Hawks swoop late to clinch double

Glasgow Hawks 29

Dundee HSFP 17

Referee: D Changleng (Gala). Att: 10,623

THE crowd was a record low, the game failed to hit top-quality, but none of that could disguise the culmination of a club season in which Glasgow has finally put itself on the Scottish rugby map.

For so many years Hawks have had to make do with the tag of promising losers, but on Saturday, though they made their supporters wait until the final minute to nail the victory, they did overcome BT Cup final jitters and a hugely competitive performance from Dundee HSFP, who play in the slightly slower-paced, less technically astute Division 2, to secure their first Division 1 league and cup double.

An ambitious man, Peter Wright, the Hawks coach, has applied for the Borders post, but he acknowledges that may be just a step too far at the moment. Should the SRU agree as they begin to interview potential successors to Tony Gilbert this week, Glasgow rugby will heave a collective sigh of relief that the inspiration behind this season’s success will continue to forge a new path for the club game in Scotland’s largest city.

"I have put my name in the hat," he said, "but to be honest I’m not sure if I am ready for that yet. I’d take it and try to prove I was if I got the chance, because I think it’s important a Scottish coach gets the opportunity, but I am already thinking about next season with the Hawks and trying to build on this.

"The boys under-performed in the final in basic skills and dealing with the pressure Dundee put on us. I thought we dominated big chunks of the game, but they made it very difficult. We expected that - though maybe not to leave it to the last minute to win right enough. But it shows that it has been a real team effort. This cup final was down to 22 players, not down to 15 or one or two, and that’s the most pleasing thing for the coaches."

He added: "It reiterates for me that there is good strength in the Glasgow system. We have two Irishmen and Mark Sitch, who’s from Australia but has settled here, and the rest have come through Glasgow clubs, and the fact we’ve won the double shows that the talent is there.

"We don’t have to go down the route of bringing in so many foreign players. There are two types, though, the foreigner like Mark who comes to work and settle, and the mercenaries who come for the money, are in and out, take the money and then go elsewhere - the professionals.

"But I think we’ve seen the light now and have realised that there are an increasing number of guys coming in who are no better than the players we have here, and not just at clubs.

"Why not have Glasgow at the bottom of the Celtic League with 15 Glasgow boys - it would maybe hurt a bit more - and at the Borders?"

Whether that approach finds favour with his employers - Wright is an SRU development officer - is questionable, but it was certainly heart-warming to see a Glasgow team bring success to their own city.

The positive vibes carry through to the losers, Dundee HSFP, who had defied the odds merely to reach the final. The fact that they seriously rattled the Hawks in a pulsating final in which the lead changed hands six times, says everything about the spirit being engendered on Tayside.

Interestingly, their key man was stand-off Mike Kerr, a Kiwi who returns to Otago this week to start up a property firm and look to re-ignite his rugby career in his homeland. His mazy running and eye for something different - notably kicks into space behind the Hawks back three - proved very difficult for the Glasgow men to deal with and provided a good lead for the tremendous Dundee pack.

They posted their intent as early as the 14th minute when their brave decision to kick to the corner from a close-range penalty was rewarded with a fine driven lineout and try for Dougie McLaren, the hooker. Rankin converted, and the early penalty from Hawks fly-half Mike Rainey now mattered little.

Hawks hit back when Sitch finished a fine attack after the great running angle of Stuart Low, the full-back, had opened Dundee up, but Kerr showed his skills with a sublime chip-and-chase, at the end of which the ball bounced up perfectly for him to run in.

Rankin converting for a 14-8 lead at half-time.

It could have been more, but without the benefit of TV replays it was impossible to tell if a ball had been grounded in a great drive by Dundee into the corner.

With the Mayfield men tackling superbly and forcing errors, the Hawks had struggled to find any rhythm in the first period, but they seemed set to take control on the restart when Low ducked through a gap in a stretched Dundee defence to score and Rainey put Hawks back in front with the conversion.

While the Hawks were squandering good openings, Dundee stayed in the hunt with a Rankin penalty.

However, the Glasgow men found the clinical edge in the final quarter, scrum-half Iain Monaghan earning the man-of-the-match award by squeezing into the corner for the crucial try just after the hour-mark and, in a tense finale, Hawks pressure told when Colin Shaw picked up at a ruck and dived over under the posts.

Rainey converted both scores for a more flattering win than was perhaps fair, but neither side argued over the fact that another trophy was heading westwards.

Dundee coach Ian Rankin admitted later: "You should come away feeling hugely disappointed, I suppose, but there is a feeling that we couldn’t have done any more. We haven’t let ourselves down or Division Two rugby down.

"The important thing now for Dundee rugby is that we use this season as a stepping stone. It’s absolutely pointless for this to be the end point.

"It has been a great experience for everybody, and it has to be the starting point to take Dundee rugby forward."

Scorers: Glasgow Hawks: Tries: Sitch, Low, Monaghan, Shaw. Pen: Rainey. Cons: Rainey 3. Dundee HSFP: Tries: McLaren, Kerr. Pen: Rankin. Cons: Rankin 2.

Glasgow Hawks: S Low; C Shaw, A Maclay, S Duffy, W Henry; M Rainey, I Monaghan; E Milligan (capt), F Thomson, G Mories, S Hutton, R Maxton, M Sitch, S Forrest, N McKenzie. Subs: S Begley for Hutton, S Swindall for McKenzie, both 50min, G McFadyen for Mories, R Munday for Maclay, both 57, G Francis for Sitch 64.

Dundee HSFP: D Mason; D Gray, L Graham, C Rankin, R Lemon; M Kerr, S Wilson; JJ van der Esch, D McLaren, C Whittaker (capt), K Rosbottom, R Hawkins, A Brown, N McComb, G Oommen. Subs: C Cumming for Brown 50, T Parratt for Oommen 58, D Slavin for Wilson 60, A Kennedy for Gray, N Dymock for van der Esch, both 78, R Milne for Rosbottom 80. Temp rep: N Gallagher for Kerr 60-69.