THE season before was difficult for Hawks – complicated in no small measure by the ground subsidence at Anniesland – but even bedded down as they now are at Balgray, this campaign did not look as though it was going to be any easier.
Super6 hit them hard over the summer – losing coach Fin Gillies to Heriot’s, along with nine players – Andrew Nimmo and James Couper also to Heriot’s, Angus Fraser, Kristian Kay and Lewis Skinner to Stirling County, Fraser Hastie, Gavin Wilson and Ross Thomson to Ayrshire Bulls, and Glen Faulds to Boroughmuir Bears – plus Kaleem Baretto to Stade Nicois.
They had a difficult start bedevilled by injuries and player unavailability – suffering a heavy defeat at Philiphaugh in their opening game and looked pretty inert in losing five out of their first six matches – but they took a very limited gameplan down to Mansfield in round seven and snatched a much needed victory.
Focusing on defence, they found a bit of form – unlucky to lose to Marr – beating Accies comfortably – running Selkirk close at Philiphaugh – and winning up at Rubislaw – so went into December with half an eye on the play-offs.
But that was it – as good as it got – they did not win another game until the crunch relegation battle with Accies on the last day of the season – though, in fairness it was tight margins all the way through with five of their defeats having an aggregate points differential of only eight.
- Hard-nosed (and much needed) win at Mansfield in round seven. Not great to watch – but bags of character.
- Great team effort against Marr at Balgray in round eight – a Liam Brims penalty which bounced back off the cross bar was the only difference between the two teams.
- An equally resolute effort in the reciprocal fixture down in Troon – on wrong end of a couple of dubious refereeing decisions – but a monumental defensive effort – which had Matt Vallance salivating about Rorke’s Drift.
- Producing the goods when it really mattered against Accies in the relegation battle at Raeburn Place – heroic defence – and clinical finishing.
- Gary Strain making the Scotland Club XV – with Paddy Boyer on the bench
- Losing out to GHA at Braidholm on final play of the match – having been 16 points up with 20 mins to play and against 14 men.
- Not competing against Chieftains – twice! – beaten six tries to two at Balgray in October – and seven tries to one at Malleny in January.
- Stephen Leckey, Fraser Christie and Ryan Sweeney were strong in the back-row – hard working and aggressive. Leckey led from the front. Sweeney was a big ball carrier.
- Gary Strain kept the scrum honest. Lyall Archer made a huge impact from the bench in the big game against Accies at Raeburn Place.
- Paddy Boyer and Liam Brims were always tidy at half-back – and Brims looked very comfortable in the wider channels when he moved to full-back for the last two games against Marr and Accies.
- Erlend Oag and Callum Henderson were strong when paired in the centre and Max Priestley was always dangerous on the wing.
- “The performance was probably the best one we have had all season in terms of how we have played and our attacking game plan. We just did not manage the last ten to fifteen minutes. Lost a scrum penalty, kicked one out on the full, missed touch at one point. It just put us under pressure in terms of trying to exit” – A crestfallen Andy Hill tells it how it was after being mugged by GHA at Braidholm.
- “We never put ourselves in a position to be even close to winning the game. Simple things like tackling – it was not anywhere near where it needs to be if you are going to be winning games in the Premiership” – Andy Hill, after the heavy defeat at Malleny the following week.
- “It was never going to be champagne rugby, but we take credit for the way we played” – How forwards coach Steven Findlay saw it after the much needed win at Mansfield.
- “They’ve got a good number of their players back. I think people have underestimated how good they might be when they get their full team together” – Marr coach Craig Redpath, after his side’s narrow squeak at Balgray.
- “I don’t think the best team won on the day” – Andy Hill, clearly agreed with Craig Redpath.
- “The boys got a bit of belief when they won down at Hawick and then the performance against Marr probably deserved a win. They have had a totally different belief in the last two or three weeks, and you can see it in this performance, with guys going out expecting to win” – Andy Hill, after winning against Accies at Balgray.
- “We maybe got suckered into playing too much rugby” – Andy Hill, after narrow defeat by Jed at Balgray.
- “Now instead of talking top four – because we have got the players in the dressing room to do it – we need to start looking over our shoulder” – Reality hits Andy Hill after being beaten by Musselburgh at Stoneyhill.
- “We’ve got the boys to go and do it. There are not many guys I’d swap for other players in the league, but it comes down to what happens on the day, and we are just falling foul of these fine margins” – Andy Hill after frustrating defeat by GHA at Braidholm.
- “The boys deserved that. When you look at the table we have lost seven games by less than seven points – and five of those within three points – so it was good to get one over the line” – Andy Hill, after the crucial win over Accies in the last game of the season at Raeburn Place.
Brian Simmers and Kenny Hamilton were well ahead of the curve in reading the runes of Scottish club rugby in the aftermath of the game going professional in 1995. What they saw was a club controlled semi-professional tier operating just below the SRU controlled professional game. Murrayfield was suspiciously defensive – and, unfortunately, the other clubs, generally, either lacked the will or were short of the resource to listen.
Glasgow Hawks were formed in 1996 by a merger of Glasgow Academicals (founded in 1866) and GHK — which was itself the result of the earlier merger (1982) of Glasgow High School (founded in 1884) and Kelvinside Academicals (founded in 1888). New Zealander Kevin Greene was brought across to coach the club with such luminaries as Glenn Metcalfe, Derek Stark, Murray Wallace, Gordon McIllwham and Tommy Hayes amongst the early player roll, and they went on to win the Premiership in three consecutive years from 2003-04 to 2005-06 and the Scottish Cup in 2004 and 2007.
The passing years have maybe eroded their structures and enthusiasm – but it was still a major surprise when it appeared that the City of Glasgow did not warrant Super6 representation. Super6’s loss is the Premiership’s gain. Rugby is well rooted in the West End of Glasgow – and keeping these roots nourished is important to the general well-being of the game.