The match could have gone either way, and Hawks’ profligacy in front of goal could have cost them, but Mike Adamson’s 78th minute penalty was enough to give them a winning start, something to build on over the course of the year.
Hawks started the match brightly, fly-half Andy White kept his kick-off short, and subsequent pressure from the home forward-pack earned them a scrum. Watsonians turned it over, but when scrum half Brian Walls’ kick was charged down, the ball just evaded the chase from winger Tony Herron, and bounced into touch. Livewire Hawks scrum-half Haddon McPherson then made a delightful break but at the crucial moment the ball was spilled, and the danger averted.
Watsonians took the lead after some classic kicking tennis, Hawks infringed at the breakdown, and Walls nailed his kick from the 10 metre line. Watsonians had another chance shortly after, when Hawks winger Kirk James-Williams attempted to kick a loose ball to his full-back Mike Adamson, who knocked on under pressure from Watsonians. Luckily for the Glasgow side, Watsonians infringed at the scrum, and they were able to clear their lines through the boot of White. Shortly after, Mike Adamson slotted a kick from the 10 metre line after strong running from inside-centre Tom Preece to level the scores at 3-3.
The remainder of the first half saw both sides indulge in some aerial ping-pong, with the hellish conditions certainly not conducive to ‘champagne rugby’ as the late and great Bill McLaren would have said. Hawks occasionally showed ambition, with McPherson keen to get the ball to the backs, but all too often a handling error handed possession to the away side, with every member of the three-quarter line guilty at some stage. Watsonians played a very tight game, with their own scrum half Brian Walls the epitome of cool, clearing his lines with gusto.
Another Adamson penalty gave Hawks the lead, before Tom Preece picked a brilliant line, and probably could have scored, but unselfishly played it to Fleming who spilled the ball under pressure. With Watsonians under increasing pressure, their impressive hard-running inside centre Tom Hart took an inside ball at halfway, and found himself running in space. When he was finally brought down, Hawks infringed and Walls levelled the scores with a coolly taken penalty. Referee Mhairi Hay blew the whistle to indicate half-time, with honours even at six-a-piece.
It was one way traffic after the break, with Hawks camped deep in the Watsonians half, only all too often to see the ball spilled when it was moved wide. Giant replacement lock Rory McKay drove deep into the Watsonians 22, and when the away side infringed at the ruck, it seemed inevitable that Adamson would put Hawks back into the lead from in front of the posts. His attempt was dreadful though and sailed wide of the posts.
Hawks continued to play the corners though, and although Andy White was wide with a drop goal attempt, the referee pulled play back for a Hawks penalty – this time Adamson made no mistake with the place kick. With ten minutes remaining, Watsonians levelled against the run of play. Di Rollo miscued a grubber kick, and amidst the melee Hawks were offside. The excellent Wells levelled again for 9-9.
It looked as though the match was heading towards deadlock, but after even more sterling work from McKay in the tight, the electric McPherson put his fly-half White in the corner, with a delightful over-head pass. Anniesland erupted, but the touch judge spotted a forward pass, and referee Hay awarded a scrum.
Walls’ clearance gave some breathing space to Marcus Di Rollo’s men but Hawks marched back up the field one more time, and the pressure told, Adamson made up for his earlier miss with a well struck penalty goal to give Hawks a hard earned win – but it could have been so different, and they’ll need to take their chances better in future encounters.
Man of the match
Hadden McPherson – Ross Miller led by example, and Tom Preece was a model of consistency, but the two outstanding players on the park were the scrum-halves. Walls’ offered an assured presence for the Watsonians, clearing well under pressure and masterminding all that was good about the away side. Hadden McPherson was outstanding though, a constant threat to the Watsonians defence – when things got sluggish he provided the impetus for Hawks’ triumph. He wins the special Free Agents’ medal. Well done, Hadden!
Glasgow Hawks: Adamson, Herron, Fleming, Preece, James-Williams, White, McPherson, Findlay, McFarlane, Lohoar, Wilson, Kirkland, Strang, Oommen, Miller (captain) // Head Coaches: Jamie Dempsey & Jimmy Sinclair
Watsonians: Steele, Rowe, McKean, Hart, Niven, Di Rollo (captain), Walls, Rutherford, Wright, Moussa, Marinello, Duthie, Dennis, Dunnett, Joseph // Head Coach: Marcus Di Rollo
by Craig Angus