Currie Chieftains 71
Glasgow Hawks 28
STUART BATHGATE @ Malleny Park
THREE other clubs may have set the pace in the Tennent’s Premiership, but Currie Chieftains are beginning to show some of the qualities required to go the distance. This 11-try trouncing of Glasgow Hawks keeps them in fourth place, well in touch with the leaders, and while it was a far from perfect display, it was more than enough to see off opponents who wilted badly after a very competitive first half.
This fixture was an absolute classic last year, as Currie, inspired by stand-off Adam Hastings, came back from a 27-0 deficit to win 29-27. This game did not match that one for high drama, but the second half was even more inspired from a home point of view, as the Chieftains, who had been only three points in front at the break, racked up 47 points to claim a crushing victory.
“We’re really happy in terms of the improvement we made from last week and the areas we identified as letting us down last week – set piece being the main one,” Chieftains head coach Ben Cairns said. “They had the elements in the first half and we coughed up the ball too easily. We rectified that towards the end of the first half, and certainly in the second half our decision-making in and around contact was spot on.”
Professionals Greg Peterson, Luke Crosbie and Tevita Tameilau brought considerable bulk to the home pack, although it was openside Thomas Gordon who was the outstanding forward in the first 40. The longer the match went on, however, the more stand-off Gregor Hunter became the dominant performer, displaying a growing understanding with scrum-half Charlie Shiel and bringing his outside backs into play with some precisely timed passes.
“I thought that the speed that we played with was really impressive as well,” Cairns added. “At one point we said to Charlie Shiel ‘Just pass the ball quickly’. There’s a balance there in terms of playing it off nine or 10, but the bottom line is we’ve got quality around the whole field .
“It was a big game for all of those back-rowers, and it was great to see Thomas Gordon take that battle on. Especially in the first half he was really good for us when we were under a bit more pressure.
“For us it was about getting our control right and our multi-phase right. We’ve been in the play-offs every year, so we expect to be in the hunt for them again. This was a really good win for us.”
Questions for Hawks
The other side of that coin, clearly, is that it was a really bad defeat for Hawks. They still have some daylight between themselves and bottom clubs Edinburgh Accies and Hawick, but they have a lot to work on if they are to avoid similar humiliations in the weeks to come.
At least there is one obvious saving grace to console Finlay Gillies, their head coach, as he rakes over the ashes of this loss: namely, the fact that his team played with a fair deal of spirit throughout the first half and for patches in the second. Indeed, they began in very lively fashion, opening the scoring in the first minute when a break by Mark New was finished off by Lelia Masaga in the right corner. Liam Brims converted that try, as he would the other three from his team.
Chieftains got their first score through winger Steven Hamilton, who took a pass on halfway and had the gas to make it all the way to the line, then went ahead thanks to Ben Robbins, who finished off a break from Gordon. Both those tries owed something to slack Hawks defending, but Currie were themselves guilty of the same flaw, as they showed midway through the half when, from a Hawks scrum on the edge of the home 22, James Couper came into the line and had a clear run to the line.
The visitors went further ahead when Masaga turned provider for full-back Robert Beattie, but they came under increasing pressure after captain Gary Strain was yellow-carded for a scrum offence, and in the last five minutes before the break Jamie Forbes and Joey Reynolds both scored to put the home team into the lead.
The wind was with the Chieftains in the second half, but that was no excuse for the way in which Hawks capitulated.
Forbes stretched the lead within two minutes of the restart, outpacing what there was of the Hawks defence on the left. A better spell followed for the visitors, at least in terms of defensive solidity, but that came to an end on the hour mark when Hunter finished off a multi-phase move from a metre out.
When replacement Campbell Wilson’s try was converted by Hunter, that made it 33 unanswered points for Currie. Couper halted the rout with his second try and his team’s fourth, scored from a clever kick over the top by Paddy Boyer.
Just 17 points down at that point, Hawks had the time to chase a second bonus point. But they did not figure again as an attacking force, instead conceding four more tries – for Robbie Nelson, Matt Hooks and Ben Robbins with two – and leaving head coach Finlay Gillies perplexed by how badly they had collapsed.
“You could say the wheels came off,” he said. “Forty-seven points conceded in the second half: is that really a reflection of Glasgow Hawks? It shouldn’t be, but it was a reflection of our performance in the second half.
“I’ve never seen them throw in the towel like that before. At 24-21 at half-time, we were talking about keeping the ball, then right from the restart we conceded a try. Then it was just a knock-on effect.
“In the first half we conceded three first-phase tries, which honestly is horrendous. One of them was a missed tackle in midfield – fine, that happens – but the others were system errors.
“We’re going to have to do some soul-searching this week. It’s not all doom and gloom. There’s some good teams in this league, and if you get it wrong, you’re going to get embarrassed. We just need to figure out what changed between the first and second halves.”
In other news:
Currie Chieftains: J Forbes; B Robbins, J Reynolds, R Nelson, S Hamilton; G Hunter, C Shiel; A McWilliam, G Carson, F Watt, G Peterson, M Vernel, L Crosbie, T Gordon, T Tameilau. Subs: C Wilson, R Patterson, R Davies, S McGinley, M Hooks.
Glasgow Hawks: R Beattie; L Masaga, C Symes, M New, J Couper; L Brims, P Boyer; G Strain, A Fraser, L Skinner, A Kirkland, F Hastie, S Dow, M Smith, B Flockhart. Subs: P Cairncross, D York, G Adams, K Barreto, R Thompson.
Referee: K Allen.
Currie Chieftains: Tries: Hamilton, Robbins 2, Forbes 2, Reynolds 2, Hunter, Wilson, Nelson, Hooks; Cons: Hunter 8.
Glasgow Hawks: Tries: Masaga, Couper 2, Beattie; Cons: Brims 4.
Scoring sequence: 0-5; 0-7; 5-7; 10-7; 12-7; 12-12; 12-14; 12-19; 12-21; 17-21; 22-21; 24-21 (h-t) 29-21; 31-21; 36-21; 38-21; 43-21; 45-21; 45-26; 45-28; 50-28; 52-28; 57-28; 59-28; 64-28; 66-28; 71-28.
Yellow card –
Glasgow Hawks: Strain.
Man of the match: Currie Chieftains fly-half Gregor Hunter orchestrated the show in attack, rounding off a fine afternoon with a try of his own.
Talking point:.Defensive lapses are often characteristic of play at this level, but Hawks in particular have to be concerned with their shortcomings in that department.