Mid-table Hawks rattled defending champions Heriot’s ambition of achieving a top-two finish in the BT Premiership with a deserved victory that keeps them on track for grabbing that fourth play-off place for themselves.
The result was a reversal of the 16-8 scoreline at Old Anniesland in September when Heriot’s took all the points and Hawks were left empty-handed, except this time Heriot’s produced a late rally and managed to salvage a losing bonus point that could yet be crucial.
On the pitch, several players named in the Scotland Club International XV squad were on show and anxious to impress, including Graham Wilson for Heriot’s and Paddy Boyer for Hawks who will be vying for the scrum half’s starting jersey. Boyer probably emerged ahead in that personal head-to-head.
Hawks kicked off with the wind behind them and looked the more lively and aggressive team in the first ten minutes. Hooker Jack MacFarlane exposed the frailties in the home defensive line with a charge up the middle through some loose tackling. It was a warning Heriot’s didn’t heed and they could only watch as Hawks full-back Robbie Houliston broke, biding his time as defenders were drawn to him before giving a short pass to winger Erlend Oag to go in for the try.
Stand-off Josh Henderson missed the conversion and a relatively simple penalty later inside the 22, troubled by the blustery conditions.
These were important points to pass up because Heriot’s, even with loosehead Struan Cessford in the bin for a high tackle, camped in the Hawks 22 for the next 20 minutes and were unlucky not to score when first No.8 Struan Dewar and then stand-off Craig McNeish lunged for the line only to be stopped short.
But Heriot’s usually dominant pack just couldn’t impose themselves on the visitors and Hawks held out until the break. Not only that but into the second half they began to push Heriot’s back to great effect and, after a spell of constant pressure, referee Keith Allen was obliged to award a penalty try. Henderson converted.
Hawks had the measure of Heriot’s by this stage, calling for scrums in midfield rather than kicking penalties to touch, keeping the ball close.
Heriot’s were losing patience with their inability to create anything and as they talked back to the referee they were marched back an extra ten metres into their own 22 to give more advantage to an increasingly confident Hawks.
Heriot’s, who hadn’t posed a serious scoring threat all afternoon, finally got some momentum going in the last ten minutes and after a few pick and go attempts from the back of rucks it was inside centre Cameron Ferguson who forced his way over the Hawks line. The referee consulted with his assistant before raising an arm to signal the try.
The conversion attempt flew wide to leave Heriot’s a converted try adrift – too much of a gap to bridge.