Glasgow Hawks 17
IAIN HAY @ Stoneyhill
THE sun was shining and the wind was howling down at Stoneyhill, but it was the home side who dealt with the conditions better to ensure they kicked off their season with a relatively comfortable victory over the boys from the big city.
This result not only books Musselburgh a spot in the draw for the first round of the Scottish Cup, it will also give the Premiership new boys a huge confidence boost ahead of the kick-off of the league season next week, when they host Hawick.
Hawks’ day got off to a bad start when hooker Angus Fraser had to be replaced with less than five minutes on the clock, then a few minutes later scrum-half Jacob Siems’ attempt at a clearing kick from around his own 22 ended up going all the way over the Musselburgh in-goal area, abetted by one of the many ferocious gusts which blighted the match, the home side took full advantage of their good fortune through a try on the left-wing by Tom Foley.
Hawks levelled from close range through Gary Strain in the 17th minute, but found themselves down to 14 men soon after when winger Chris McCarron clattered into Musselburgh scrum-half Danny Owenson whilst he was in the air, and was sent to the naughty step for 10 minutes to think about what he had done. Hawks spent the remainder of the first half pinned back in their own half.
Musselburgh winger Foley went close to his second try, and on the opposite wing a piece of quick thinking by James Ferguson saw him take a line-out, exchange passes with full-back Freddie Reddick, and tear towards the line, but on both occasions the ball was dislodged in contact with the hosts just five metres short.
Musselburgh’s relentless pressure did pay off with five minutes remaining in the first half. With penalty advantage deep in Hawks’ 22, fly-half Paul Cunningham aimed a cross-kick toward Ferguson, and the big winger made no mistake. Considering the conditions, Danny Owenson did brilliantly to knock over the conversion, and he extended the lead in the last act of the first half with a penalty from in front of the sticks, to make it 15-5 to the home side.
With the wind now at their backs for the second period of play, Musselburgh quickly got over the whitewash again. Forwards Colin Arthur and William Fleming punched a few holes through the middle, and there were not enough Hawks available to cover out wide, with Rory Watt the man able to benefit on this occasion.
Hawks could maybe feel aggrieved not to be awarded a penalty try for a deliberate knock-on on the hour mark, winger Max Priestly looking certain to score had Nathan Moffat’s pass not been interfered with, but they kept focussed, kicked to the corner and replacement Craig Shields dotted down from the back of the maul to reduce the arrears to a two-score game.
However, it was the home side, with far more incisive backs throughout the match, who sealed the deal with just a few minutes remaining, with Reddick getting his just rewards for a very good performance when he went over in the left.
Hawks did add a bit more respectability to the final scoreline when No 8 Ryan Sweeney capitalised after a spilt pass in the Musselburgh 22, but the home side were the deserving winners.
“I think what we did was put together a good team performance, our forwards really fronted up against a strong, physical side in Hawks,” said Musselburgh head coach Graeme Paterson. “We knew that was going to be one of the key elements coming up to this level. Our guys set that platform pretty well up front and I thought the backs were very, very accurate.”
Meanwhile, Hawks coach Andy Hill lamented his side’s game management. “We looked to try to play too much in our own half and put ourselves under pressure,” he said. “We turned the ball over, Musselburgh kept quite well, went through phases and eventually broke us down.”
Musselburgh: F Roddick, J Ferguson, N Sweeney, R Watt, T Foley; P Cunningham, D Owenson; C Owenson, R Stott, C Arthur, W Fleming, J Haynes, M Maltman, C Pryde, L Huston Subs: J Crain, E Bonthron, F Craig, A Roddick, R Smith
Glasgow Hawks: N Moffat, C McCarron, M Stewart, C Harrison, M Priestly, ; Brims, J Seims; P Cairncross, A Fraser, G Strain, L Archer, C Thomson, J Gemmell, S Halfihi, R Sweeney Subs: P Henderson, E Rintoul, C Shields, K Kay, Y Alagilly.
Referee: Ross Mabon
Musselburgh: Tries: Foley, Ferguson, Watt, F Roddick; Cons: D. Owenson 2; Pens: D Owenson.
Glasgow Hawks: Tries: Strain, Shields, Sweeney; Cons: Brims.
Scoring sequence: 5-0; 5-5; 12-5; 15-5 (h-t) 22-5; 22-10; 27-10; 27-17.
Yellow Cards –
Man-of-the-Match: A few contenders, but Musselburgh winger James Ferguson was a constant threat and popped up all over the park looking for work.
Talking Points: That wind! As well as the unfortunate kick from Siems that went miles, a number of Hawks line-outs went awry, which either put them under pressure or lost them good field position.