AN INJURY-TIME penalty by centre Jack Steele from just inside the Gala half gave Glasgow Hawks a dramatic win in the semi-final of the Scottish Cup at Netherdale yesterday, to sink the Maroons’ hopes of national honours for a second successive week.
“We’ve blown it for the second week running” was the summation of one Gala fan at the end of a pulsating game of rugby between two equally balanced teams determined to play with an expansive style. In the end though, it was Hawks’ belief in their own ability that won the game, aided by Gala’s propensity to give away penalties.
“We won this game the same we’ve achieved our other wins. We’re not a flashy side but we try to play an attacking and dynamic brand of rugby. We knew it was going to be a massive challenge coming down here against one of the best performing teams in the country and we just had to play without any fear of losing” said Hawks coach Jamie Dempsey.
It was always likely that the final margin between the two sides would be small given the results this season, and the anticipated cut and thrust was evident straight from the kick-off as Gala assumed immediate command with a try from a five-metre scrum by No. 8 Euan Dods and the conversion by stand-off David O’Hagan. Gala should then have made more of breaks by Alan Emond and Rory Sutherland but, instead, it was Hawks who profited, turnover ball going to their lively wing Hadden McPherson to send stand-off Gavin Lowe in for his side’s first try.
Steele converted, but a penalty goal by O’Hagan restored the lead for Gala. But not for long, after Lowe put in a grubber kick that bounced awkwardly for the Gala defence to present McPherson with an easy score, again converted by Steele.
The pulsating nature of the game continued with a pushover try credited to Dods and the conversion by O’Hagan, only for Hawks to hit back again with a try for full-back Dan Smart after a defence-splitting break by the Glasgow side’s Melbourne lock Angus Hamilton.
Hawks then suffered a set-back with the sending to the sin-bin of influential lock and skipper Andy Linton. Inevitably, there was a tariff to be paid and it came from a driven line-out that ended with Gala’s veteran lock Opeta Palepoi grounding the ball and O’Hagan converting for a 24-19 interval lead.
A surging break by the impressive Sutherland early in the second half created a try for O’Hagan, who then converted for what looked a commanding 31-19 lead.
But it was not commanding in the eyes of Hawks, who piled on the pressure with a try by their Poland international flanker Mateusz Bartoszek. Steel missed the conversion but atoned with two penalty goals in quick succession to bring the scoreline to 31-30. Then, in injury time, Gala gave away a double penalty, setting the stage for Steele to kick the goal of his career that put Hawks into the cup final.