1st XV v Stirling County
By Hugh Barrow
Hawks win ugly
Glasgow Hawks 10 Stirling County 3
Try: Macfarlane 21
Conversion: Mounal 21
Penalty: Mounal 50
Penalty: Hope 13
Hawks programme notes predicted a tight and close encounter between these two sides and so it was to prove. I don’t expect, however, that this was quite the game that the writer had in mind.
The conditions were horrible, the type of day that retired players looked at and blessed their stars that they were sitting in the stand rather than playing. At times the rain was vertical, diagonal and also horizontal and the two front line kickers, Pierre Mounal for Hawks and Jonny Hope for County, would have needed a degree in Geometry to work out the angle of the wind from one second to the next. Theirs was indeed a task with no thanks.
Yet out of the grey bleak Glaswegian afternoon emerged a compelling contest, partially because neither side could wholly command the match and partially because both sides were giving their all.
Hawks quickly established a dominance in the scrummage, within minutes of the kick-off County knocked on in defence giving Hawks a scrum. There was a tremendous push from Hawks and County’s back row did well to get the ball away.
In the subsequent play Hawks were awarded a penalty which was kicked to touch for the lineout. On their own throw Hawks lost the ball as County took it on the throw, what should have been an attacking position in Stirling’s 22 had become a chance for the visitor’s to counter.
It was not obvious then, but this was the start of a pattern as Hawks dominated the scrum but seemed to never quite get into the rhythm with the lineout.
Unfortunately for Hawks the advantage they had in the scrum was negated by a referee who regularly seemed unable to cope with this. It appeared that he had a pre-conceived idea about Hawks play.
For County, they took advantage of Hawks’ poor lineout over the first 4 yards, regularly beating the first and second tackles, but
Hawks tackling in depth came through preventing County from getting any real advantage here.
County opened the scoring in 13 minutes as Hawks conceded a penalty in their own half allowing County winger, Jonny Hope, to put the Bridgehaugh men ahead. (0-3)
County enjoyed a good spell here putting Hawks under pressure as they tried to open the scoring. Yet, although uncharacteristically Hawks missed a lot of first tackles the defence was so well drilled that there was always a 2nd and 3rd tackler there to stop County’s advance.
Just after the first quarter, County were pushing on when Pierre Mounal stole the ball and made a mazy run deep into the visitors half, he off loaded to Jack Macfarlane who went over for the try. With Mounal adding the additional 2 points Hawks had taken the lead. (7-3)
Over the next quarter there were bouts of aerial tennis as the sides tried to get a territorial advantage, but when it came down to it was the poor bloody infantry who were the ones to make the hard yards. Andrew Hill, James Leckey and James Eddie were particularly involved in this chore. Eddie in particular made some pretty hard yards over the course of the match. But in a way it was for little, as in weather like this defending sides have the advantage.. Before half time Mounal and Hope had a couple of penalty chances but the game wasn’t swinging in either sides’ direction.
As the 2nd half kicked off there had been a slight lull in the storm but it was a false hope as the elements closed in. The teams looked livelier as if the short spell in the dressing room had re-lit a fire. Early play swung either way but in 50 minutes, Hawks’ were awarded a penalty from a poor County scrum. Mounal stepped up and gave Hawks a 7 point lead. (10-3)
The game started to drift as neither side could find a way through. The cold wet conditions made handling moves of any length difficult and when County were able to get any traction they ran into a wall of Hawks who were not in the mood to let them through.
On 70 minutes County appeared to have got Danny Gilmour into a scoring position but Mounal put his feet in touch with a try saving tackle.
The last 5 minutes of regular play with 6 additional, saw County hammer away at the Hawks line. In the gloom it was difficult to get a sense of how close they were to getting over the line but it seemed they were short by inches.
Here, the heroics came from Hawks defence, every man jack of them and when they booted a penalty into the stand to end the match there was a tremendous feeling of exhilaration.
All in all it was an odd match, County seemed to leave with less than they deserved, yet never looked truly as if they had a try in them.
Hawks deserved their win in large part for the “smeddum” they showed in their intensity and never seemed troubled in holding County at bay.
In the end the wins the thing and Hawks took all four points.
Updated 21:55 - 28 Nov 2015 by Alex Gordon