On paper at least, Hamilton started Saturday’s West Cup game against Dalziel as favourites. Whilst not enjoying the best of league seasons so far, Hamilton have demonstrated a capacity to break through some of the best defensive lines in Scottish rugby. Meanwhile, Dalziel, who are playing in the league below the Bulls, currently sit bottom of their table. However, a local derby can be an unpredictable affair. League position and season performance matter less than determination, pride and the satisfaction that comes from beating your near neighbour.
Due to a 3pm start, much of the match was played under floodlight in cold and wet conditions. Although Hamilton were the eventual winners, there was little between the two teams in a game which featured far too many unforced errors.
After a scrappy first five minutes, played almost entirely in the Dalziel half, the visitors took the first points of the game from a penalty. Hamilton’s Andy Wilson knocked on as he attempted to catch the high ball and then impeded the run of a Dalziel player by holding on to his shirt. Dalziel’s scrum half, Ross Donnachie, kicked for 3 points.
It took a further 10 minutes for Hamilton to respond. The Bulls collected the ball from the back of a Dalziel lineout. A ruck formed 5 metres out and scrumhalf Martin Kennedy just managed to lay the ball back for collection by Gaston Ibarburu. The big Uruguayan prop crashed through a series of tacklers to score between the posts. Owen McLeish kicked the conversion to make the score 7-3.
Dalziel were a bit unfortunate to lose another try ten minutes later. Having won a Hamilton lineout, the Dalziel forwards lost control of the ball which was then kicked towards their line by Adam Barnett. Barnett chased, collected the ball, popped it up to McCowan who fed it out Ali Marshall. The Hamilton lock bounced off 2 tacklers to score. The conversion attempt was unsuccessful making the score 12-3.
A few minutes later Dalziel narrowed the score by another 3 points with a penalty in front of the posts for offside. Although they threatened the visitors line a number of times during the remainder of the first half, Hamilton were unable to add to their score –12-6.
During the early stages of the second period, Hamilton held territorial advantage but could not cross the line. A series of knock-ons and missed passes saw Hamilton pushed back to their own 22. Fortunately the visitors were dogged by the same mistakes and neither team was able to profit during this period.
After 10 minutes of the second half Dalziel were reduced to 14 men. Despite this it was Dalziel who appeared to benefit most as they controlled territory for much of the sin-bin period. However, just before they returned to full strength Dalziel lost another player – this time for not rolling away from the tackle.
Again Hamilton seemed unable to take advantage of the extra man with several attacking moves coming to an abrupt end through dropped balls. After 25 minutes of the half, Hamilton finally got into their stride. Winning a shortened Dalziel lineout on their 22, Hamilton’s Ali Marshall slapped the ball back towards John Selfridge who took it into a ruck. The ball was passed to Kenny Brown who raced down the blindside. Brown drew the remaining defender and passed inside to McCowan who crossed the line for the try. The conversion was unsuccessful making the score 17-6.
Two minutes later, Hamilton scored their fourth try of the day. This time it was McCowan who collected a pass from the back of a ruck 5 metres out. McCowan passed to Ross Inglis on the wing who carried the ball for a few strides before scoring in the corner. 22-6
A couple of minutes later Hamilton were reduced to 14 after the sin-binning of Adam Barnett. Dalziel began to win territory and for five minutes they pressurised the Hamilton line with a series of ‘pick and go’s’. The referee yellow carded replacement scrum-half Stevie Turnbull and from the resulting penalty, Dalziel’s forwards burrowed over for the try. The successful conversion took the scores to 22-13. Hamilton held on for the remainder of the match without conceding any further points.
Despite securing a bonus point win, this was a hard and, at times, uncomfortable match for Hamilton. Much improvement is needed if they are to overcome Cartha Queens Park next weekend.
Due to the Scotland v South Africa fixture being played on Saturday, Hamilton will play Cartha on Friday evening at Dumbreck – kick off 7.30pm.