GHA 19 Glasgow Hawks 36

There is always an extra anticipation about the ground when a derby match is to take place. Thus Braidholm on Saturday saw a good crowd assemble for what they hoped would be a keenly contested match with our Glasgow rivals Glasgow Hawks. A busy club house was enlivened by the Hutcheson’s Old Aloysian reunion lunch. Paolo Bardelli and his team have completed their work on the stand front areas and made a superb job of the seating area. Let us hope that finances can be found to allow Paolo and his team to use their skill and expertise to complete a refreshment of the rest of the seating. The President in his Programme notes alluded to several unforced errors contributing to defeat last Saturday in Edinburgh. Hawks also lost narrowly to high flying Currie last week. Thus the scene was set on an overcast and cold day for both teams to attempt to secure a victory to carry them further up the league table.

Both sides went through a variety of stretching exercises to loosen and warm muscles before going through a variety of unit and whole team drills. The GHA Junior Section did their customary excellent job of providing a guard of honour for both sides. GHA took the field with Michael Fox being acknowledged for the considerable feat of recording his 100th match for the Ist and was followed by Max MacFarlane and Erik Cavan who were recording their fiftieth appearance for the 1st XV.

The home side kicked off and the ball was gathered by Andrew Syme ( who would put in a power of work in this match and had a big influence along with messrs Brims, McNamara and Mclean on the ability of Hawks to manage crucial parts of the match) who helped ensure the ball was kicked downfield where Nigel Kelly gathered and immediately ran at the Hawk defence. However an attempted chip through and follow up by GHA players resulted in a penalty award to Hawks at the visitors ten metre line. Hawks used this opportunity to fire the ball downfield and in the ensuing loose play, Hawks were awarded another penalty. The visitors moved the ball very quickly and from a good position inside the GHA twenty two, threw a poor pass with an overlap beckoning and the result to home supporters relief was a scrum. Thus the first few minutes of the match had been frantic with passes going astray and balls being knocked on. This tendency to force the pass or run into trouble or to drop the ball was to be feature of what became an untidy, nervy match which made cohesion and accuracy difficult to maintain. Hawks seemed to win control from the scrum and again indulged in an ill timed and poorly executed pass along the line which allowed the alert GHA backline to kick through the spilled ball deep into Hawk territory. The home side through sterling successive drives by messrs Fox, McCarthy Mollison, McCuthcheon and Cavan were thwarted by secure Hawk tackling. As we approached the fifth minute, GHA were awarded a penalty and George Baird rifled a lovely kick into the Hawk five metre area. GHA secured the ball and with a superbly executed forwards drive collectively went over the line to score. The conversion was narrowly missed and the score after eight minutes was GHA 5 HAWKS 0.

From the restart GHA gathered the ball and George Baird cleared over halfway only to see the ball being well gathered by Lewis McNamara who himself was immediately tackled by Nigel Kelly. As we passed the tenth minute there was an alertness about the home side, seizing on any and every mistake by the visitors which was clearly unsettling the visitors and actually forcing errors. A scrum at halfway saw the ball fed to NIgel Kelly who chipped into space and attempted to run round the Hawk defenders desperately trying to kill this GHA momentum inside the Hawks half. With the GHA backline bearing down on him, Yousif Alagilly fumbled the ball and Ciaran Armstrong collected the ball and shot over the line to stun the Hawks support. George Baird with an assured kick converted the try and the score after about fifteen minutes was now : GHA 12 HAWKS 0.

It had been harem scarem rugby to this point with spills and errors a plenty. Hawks had paid the penalty for several errors from a very alert GHA side. Had the home side been able to continue in this manner and bring an ordered and controlled approach to events then the home side would have been in a commanding position. Hawk s clearly shocked at their unfortunate errors and loose passing overall looked to ensure clean possession and to build momentum to negate the seemingly rising confidence in the home side. As we moved towards the end of the first quarter there was a more settled look about the Hawks approach as they steadily built possession and territory in the GHA half. A flurry of kicks from both sides did little to change the situation and Hawks returned to driving the ball in their forwards, tying in the GHA forwards before releasing the ball to the backs. A cleverly conceived move by Hawks from lineout possession inside the GHA half allowed them to break through and score under the posts. The try was converted and suddenly the score was: GHA 12 HAWKS 7.

Although still an untidy game played at a hectic pace, Hawks seemed to take huge confidence from this score. The Hawks with some clever interventions from messrs Brims and Joy began to vary their approach and attempt to stretch the GHA defence and turn the home side on to the backfoot. As we moved into the second quarter the ball moved across the pitch as both sides tried to break down stubborn defence.For several minutes consistent pressure from Hawks was only relieved by tigerish tackling from messrs Kelly, Lonergan MacFarlane and Carden with The GHA half backs, Baird and Armstrong adding a further buttress to Hawk advances. When ther visitors did manage to build territory and indeed break the defence, once again poor passing and rushed missed passes resulted in the ball being spilled.In a superb breakout from his own twenty two metre area, Charlie Lonergan cut through several Hawk tackles and to the delight of the home support found himself inside the Hawks five metre area before being tackled and in the subsequent breakdown the visitors were awarded a penalty. This and what happened in the next few minutes had a huge bearing on the outcome of the match. From a position of desperate last man defence Hawks were able to clear the ball up to their ten metre area. From the lineout Hawks angled a speculative kick across the pitch where the home defence got themselves into a terrible tangle and totally lost possession of the ball which was gleefully collected by Finlay Burgess who with roars of encouragement from the Hawks support, sped to the line to score. The try was converted and the score after twenty five minutes was now: GHA 12 HAWKS 14.

The manner of this try totally lifted the Hawks players and in contrast seemed to seriously undermine the confidence of the home side. GHA knew that from a position of strength early on they had now to find a way back into this match. The home side with splendid drives by messrs Brogan,
Fox McCarthy and Graham amongst others tried to take the match to Hawks. Indeed the pressure forced by the home side on the Hawks ten metre area resulted in a penalty award to GHA. An attempted conversion narrowly missed and the action continued at a hectic pace. Both sides seemed to sense that this was a critical time in the match with the score finely balanced. GHA appeared to be recovering from the loss of points and Hawks appeared to be settling to a rhythm. Play raged across the pitch and down the pitch as we passed the half hour and promising moves by both sides were spoiled by some basic errors in passing accuracy. As we approached half time, GHA put together some positive play and forced Hawks back into their own twenty two metre area. Again at the crucial moment, the pressure from GHA was released by the award of a penalty to Hawks. A long kick took play into the GHA half, the visitors secured the lineout and Liam Brims put a speculative lob behind the GHA defence who seemed to be caught flat footed . The ball was seized by Hawks who spread the ball this time accurately to allow Harry Hughes to score in the corner. An excellent attempt at conversion saw the ball hit the post and the score as we reached the interval was: GHA 12 HAWKS 19.

It had been an untidy and frustrating half full of errors and wrong choices. The home side were clearly struggling to cope with how events had turned around when early on they seemed to be moving towards control. Confidence seemed to be affected by the situation .Hawks were now in a positive frame of mind and could look forward to the second half. GHA would have to overcome the setbacks of the half and raise their game.

The start of the second half saw both sides embark on a policy of kicking the ball high in the air just beyond the attacking forwards. This led to untidy and uncoordinated attempts to move the ball which invariably broke down as the ball went forward out of grasping hands. This ragged and untidy play continued for several minutes as gradually a pattern of thrust and counter thrust replaced the aerial efforts. After five minutes of the half GHA began to gather the ball and take into contact just inside the Hawks half. Such attempts to gain territory and set up an attacking position by the home side tended to fail as the Hawk forwards established a number of crucial turnovers which put the pressure straight back on the GHA defence. Hawks were attempting to build an attacking platform inside the home side’s half using a combination of forward power to tie in the GHA pack and some deft kicking by LIam Bridges to find space behind the GHA back line. This resulted in Hawks being inside the GHA twenty metre area after eight minutes of the half. Herculean defending by the home side to thwart several well supported drives by Hawks were to count for nothing as the visitors were awarded a penalty for an infringement inside the GHA five metre area. Hawks kicked to the corner and from a secure lineout ball, Lewis Mcnamara had room to score through the lineout to make the score which was converted GHA 12 HAWKS 26.

For several minutes the home side appeared to struggle to come to terms with the situation . However as we reached the fifteenth minute of the half there was a sudden resurgence amongst home ranks and midfield pressure from GHA resulted in several penalties being awarded to the home side as their pressure began to force mistakes amongst the visitors. Play moved up to the Hawks twenty two metre area and determined work by messrs Baird, Armstrong and Lonergan punched gaps in the alarmed Hawks back division and forced the retreating Hawks back to their five metre line. The visitors stopped the advancing GHA players and scrambled the ball clear. From the lineout a catch and drive saw Hawks win a vital lineout only to give away a penalty. Amidst confusion the home side quickly took the penalty and scoured past the slow to react Hawk players. George Baird converted and now , after sixteen minutes the score was GHA 19 HAWKS 26. The home support lifted their voices in acclaim as they felt that suddenly, the home side were now challenging for dominance in the match. From the restart, GHA showed determination to take the game to Hawks and after a further penalty award to GHA. Max MacFarlane put in a good kick to take play up to the Hawks ten metre line. Messrs Baird, Armstrong and MacFarlane attacked with intent but as GHA went to ground Hawks won a crucial turn over and despite brave tackling by the GHA defence, once again Hawks won control of the ball from the breakdown and embarked just outside the GHA twenty two metre line in some crisp accurate passing to unleash Fraser Gosse who scored. The try was converted and the score after twenty two minutes was now GHA 19 HAWKS 33.

This was a further setback for the home side who had fought back to be in contention. Hawks now seemed to show considerable confidence in their ability to vary their approach and to continue to put pressure on the home side. The game meandered back and forth around halfway with perhaps the hectic pace beginning to affect responses by both sides. At the half hour mark there was another period of kicks exchanged with very little effect. As we moved past the thirty third minute of the match an enterprising drive by messrs Syme and Mclean resulted in a penalty award to Hawks as GHA retreated. This penalty was converted which now made the score GHA 19 HAWKS 36.

The last minutes of the match were played below an increasingly brooding sky which added to the sense of gloom amongst the home support. Hawks managed the match to the final whistle and would settle for the points in a match which was disappointing in many aspects. GHA will reflect on how they managed to go from an aspiring, alert and structured opening period to a situation when they were continually giving the advantage to the visitors and finding themselves chasing the match.





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