After a week of uncertainty over which teams would compete in the West Region Cup semi-finals – the answer provided by a cut of the cards – Friday night’s game was switched from a waterlogged Anniesland to Laigh Bent in Hamilton. Full credit is due to club manager Nick Schaschke and volunteer groundsman Rab Brown for getting everything in place to ensure that the game went ahead. It turned out to be a difficult and perhaps costly night for the Bulls as, despite an encouraging start, they were well beaten by a well organised unit.
Playing under floodlight and watched by a large Friday night crowd, Hamilton got the first points after only 2 minutes. The Bulls pushed the visitors back into their own 22 and were quickly rewarded with a penalty as Hawks drifted offside. Owen McLeish’s kick was good, putting Hamilton 3 in front. Hawks wasted little time and with a series of attacks put the Bulls defensive line under pressure deep in their own territory. However, the Bulls press defence was strong enough to force handling errors by the talented Hawks backs.
With the ball in their possession Hamilton showed some enterprise of their own and for a good ten minutes managed to find holes in the Hawks defence – taking them within 10 metres of the try line. Unfortunately, the ball was repeatedly lost in contact or stolen in rucks, which gave Hawks the opportunity to clear to touch. However, Hamilton’s lineout remained consistent , giving the Bulls several opportunities to attack close to the line. Eventually McLeish was granted another penalty opportunity when Hawks were pinged for coming in from the side of the ruck. McLeish’s kick gave the Bulls a 6-0 lead.
Up till that point the teams looked fairly evenly matched. On the 20 minute mark Hawks appeared to step things up a gear – forcing the Bulls to stretch their defence as they quickly switched the attack from one side of the park to the other. Winger Tom Steven was first to cross the line as the Hamilton defence simply ran out of cover. Mike Adamson’s kick pulled right of the uprights leaving the score at 6-5.
On the half hour, Hawks’ prop John Lohoar collected the ball at the back of a ruck and bundled over for a try. Adamson’s conversion was on target bringing the score to 6-12. This was followed by a further try only 2 minutes later when Hawks scrum-half Haddon McPherson sped from halfway and offloaded to Steven Leckie who was running in support. The Hawks flanker crossed the line unopposed and Adamson’s kick brought the score to 6-19.
Two minutes later, Hamilton’s woes deepened when captain Richie Maxton received a yellow card for not rolling away, leaving the young Bulls with only 14 men for the remainder of the first half. Hawks took full advantage of the situation from the first line-out after the sin-bin, with a driving maul. Prop Steven Findlay dropped for the try and Adamson kicked the conversion.
McLeish managed to close the gap by 3 points on 39 minutes bringing the half time score to 9-26.
The second half started with an early yellow card for Hawks but Hamilton were unable to make anything of the 1 man advantage but did threaten several times. Unfortunately, luck was not on the side of the Bulls. With 15 minutes of the 2nd half gone, Hamilton lost Andy Wilson when the young full-back fell badly from a tackle and dislocated his right elbow.
Within a few minutes Hawks made the most of a Hamilton dropped ball, with a kick and chase which ended with an Adamson touch down. The Scotland 7s specialist converted to take the score to 9-33.
With only 6 minutes remaining, Hamilton’s trouble’s worsened with the sending off of Uruguayan prop Gaston Ibarbaru on a red card. Ibarbaru had got caught up in a disagreement with Findlay. The Hawks prop was also asked to leave the field but received a yellow.
The final moments of the match saw Hawks continually threatening the Hamilton line with Hawks captain Ross Miller eventually diving over from a tap penalty. Adamson kicked to bring the final score to 9-40.
Hawks were clearly the better team on the day but Hamilton can take much from the performance, particularly in forward play where they dominated for periods of the game. However, the injury to Wilson and the sending off of Ibarbaru give Dale Lyon selection challenges ahead of next Saturday’s league fixture against Selkirk.
Despite the outcome, the evening proved to be a successful, popular and enjoyable spectacle and has paved the way for further Friday night fixtures at Laigh Bent.