve got the players to do it.”
The mood in the home camp, understandably, was flat, with coach Phil Smith struggling to pinpoint the cause of the lacklustre performance. “Our inability to score when we probably should have cost us in the end,” he said. “There were three or four clear-cut chances.
“If I was able to say what went wrong, I would put it in a bottle or on a bit of paper and sell it. It’s frustrating when you go on this rollercoaster every week it feels like, and you just hope to get more highs than lows. It’s just frustrating and disappointing.”
Heriot’s looked the more threatening of the two sides in the opening exchanges and deservedly took the lead in 10 minutes. A penalty to touch on the right flank created the platform for slick handling that found Paul Christie in space on the opposite wing. He was foiled just short of the whitewash but Jason Hill followed up to plunge over.
Hawks responded well and had a spell in the ascendancy. Their skipper Paul Cairncross was looking lively in the loose, and his quick thinking proved crucial in the opening score for the visitors. The hooker’s tap penalty inside the Heriot’s 22 took him to within striking distance and Sione Halafihi completed the job. David McCartney’s conversion handed Hawks a two-point lead.
Heriot’s responded with a fresh wave of attacks which Hawks defended resolutely, repelling Struan Cessford and Hill, although McCartney was deemed to have done so illegally and was despatched for 10 minutes in the sin bin.
Despite being short-handed, Hawks ended the half on top and both Cairncross and Tiaan Wright came close. The home defence was fully stretched to cope and Oisin Quinn was next to see yellow after the referee had warned the hosts. However, there was no change on the scoreboard before the break.
Hawks resumed with the bit between their teeth but failed to capitalise on their pressure and paid the price in 47 minutes. The first Heriot’s attack of the second period carried play deep into the opposition 22 where Graham Wilson fed Luke Townsend and his well-judged cross-kick found Christie, who sprinted in at the corner.
The home side continued to press but failed to add to their tally and the match remained finely balanced entering the final quarter.
Harry Hitchens looked set to land the third Heriot’s try with a searing run from his own half, but he was collared just short and Hawks were able to work their way back into the opposition 22. After squandering a couple of opportunities, they had a chance to snatch the lead when a Lewis Stewart lineout steal and subsequent run earned a penalty five metres shy of the whitewash. The visitors opted for the scrum and Wright forced his way over, with McCartney adding the extras.
Heriot’s were not quite finished and that score stung them back into action. They edged ever closer to another score before suffering the fatal blow as they sought to sweep the ball along the line. Torquil Macleod read the final pass and plucked the ball out of the air before sprinting the length of the field to bag the clinching points and secure a fourth Hawks win of the campaign.
Heriot’s Blues: A Hunter; P Christie, O Quinn, K Kutsuna, C Meager; L Townsend, G Wilson; B Dineen, R Jackson, S Cessford, R Simpson, M Keough, C Shand, R Kirkpatrick ©, J Hill. Subs: F Thomas, J Lascelles, T Dunn, R Thompson, H Hitchen.
Glasgow Hawks: J Couper; T Macleod, J Pinkerton, C Ferrie, F Callaghan; D McCartney, J Imrie; F Muir, P Cairncross©, E Cairns, M Crumlish, S Halafihi, L Stewart, B Skinner, T Wright. Subs: A Burgess, G Strain, C Nolan, R Gordon, B Morriss.
Referee: F Hollins
Heriot’s Blues: Tries: Hill, Christie
Glasgow Hawks: Tries: Halafihi, Wright, Macleod; Cons: McCartney 2.
Scoring sequence (Glasgow Hawks first): 5-0; 5-5; 5-7 (h-t) 10-7; 10-12; 10-14; 10-19.
Glasgow Hawks: McCartney
Man-of-the-match: There were numerous contenders in the Hawks side, but the man who stood out was skipper Paul Cairncross, who led by example and performed his hooker duties well and was exceptional in attack, repeatedly making ground while in possession and constantly asking questions of the home defence.
Talking point: Heriot’s saw their play-off hopes evaporate, ending a season that had promised so much on a disappointing note. They will now switch focus to the cup, a competition that Hawks will now also look forward to with renewed optimism.