Edinburgh Accies 18
Glasgow Hawks 20
DAVID BARNES @ Raeburn Place
TWO teams who really, really needed a win – and it showed. This will not go down as a classic. There was plenty of tension, and the desire exhibited by the players was commendable, but it was an awful scrappy and ill-disciplined affair, which was ultimately decided by the dominance of the Hawks scrum – which milked a penalty try, plus two yellow-cards which sapped the home team’s energy at the start of the final quarter.
“We were more England 2003 than we ever have been at Glasgow Hawks,” conceded Fin Gillies, the winning coach. “It wasn’t what I would do as a coach usually – grinding the opposition down at a scrum – but when you’ve got to win you’ve got to win, and that’s what we did.
“Usually I stand in front of the players and say: There is no pressure so let’s go out there and enjoy ourselves. Whereas this week I flipped that on its head and said: Let’s see how we react to pressure. For 40 minutes it didn’t work out for us, so at half-time the pressure was really on – and they came together and got the job done.”
Vincent Hart’s 13th minute penalty failed to steady Accies’ nerves after a frantic opening, and the hosts conceded a ruck penalty of their own straight from the restart, which allowed Hawks to kick to the corner and power the subsequent line-out over the line, with Matt Smith getting the ball down.
But Hawks were edgy, too. Mark New got himself a totally unnecessary yellow card for following through on a tackle long after the whistle had gone under the shadow of his own posts, and Hart stepped forward to slot the three points to regain the lead for the home team.
Fraser Hastie was lucky not to follow New to the naughty step when he was penalised for a cynical offside as Accies tried to capitalise on a powerful James Pearse break.
Paul Cairncross didn’t get the same benefit of the doubt a few minutes later when he was found responsible for some skulduggery as Accies mauled their way towards the Hawks line, and Robbie Davis scuttled over from a quick tap penalty. And it got even better for Accies at the start of the second half when George Spencer sent Robbie Chalmers over in the left-hand corner, before the Hawks miscreants had returned to the fray.
Accies had picked up two scrum penalties early in the contest, but Hawks were well on top in this area by the start of the second half, with teenage tight-head Cole Imrie eventually seeing yellow as a consequence. Unsurprisingly, this didn’t have a magical galvanising effect on the home scrum, and after three more resets the inevitable penalty try was awarded, with James Pearse – the other starting prop – also being sent for a ten-minute break.
Accies were still six points ahead, and they survived their spell with a numerical disadvantage without conceding any more points – although it soon became apparent that it had taken a heavy toll on their energy levels.
Hawks scored next when Smith scrambled across for his second with about ten minutes to go after some fierce driving play from the visiting forwards. Ross Thompson missed the touchline conversion, meaning that the visitors will still a point behind, but momentum was now firmly on their side and some serious aggression from Bruce Flockhart at the breakdown earned a penalty which Thompson had no problem turning into the three points they needed.
“It comes down to decisions,” said home coach Derek O’Riordan. “We come into the second half in a pretty dominant position, we go 18-5 up – it needed to be about playing territory and putting the pressure on them, and we didn’t do it. We tried to keep ball and play from everywhere, and we paid the price.
“It was unfamiliar territory – it was the first time we have gone into a second half this season in a winning position – and we maybe thought we’d done enough, but the reality is that you’ve got to keep going until you have killed them off. You have to develop that mind-set. We were too nice in that second half.”
O’Riordan couldn’t hide his frustration about Hawks’ approach to the scrum. “If you want to play rugby that way then fine, but it’s not how we want to play,” he stated, before acknowledging that his players have to take responsibility for leaving themselves exposed.
“The scrum pressure came because they were under our posts and looking for the penalty try. Would they have done the same if they were trying to scrum under our posts? Probably not. So, it all comes back down to that decision making on territorial pressure,”
“The guys are young, they are still developing, and they are taking lessons from every game. Sooner or later that win is going to come, when that happens is down to the guys on the pitch – we’ve got no control when they cross the whitewash on a Saturday. If they are not making the right decisions to close out the game, then who else can they look at?”
Edinburgh Accies: T Brown; C Gray, G Spencer, N Armstrong, R Chalmers; V Hart, R Davis; J Pearse, C Black, C Imrie, R Lovett, M Badenhorst, N Hall, J Sole, R Campbell. Subs: A Wood, C Taylor, R Seydak, S Johnson, W Stephen.
Glasgow Hawks: S Peffers; E Oag, R Beattie, M New, J Couper; R Thompson, K Barreto; G Strain©, P Cairncross, L Skinner, A Kirkland, F Hastie, B Flockhart, M Smith, G Adams. Subs: D York, K McCann, C Thomson, P Boyer, C Symes.
Referee: Harry Walbaum
Edinburgh Accies: Tries: Davis, Chalmers; Con: Hart; Pens: Hart 2.
Glasgow Hawks: Tries: Smith 2, Penalty Try; Pen: Thompson
Scoring sequence (Edinburgh Accies first): 3-0; 3-5; 6-5; 11-5; 13-5 (h-t) 18-5; 18-12; 18-17; 18-20
Yellow cards –
Edinburgh Accies: Imrie, Pearse
Glasgow Hawks: New, Cairncross
Man-of-the-Match: Let’s give it to one of the Hawks props – skipper Gary Strain– because that was the key to Hawks success.
Talking point: Having a ten minute spell during the second half which consisted of reset scrum after reset scrum cannot be beneficial to anyone – should the penalty try have been awarded sooner? And does a yellow-card really help the situation?