Glasgow Hawks 46
DAVID BARNES @ Hawthornden
AT the end of a miserable week, something to cheer about for Glasgow Hawks. The team can enjoy their club dinner tonight knowing that at the moment of truth they delivered. They will play Premiership rugby again next year, and on the evidence of this performance they can target a more fruitful season than the one just finished – if they can hold onto their core of young players who seemed to come of age in this match.
Hawks played smart, fast, aggressive rugby from the very start. Jed, who had not tasted defeat in the league since last September and who have been collecting bonus-points like they are going out of fashion this season, couldn’t cope. Their discipline disappeared and with their set-piece in all sorts of trouble they had barely a chance to get their dangerous backline into the game.
“I was looking at them in the warm-up and thinking: ‘They’re bigger than us’. But then you see the set-piece stuff, you look at our scrum and our maul, and you realise that size doesn’t matter because we were technically better and more astute,” said Hawks head coach Finlay Gillies.
“We were just playing better, more disciplined, more experienced rugby. For us to go 13-0 and to put our foot on their throat and keep it there was good, it was experienced rugby.”
Hawks had no momentum coming into this match. They were on a ten-game losing streak in all competitions stretching back to last October and had not had a proper run-out since their last game of the regular season seven weeks ago, but they had clearly used their time off well.
“We had a good six weeks. We got back together, we got a closeness that we needed to get, we had a couple of honest conversations and we pulled ourselves in the right direction. To ask the players to go back to the well for another six weeks was tough, to ask the coaches and the physios to go back to the well was tough,” said Gillies.
“I’ve got to give a special mention to Victoria Penpraze. She does all our GPS stuff and she also did some mental skills work with the players and you could see the value of that today. Yes, we were probably the stronger rugby team, but mentally we looked bullet-proof. Coming from having won nothing to being able to say to ourselves that we are better than these guys so let’s go out and win it by any means necessary – that comes down to what she has been doing with these guys.
“The boys need a break now. They’ve been digging deep – coming in Tuesdays, Thursday and Saturday mornings – we’ve been doing cross-fit classes at 7am on Saturday morning to make sure they are as fit as they can be – they’ve done every little thing that has been asked of them to make sure they are a Premiership club next year.
“All I can do is thank them for their efforts – not for me, not for Glasgow Hawks as a club, but for themselves because they have finally shown what they are capable of.”
Light at the end of the tunnel?
The back story to this, of course, is the news earlier this week that Hawks had not been selected as one of the franchises which will compete in the Super 6 league which kicks-off in season 2019-20 onwards. It was a grievous blow to the club and raises all sorts of questions about the city of Glasgow’s future role in developing players.
“Hawks have this attitude where people don’t like us – they say we have no history – nobody wants us to win. It’s not like these old clubs like Jed, who had loads of people come out to watch them today – but we know we’re a performance club and we know our job is to develop talent for Scottish rugby, and that is exactly what we are trying to do. It was tough to have that taken away from us this week, but we’re still fighting. We’ll still be a Premiership club next year,” concluded Gillies.
Flying high from the start
Hawks won their own kick-off back, then after more than a dozen short, sharp phases they earned a penalty in front of the posts which Ross Thompson had no problem turning onto three points. It got even better for the west-coast side a few minutes later when they shunted Jed off their own ball at a scrum, kicked the resultant penalty towards the corner, picked up another penalty through their line-out drive, and after another driven line-out it was number eight Gary Adams who got the ball down – with Thompson nailing the conversion.
Kyle Rowe broke straight back upfield from the restart and Jed were penalised again, allowing Hawks to tighten their stranglehold on this match. Then Jed made life even harder for themselves when Darren Gillespie committed a shocking off-the-ball shoulder-charge on Hawks scrum-half Paddy Boyer. The number-eight was yellow-carded for the offence and should have counted himself very fortunate indeed that he didn’t see red.
Hawks continued to pulverise Jed’s scrum, despite a change at tight-head with Connor Hogg replacing Jamie Oliver, but they didn’t manage to extend their lead during this ten-minute period with a man advantage, although they came close a few times.
Just a few minutes after Gillespie had returned to the fray, Jed were down to 14 men again, when Hogg was sent to the cooler for not getting back ten at a penalty. Thompson knocked over three more easy points.
Jed were flustered. Their scrum was scooting backwards at a rate of noughts, their line-out was looking pretty shaky too, when they got the ball they were harassed into snapping aimless kicks up field, and the passing lacked any sort of fluidity.
Most damaging of all, however, was the complete breakdown in discipline. As Grant Stewart bulldozed over for Hawks’ second try just before the break, there was an off the ball incident which left Hawks flanker Callum Kerr on the deck, rather exaggeratedly nursing his chin. The linesman’s flag was straight out and after a brief consultation between the officials, Gillespie was called forward to be shown his second yellow-card, which, of course, meant his involvement in this match was over.
As so often happens, this serious blow seemed to temporarily galvanise the team which had been punished, and the 13 men of Jed finished the half enjoying their first real period of pressure, building through several phases on the Hawks like before a dropped ball from Oliver – back on after Hogg’s sin-binning – meant that their efforts came to naught.
False dawn for Jed
Jed started the second half brightly enough with muscular scrum-half Sean Goodfellow bouncing through tackles like a pinball, while Hawks tooke their turn to play the miscreants with a couple of cheap penalties surrendered, but then a dropped ball at a line-out popped that bubble of Border optimism.
A 70-yard wind-assisted clearance by Thompson put Hawks back on the front foot, and Sam Yawayawa – who had been lively all afternoon – once again showed pace, power and balance to motor past at least three defenders for try number three.
Gregor Young was the next Jed player to see yellow for tackling Boyer without the ball. This was during a period when Hawks were really sucking the fight out of Jed with their totally dominant scrum, and it was no surprise when the Premiership side decided to pack down once again. Goodfellow looked a resigned figure as he conceded a penalty-try by kicking the ball away from Adams’ feet as the Hawks scrum marched determinedly once again towards Jed’s line.
It was not a massive surprise when Jed ran out of fit props at the next stoppage in play, meaning that we now had uncontested scrums. It didn’t really matter. This game was well and truly over by now.
Bowyer scuttled over from close range for try number five and Beattie raced home for number six, with the excellent Grant Stewart playing chief-architect in both scores with powerful some running an excellent offloading – especially in the lead-up to the second try.
“I’m just really disappointed with the way we performed,” said Jed assistant coach Ross Goodfellow. “Everybody talks about that huge step up [from National One to the Premiership], but I can assure you that that’s not how we’ve been playing this year. To go down to 14 men, then down to 13 – you can’t do that. We talked about it all week – discipline, discipline, discipline – and then we go out there and are 10-0 down in the penalty count before we get a penalty. Now, whether you agree with the referee or not, you are making some bad decisions there somehow. They were better than us today, so we just need to suck it up.”
It is a tough end to a fine season for Jed, but Goodfellow is sure the club will bounce back.
“We talked about that afterwards. We win together and we lose together – that’s the way it is. I’m just disappointed that with the biggest crowd of the season we put in our worst performance. They are a good bunch of lads and they are going to bounce back. We’re going to go to Earlston Sevens tomorrow and the boys are all up for it. We’re going there to win it.”
Jed-Forest: L Young; R Marshall, R Yourston (C Young 70), M Mitchell, G Young; E Scott, S Goodfellow (D Wardrop 72); R Gibson, C Mackay (F Scott 68), J Oliver (C Hogg, 24-55, G Paxton 62), C Skeldon, G Law (J Hynd 73), B Roff, J Northwood, (J Oliver 37-40, E Stewart 71) D Gillespie.
Glasgow Hawks: S Peffers (R Houliston 70); S Yawayawa, R Beattie, M New (C Harrison 70), K Rowe (E Oag 72); R Thompson (L Brims 67), P Boyer; S Findlay, G Stewart, G Strain (L Skinner 67), F Hastie, A Linton, S Leckey, C Kerr (P Cairncross 64), G Adams.
Referee: Keith Allen
Jed-Forest: No scorers
Glasgow Hawks: Try: Adams, Stewart, Yawayawa, Penalty Try, Boyer, Beattie; Con: Thompson 2, Brims 2; Pen: Thomson 2
Scoring sequence (Jed-Forest first): 0-3; 0-8; 0-10; 0-13; 0-18 (h-t) 0-23; 0-25; 0-32; 0-37; 0-39; 0-44; 0-46.
Yellow cards –
Jed-Forest: Gillespie x2, Hogg, G Young
Red cards –
Man-of-the-Match: Plenty of candidates from among the Hawks ranks. Sam Yawayawa was busy in attack and defence and made good yardage every time he got his hands on the ball, Ross Thompson pulled the strings expertly at stand-off, Paddy Boyer provided spark at scrum-half, Fraser Hastie got through a hell of a lot of graft in the second-row, Gary Adams was into everything at number eight and captain Stephen Leckie led from the front – but Grant Stewart gets the nod for an all-action display which underlined why he is on the precipice of being handed a full-time contract with Glasgow Warriors in the next year.
Talking point: A remarkable turnaround from Glasgow Hawks after a miserable season – they are not ready to be written off yet.