BT Premiership – Match Sponsored by Rennies of Dunfermline

Stirling County...8

Glasgow Hawks...38

Kevin Robertson reports from Bridgehaugh:

Stirling County were well-beaten by a slick Glasgow Hawks outfit as the Bridgehaugh side fell to their second BT Premiership defeat in as many weeks.

County made changes to their starting XV with captain Callum Hunter-Hill returning to an otherwise unchanged forward pack. In the backs, Ross Jones started at stand-off, with Jonny Hope moving to full-back. Matt Donaldson replaced the unavailable Alex Black for his first appearance of the season at scrum-half. Winger Rory Hughes and inside-centre Fraser Lyle made a welcome return to Bridgehaugh after recent impressive performances for Glasgow Warriors.

Glasgow Hawks were boosted by the inclusion of four players released by Glasgow Warriors in their starting XV – full-back Peter Murchie, right-winger Junior Bulumakau, scrum-half Grayson Hart and lock Greg Peterson.

Hawks open the scoring inside three minutes, keeping the ball in hand to pierce the County defence with Kiran McDonald offloading the ball back inside for stand-off Josh Henderson to score a try under the posts, converted by Hart, giving the Glasgow side an early seven-point advantage.

Six minutes later County’s Hope kicked a 20-metre penalty to reduce the deficit to 3-7, following a spell of pressure by the home team.

Hawks continued to have the majority of possession and territory, and County were reduced to 14 men after second-row forward Adam Sinclair was shown the yellow-card for slowing the ball down at a ruck in front of his own posts. Hamilton Burr came on for Shaun McDonald to temporarily shore up the home pack, and Ryan Ellison replaced the injured Jake Cresswell at outside centre, as County survived the Hawks onslaught, before numerical parity was restored when the visitors’ hooker Grant Stewart was yellow-carded for a dangerous tackle.

In dry and sunny conditions, both teams tried to run the ball at every opportunity, but a series of handling errors at key moments and stout defending prevented any clear-cut scoring opportunities for either side. Hawks came closest through winger Bulumakanu, who was halted just short of the line by a try-saving tackle.

Hawks extended their lead on 37 minutes, when the visitors ran possession from inside their own half, before Stephen Findlay was fed the ball by full-back Murchie, and the loose-head prop eluded the County defence from 30 yards out to score an unconverted try.

Half-time: Stirling County 3 - Glasgow Hawks 12.

County’s Struan Robertson replaced McDonald in the forwards at the break, as Hawks re-started on the attack, with a break by prop Stewart stopped just short of the County try-line by a last-ditch Hope tackle, and Bulumakanu couldn’t pick-up the loose ball.

County were again reduced to 14-men when scrum-half Matt Donaldson was sin-binned for a deliberate knock-on close to the home try-line, as Hawks continued to press forward. Hope took over scrum-half duties, and County again cleared the immediate threat.

However, on 53 minutes Hawks made their numerical on-field advantage count, with the visitors turning over a loose-carry by County on half-way, which led to visiting prop Stewart scampering home from 35 yards to score a try to the left of the uprights, with Hart adding the extras to give the Glasgow side a commanding 3 – 19 lead.

Hawks scored their fourth and bonus-point try ten minutes later, when slick hands put George Horne on the end of a looping pass and into space on the edge of the County 22, to run-in an unconverted try in the left corner, taking the score to 3 – 24.

County’s Matt Emisson replaced Reyner Kennedy at hooker, as the home side responded with a consolation unconverted try from winger Hughes in the left corner with 66 minutes played. County then belatedly showed some positive attacking flair in their best spell of the match, with Hope also going close to scoring, but the home side couldn’t find a way through the well-marshalled Hawks defence.

Hawks finished strongly and added to their score with two late tries, the first from inside-centre Robert Beattie who finished off a slick move involving Hart and Horne on 77 minutes, before replacement hooker Scott Rodgers grounded the ball for the final score after a line-out drive over the try-line by the visiting pack. Both tries were converted by Horne, completing a thoroughly deserved and impressive victory for Hawks, who were better in almost every aspect of play.

There weren’t many positives for County, although they did at least attempt to expand their game after a flat performance against Boroughmuir the previous week.