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Hawks storm on to win Bill McLaren Shield

By on December 6, 2015
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Heriots 5, Glasgow Hawks 12 

Saturday afternoon and the rain is horizontal, the wind has closed bridges and blown part of the roof off of the Cineworld in Glasgow, writes Alex Gordon. 

Across Scotland all morning, match after match was lost to the conditions until by mid-day there stood only two, one in Galashiels and the second here at Goldenacre. To play in conditions like this it is an 80 minutes test of character, a display of pluck and mettle, of backbone and spirit, in short, to fans of Westerns it shows True Grit; that is just to play, to win takes something more.

The ground remained firm, but the ball was slippy on a wet, slick surface.

Previously at Old Anniesland Heriots had kept Hawks at bay in a 16-8 victory which was even tighter than it sounds and a win at the home of the current Champion Club was seen as necessary to put a challenge for a top-four finish on track after last week’s win over Stirling County.

Early on both Hawks and Heriots missed touch with penalties as the wind which came from the City end of the ground, deceived both teams.

The first real break fell to Hawks in about six minutes as Brendan McGroarty burst through the midfield making a break of about 30 metres, as he was tackled he lacked support and Heriots were able to gain turnover ball and clear their lines. Patrick Boyer fielded the kick and put a pass to Erland Oag but Hawks were contained.

Hawks had the upper hand and they were showing a self-assured and very controlled performance. When the opening try came it was a cracker. Heriots had tried to clear their lines again but had not been able to do much about the counter running from Hawks backs.

This time the ball came to Robert Beattie inside his own 10 metre line. Beattie ran a shallow angle which evaded the cover and allowed him to pick his way through the Heriots back field. The line was opening up ahead and Oag had created an overlap running in support, Beattie put the pass to his opposite wing and Oag was over for the try. Josh Henderson was unlucky with the conversion in horrible conditions for kicking but Hawks were ahead. (0-5)

In the background to this score two things were becoming apparent, sub-plots, to the match which would come to play a greater importance as the game progressed.

First the wind was destroying both sides’ lineouts, areas in which both were used to control, early on both sides were penalised and from about 10 minutes onwards, the calls became more basic and easier for the opponents to read.

The second plot was around the scrum, Hawks were destroying Heriots, it was the most dominant show I had seen from Hawks this season. The front row with the rotating Steven Findlay, Jack Macfarlane and Brendan Cullinane all starting ably supported by Gary Strain and Grant Stewart.

Heriots’ feet got heavier and heavier as they were called to scrum after scrum, pushed on Hawks ball and retreating on their own.

In second row Scott Cummings showed exactly why he has a contract with Warriors. If there was one problem, it wasn’t with Hawks, it was with referee Keith Allan, who penalised Heriots time and again, spoke to their front-row, yet somehow failed to penalise the hosts with either a yellow card or a penalty try.

When Heriots had to ball they tried to put it out wide to cold hands which saw the pill slip or simply miss their mark. Henderson had a second missed kick just before the half hour but the conditions weren’t helping.

Hawks seemed to gain a distinct advantage in 17 minutes when Heriots’ Martin Bouab received a yellow card but were unable to take advantage as Heriots played some of their best rugby and challenged the Hawks line during this period. It seemed that with the hosts camped in the visitors’ 22 they had their best chance. Certainly Hawks relief seemed palpable when the ball went into touch for half-time.

Hawks started the second half in determined fashion, both sides were back at 15 and the Glasgow side were back in the Heriots’ 22.

In 44 minutes Hawks got a scrum from a Heriots knock-on, this led to a penalty and Hawks called another scrum. Heriots were clearly trying to bore in and gave away another penalty.

From this as Heriots strained, Hawks’ back-row exploded forth and went for the line – the referee’s arm went up and initially it was thought it was a penalty try as the signal wasn’t clear but Andy Hill had gone over for the five points and took the honours. With Henderson adding the conversion Hawks had pulled away substantially in the match. (0-12)

The notes for the rest of the half read as scrum, penalty, scrum, knock on scrum and yet and yet despite the pack hammering Heriots into the middle of next week, the referee’s arm sat firmly by his side and his whistle was silent for scoring.

What were supposed to be the closing moments had Heriots in a desperate show of offence whilst Hawks first up and cover tackling was again at an excellent level.

Eventually, with two minutes on the clock, Heriots’ Iain Wilson went over in the far corner for a try in the gathering gloom. It was a try for the never say die spirit of the Champions, yet only five minutes earlier you could not see it coming. The conversion attempt crossed the face of the post and Heriots were within 7 points with what seemed very little time on the clock.

In fact there was more than 10 minutes, a period where Oag went to the sin bin, a 10-minute period when every fibre of both sides’ beings endeavoured to overcome the tiredness brought on from the game they had played. For a second week in a row, Hawks held out to win but as the clock hit 50 minutes, Heriots were still pursuing a try to tie.

This was a win of guts, for no guts there is no glory. The bonus came on returning to the clubhouse when Hawks discovered they had won the Bill McLaren Shield, denying their hosts their chance to put their name on it.

Heriots – Try: I Wilson 78. Hawks – Tries: Oag 13, Hill 51; Con: Henderson 51.

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