by Chris Nairn

It was with great sadness that we learned late on Saturday that Doddy Weir had passed away. This wonderful gentle giant was a credit to humanity and sport. May he rest in peace.

A large crowd arrived at Braidholm on Saturday for the second instalment of the derby with Glasgow Hawks. Having won the previous encounter at Balgray, the home support had high hopes that GHA would complete the double. Hawks arrived with a determination to overturn the result of the previous Saturday, so the stage was set for an exciting match. The recently completed decoration in the club house adds to the overall ambience of the club. The match was sponsored by SCOTCOIN and the clubhouse was busy providing the pre-match repast and of course Bob Auld’s superb card antics. As both sides began to prepare for the match, a delighted group of mums, dads and players from Glasgow City Under 14s Ladies were rightfully celebrating the winning of the League to go with their Scottish Cup triumph of the previous week. An excellent couple of weeks for the soccer ladies.

The pitch was in reasonable condition despite the previous week’s inclement weather. A cold wind cut across the pitch, but it was not in essence a cold day. Our Primary 5 players from our superb Junior Section provided a guard of honour for the players. The teams were welcomed by a noisy and very full stand. The home side sent a long ball into the Hawks half. The visitors gathered the ball and drove into the GHA defence around the halfway mark only to be repelled. Both sides exchanged kicks until the home side, in an attempt to move play into their opponent’s half, kicked the ball straight out. This gave Hawks an attacking position inside the GHA twenty-two area. The visitors secured lineout ball despite the attentions of Messrs Kerr and Watt and chose to drive the ball. Well inside the GHA danger area, Hawks through Messrs Cruikshanks and Pinkerston, then went wide only to be stopped in their tracks by Dario Ewing. The ball went to the floor and both sides tried to secure it. GHA were penalised and Stephen Leckey (who was to cause problems for the home side all day) took it quickly and smashed his way through a startled GHA rear-guard. Desperate defence on the goal line was met by patience and skilful execution, as Max Crumlish found just enough space to go over to score to loud acclaim from the visiting support. The conversion was successful and after three minutes the score was: GHA 0 GLASGOW HAWKS 7. Yet again, GHA had conceded a score very early in a match and had handed the advantage to the opposition. 

From the high restart, Hawks ran the ball through hands (Hawks would run the ball at almost every opportunity throughout the match ) and a noticeably swift and aggressive defensive line from GHA blunted the Hawk’s momentum. In winning loose ball, Chris Hyde sent a delightful bouncing ball through Hawks ranks and into touch at Hawks twenty-two metre area. Clearly the home side were trying to rediscover their composure and work to put their own stamp on this match. Adam Kerr began to have a telling effect on the Hawks lineout and won the ball to allow the home side to spread the play. Yardage made by Messrs King and Hyde was undone when as the ball went loose another penalty was awarded to Hawks. Just as the home side were starting to build momentum their hard work was undone by the concession of another penalty. There then followed several minutes play between both ten-metre lines with attack and defence phases leading to a back and forth feel to the match. A noted feature of this period was the speed of the GHA backs and strength of their engagemen,t which knocked Hawks out of their stride several times. However, as we reached the fifteenth minute of a match played at a fast pace, the home side gave away another penalty and Gavin Cruikshanks kicked into the GHA twenty-two. Clear frustration was showing on the faces of the home side as their efforts to build progress were continually hampered by conceding penalties. Hawks’ Cruikshanks and Graham moved the ball in tandem until deep inside the GHA half they were stopped by the home defence. The home side were awarded several penalties in quick succession as Hawks momentarily lost a bit of control of proceedings. From a good attacking position inside the Hawks half, after excellent driving work by Kieran Watt, the home side attempted to force the visitors to turn and kicked the ball straight out and a scrum on halfway resulted. Thus, an opportunity to move into the visitors half was lost. At this point the floodlights came on. The home side won a superb lineout ball and the home side began to move the ball across the pitch. Messrs Fox and Ewing drove forward as the home support roared in appreciation. Luca Bardelli, bearing down on a desperate Hawk defence chipped towards the try line and unfortunately the ball just skidded over the dead ball line. The home side had clearly recovered from their early concession and indeed after twenty three minutes, Chris Hyde kicked a lovely penalty to make the score: GHA 3 GLASGOW HAWKS 7.

We were entering a critical period of the match as both sides attempted to establish control. There was a sudden unease in Hawks defensive play and the home side sensed that this was a vital time. Hawks conceded a penalty at their ten-metre line and George Baird fired the ball into touch to take play to the Hawks five-metre area. The accurate throwing of Archie Falconer allowed the home side to take the ball and head for the line. After patient effort Archie managed to get the ball over the line to score. The conversion attempt missed narrowly, and the score after twenty five minutes was: GHA 8 GLASGOW HAWKS 7.

            Hawks restarted and found as they won the ball and began to look for a way through the GHA defence that they were engulfed by home based players such as Cameron King and Chris Hyde who with their colleagues were blocking the visitors from making meaningful yardage. At this crucial juncture, GHA gave the initiative to their opponents with the concession of another penalty at the Hawks ten-metre line. The visitors with a collective sigh of relief, moved play down to the GHA five-metre area. Hawks took the lineout and drove at the GHA line, desperate efforts to prevent the visiting forwards finding a way through were broken when Ryan Sweeney powered his way through a mass of players to score. The try was converted and the score after just over half an hour of play was: GHA 7 GLASGOW HAWKS 14

After the restart there was a period of aerial tennis with hopeful kicks being lobbed by both sides around their respective ten-metre are with no progress being made. Throughout the match there was a tendency, especially amongst GHA ranks, to place balls behind the first line of the visiting defence but in to the arms of the well organised rear-guard who often turned the situation into a positive one for the visitors. Finally, a knock-on by the visitors brought this period to an end. From the scrum, Luke McCutcheon shot off the back of the scrum and made yardage into the Hawks half. Baird and Watt kept the move alive as GHA moved with purpose towards the Hawks goal line. Desperate defence by the visitors saw several attempts by the home side to get over the line stifled and in a ploy to change the area of approach, GHA moved the ball out wide, only for it to be intercepted- to huge roars of relief from the Hawks support-t and head for the GHA line. Now it was the home side who had to defend desperately and only just stopped the concession of a further try. Feverish work by Hyde, Barnett and Falconer managed to relieve the pressure.

It had been a fast first forty minutes with neither side able to establish any lengthy period of dominance. As has happened throughout the season, all GHA’s very hard work and skilled effort was undone by failing to take chances and the concession of penalties at critical times and in critical positions.

Hawks began the second half in determined mood. They had survived a period of intense pressure just before the interval and  immediately took the game to GHA. GHA managed to clear their lines and moved play up to their own twenty-two area. Hawks gathered from the lineout and moved with precision into the GHA half with Stephen Leckey and Max Crumlish asking questions of the home forwards. The visitors at the key moment spun the ball wide and Ross Darroch was able to go over to score. The conversion attempt failed and after three minutes of the half the score was now: GHA 8 GLASGOW HAWKS 19.

For the next five minutes GHA tried to mount a presence in the Hawks half with great work by Messrs King, MacFarlane and Lonergan creating some space to work in. As the visitors managed to blunt this foray into their half and as the ball went loose, arriving GHA players were again penalised and instantly any pressure on the visitors evaporated. Hawks were visibly growing in confidence, setting up interesting attacking formations from halfway line scrums. The visiting forwards now began to bring some physical muscle to the set piece and the home side suddenly found that their scrummage ball was neither clean nor quick. There is a deep resilience in the home squad, and they continued to wrestle for control of the direction of the match with their visitors. As we passed the eleventh minute of the half, pressure from GHA forced Hawks into several fumbles in their half. From a resulting scrum, the home side managed to get the ball out quickly with a concerted attack by McCutcheon, Bardelli and Low. The accuracy of this movement took Hawks by surprise and as a result Chris Hyde finished the move to score. The conversion attempt failed and the score after fifteen minutes of the half was now: GHA 13 GLASGOW HAWKS 19.

The crowd warmed to this effort as it looked as if the match was moving to a tight conclusion.  However, Hawks had other ideas and went through a number of phases to deny GHA ball and to take the sting out of the recent concession of a GHA Try. Hawks more and more began to use their physical power in the loose and especially at the set piece scrums. This tended to force the home side on to the back foot and added to the home sides frustration. As we moved past the twenty fifth minute of the half, concerted pressure from the visitors resulted in a lineout inside the GHA twenty-two metre area. Hawks secured the ball and drove deep into the GHA danger area. Huge efforts were made by the home forwards to blunt the attack from Hawks. The visitors carefully continued to drive forward and as a small gap appeared the ever alert Ryan Sweeney burst through to score. The try was converted and the score after twenty six minutes of the half was: GHA 13 GLASGOW HAWKS 26.

Hawks had hit back at GHA just when they were finding their way forward and there was an almost visible rise in confidence in visiting ranks. Refusing to accept the situation the home side tried to take the game to Hawks.

The visitors were moving now with confidence and their scrum was causing problems for the home side. As we moved into the thirty third minute of the half the visitors were awarded a penalty just inside the GHA ten-metre area. Gavin Cruikshanks provided a huge kick to convert the penalty and to make the score. Despite this further set back, the home side carried the match to Hawks and continued to look to find a way through the visiting rear-guard.  Hawks won possession at halfway and began to mount an attack themselves. A speculative pass was intercepted by the ever aware Charlie Lonergan, and he raced into the Hawks half to score. The try was converted and as we reached the final minutes of the match the score was now: GHA 20 GLASGOW HAWKS 29. Right to the final whistle the home side attempted to find ways through the Hawks defence but the visitors held firm. 

This was another frustrating game for GHA. So much hard positive work was again undone by the concession of penalties and not being able to take chances.





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