Scottish finals day to be played on 3G pitch

Gala's Jack Steele celebrates after his last minute penalty wins the game against Glasgow Hawks. Picture: SNS
Gala's Jack Steele celebrates after his last minute penalty wins the game against Glasgow Hawks. Picture: SNS
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SCOTTISH rugby has been dominated in recent years by teams from the southern section of the country – Ayr, Gala and Melrose – but Saturday’s RBS Cup final is a good, old-fashioned intercity derby between Heriot’s and Glasgow Hawks played, for the first time ever, somewhere other than Murrayfield, writes Iain Morrison.

With the national stadium undergoing a pitch transplant, this final will be staged at Cumbernauld’s 8,000-seat Broadwood Stadium, appropriately situated midway between Edinburgh and Glasgow...or near enough.

It says something about the woeful lack of facilities in Scotland that a rugby final needs to hire a stadium purpose-built for football and home to Clyde FC. As well as moving from Murrayfield, this will be the first time the club cup final has been played on an artificial surface. Broadwood’s third generation surface is suitable for rugby, although there are sure to be a few grazed knees after the 80 minutes is up.

Heriot’s have been training at Peffermill, which has a 3G pitch, but the final’s artificial surface may favour Hawks who have trained on Scotstoun’s artifical pitch but, more importantly, played their quarter-final match against Ayr on the police’s 3G Lochinch pitch in Pollock Park. That should give them an edge when coming to terms with the Broadwood Park surface. Both teams in the final like to play rugby so there should be plenty of tries provided the weather gods are smiling.

Whoever triumphs between Glasgow Hawks and Heriot’s will have done it the hard way. The Edinburgh club made the trip south to beat Melrose in the quarters before making the longer journey north to beat Grammar in Aberdeen to book their place in the final.

Hawks were faced with an equally tough ask. They had to beat Ayr in the quarter-finals before overcoming Gala at Netherdale with the very last kick of the game – a penalty from the halfway line, only about 15 metres in from the touchline and situated directly in front of the hostile home crowd. It sailed over the bar with five metres to spare and earned young centre Jack Steele all the plaudits.

Originally from Perth, Steele spent a season with Dundee while they were in Premier One before making his way to Glasgow Hawks. He is currently a Glasgow apprentice, and according to Hawks’ backs coach Cammy Little he has come on leaps and bounds in his debut season with the west coast club.

“Jack has definitely improved both in terms of his physical appearance and the confidence he takes from that,” said Little. “To knock that kick over at Netherdale shows what he is made of, He, and our other EDP (elite development programme) centre, Gavin Lowe, are worth watching.”

If Steele’s boot has been instrumental in getting Hawks to the final, then coach Phil Smith points at two players sporting the Heriot’s hoops to make their presence felt next weekend.

“Our second row Murray Douglas (pictured) is the best lineout forward in the club game by a mile,” said Smith. “If he doesn’t get a pro-contract we will lose him abroad. He has all the skills to make it in the pro game and maybe just needs a little more muscle. He has been great for the club but so too has fly-half Cammy Ferguson.

“He is our key player in defence. He is small but smart and he defends way above his weight and we will need him leading the defence next Saturday if we are to come away with a win.”