Melrose match report
By Hugh Barrow
Difficult day at Old Anniesland
Saturday 3rd September 2016
Glasgow Hawks RFC 17 Melrose RFC 37
Much to the relief of the coaching staff Hawks were able to field a side with only one change and one positional change from the team that won at Gala last Saturday. In fact were the only away team to win on the first League Saturday of the new season. Unfortunately Kerr Gossman, who had scored two tries at Netherdale, had picked up an injury and he was replaced by Patrick Kelly who played in the centre with Erland Oag reverting to his normal place on the wing. All eight Hawks players who had played for the Glasgow Warriors B team against Canada A had come through that victory unscathed and with some distinction, even if the press and SRU website had not acknowledged that they were attached to Hawks.
Melrose also won last Saturday with a bonus point so it was little wonder that this game was designated ‘game of the day’ even though it was only the second day of the season.
Hawks have been described as the ‘dark horses’ for this season and it was interesting to see if they could live up to that billing. Two players who had impressed in the 2nd XV’s big win against Gala 2nd XV last week had been added to the bench. Sean Yacoubian, scrum half and utility player and Sam Thomson, a sizable 2nd row forward were given their chance to impress.
Sadly, after the billing, Hawks turned in a disappointing performance and were well beaten as the scoreline above shows. However they were competitive throughout the match and for long periods in each half they pinned Melrose in their own 22 but due to fragile handling, wrong choices and an amazing Melrose defence they only managed to score two tries and that was not enough against a seasoned opposition who took every opportunity to punish the errors.
The handling errors started early and two of them in the first 6 minutes lead to a penalty that Melrose kicked to the corner and rolled the inevitable rolling maul over the line and Ross McCann got the touch down with the highly reliable kicker Jason Baggott converting from the touchline.
Hawks hooker Grant Stewart put Hawks back on the offensive with a cracking run down the touchline but he was finally forced into touch inside the opposition 22. Hawks kept the pressure on but Melrose defended solidly both legally and illegally and for once it was the latter and in the 13th minute George Horne kicked the penalty that reduced the deficit to 3-7 but this was scant reward for the pressure Hawks had exerted.
The scoreboard remained static for the rest of the first half as both defences held firm. On the 20 minute mark Tommy Spinks retired hurt and was replaced by Sam Thomson. Up to this point there had been surprisingly few scrums but in the 22nd minute Hawks were punished, it appeared harshly, for a scrum that wheeled sideways and Jason Baggott kicked a long distance penalty for 3-10.
From that point on Hawks were in the ascendancy but three crucial handling errors within sight of the line was their undoing. A lot of good work was being spoiled from penalties and this was punished in the 36th minute when Jason Baggott kicked another one for a 3-13 lead.
Hawks desperately tried to make amends before halftime but sadly lost possession of the ball in the 4th minute of overtime and Melrose swept up field with an excellent handling move that resulted in George Taylor running under the posts and Baggott converting for a 3-20 half time lead.
It could only get better for Hawks in the second half, sadly it did not. In the first minute a rather stupid and unnecessary pass was intercepted by Melrose and this early Christmas present gave them a 3-30 lead as George Taylor scored and Jason Baggott converted again.
To be fair Hawks stepped up a gear or two for the rest of the half and Melrose had to defend desperately. With 20 minutes to go Hawks knocked the ball into touch on 5 metres from a penalty and after a number of drives Grant Stewart drove over for a well deserved try and George Horne kicked the conversion for 10-30.
Hawks kept the pressure on and put another penalty into touch on 5 metres. For the next 6 or 8 minutes Melrose defended heroically but illegally and there were numerous set scrums and line outs before referee Graeme Ormiston got fed up and awarded a penalty try that George Horne converted for 17-30. He also yellow carded Melrose prop Nick Beavon for persistent offending.
With 10 minutes to go Hawks looked as if they might get a losing bonus point or even a win but not so as Melrose who had too much experience controlled the ball inside Hawks half and in the 4th minute of extra time ran a long clearance kick back at Hawks tiring defence for a try and conversion and a 5 point victory.
Hopefully Hawks will learn from this that holding the ball and not kicking away possession to a side as competent as Melrose are essential ingredients of winning games in this league. The good news is that are unlikely to meet a side as good as Melrose in the next few weeks as they must be hot favourites for this years championship.
Next Saturday Hawks are away to Stirling County at Bridgehaugh kick off 3pm followed by a home tie against Watsonians when there will be a pre-match lunch. See Hawks website for details