On a beautiful warm and sunny August afternoon the Hawks bandwagon rolled up at Bridgehaugh to play against the Stirling County Club side that will ne playing in the National 1 division this season.
The most interesting feature of the squad was that, other than Paul Cairncross and Struan Dow, there was not a single player who had played for the 1st XV last season. This confirms that Andy Hill and his coaching team have done an excellent job in attracting young players to the Club and confirmation that Hawks are still a Club that aspiring player’s still wished to join.
There was some trepidation about playing an experienced team with such a young group of players. Selection had been almost the perfect storm as all the older players, who will be playing this season, were at a stag party and our Under 20 representatives were away on District duty this weekend. Selection was made more difficult by a few late call off’s and a key player withdrawing with an injury after the warm up.
The format for these games is that the first half hour is split into two 15 minute session when each team is given possession in turn and able to choose field position and lineout and scrum put in and the opposition act as defenders.
From the first session when Stirling County had possession Hawks looked to be solid in defence and only conceded one try. In the second session Hawks seemed to be performing well and scored one try, honours even at the break. The real test would come in the two half hour sessions in proper match conditions.
The intrepid band of Hawks supporters and coaches soon learned that their concerns were unfounded as Hawks gave as good as they got in the next hour matching up to their more experienced opponents pretty well particularly in the second half when they dominated possession. Their greatest failure was the inability to score points. No fewer than 8 good scoring opportunities occurred but only one was taken.
Stirling scored twice in the first half and led 12-0 at the break. In the second half they only crossed the half way line once and scored from a Hawks mistake to lead 19-0. Hawks countered with an excellent break by prop forward Lyle Archer who fed winger Ethan Aitken and he romped home to bring the final score to 19-5 leaving the Hawks party with the feeling that this was a game that they should have won with the amount of possession and field position they had.
The loss could be put down to their inexperience, failure to take chances and inability to protect their own ball at the base of rucks. Having said that there was some excellent rugby played and many of these players will make the 1st XV when the season begins. These early pre season games are where the players focus on performance rather than the total need to win. This will all change in the next two weeks when we travel to Preston and the following week play Boroughmuir at home in the build up to the first competitive match on the 31st of August away to Musselburgh in the first round of the Scottish cup.
With so many new faces it is difficult to write this report as identifying and naming players is a nightmare without a team sheet and the multiple number of changes that occur in these pre season games. So apologies to any missed out or names misspelt.
In the pack, which played particularly well, the second row of Jack Bruce and Sione Halafihi deserve a mention as they put in a good shift. Simone has returned to the Club after a year away playing for Irvine. He will normally play at 6 but filled in for shortages of 2nd row forwards yesterday. No 8 Ryan Sweeny, who has come from Glasgow Accies, is a useful addition. Flanker Struan Dow played a few times last season and is clearly benefitting from that experience. Prop forward Lyle Archer has returned to the club from Highland and will adequately fill the gap in the front row.
In the backs Nathan Moffat, from school side Stewarts Melville, played full back last week and centre yesterday and is a real prospect as is scrum half Jacob Siems, who has been with us for a year or two, making one appearance off the bench last year, has come on leaps and bounds and will certainly push for a starting place in the 1st XV. Also a mention to the full back, Yousif Alagilly who was good under the high ball and defended well. These are just a selection from a group where there were very few failures and others that deserve a mention.
Next Saturday Hawks are off to England to play Preston Grasshoppers and the good news is that they should be much stronger with the return of the experienced players and others who were unavailable on Saturday due to work commitments and other reasons.
Many thanks to Stirling County for organising the match and their hospitality. It is always a good place to visit especially when the weather was as good as yesterday.