Glasgow Hawks 80
Referee: A Ireland.
GLASGOW Hawks swooped in style on the BT Premiership Division 1 title in the heartlands of the Borders to carry it off for the second year in a row.
Three points were required to end all mathematical permutations and five points were delivered to put Hawks beyond the reach of all rivals with three games still to go.
It was Hawks’ biggest win of the season and for Hawick - champions themselves 12 times in the past - it was their worst defeat in more than 130 years of existence. They were crushed.
The nature of the defeat was all the more painful because the Borders side had some reason to be confident having beaten third-placed Boroughmuir the previous week to ensure their survival in the top flight.
However, the memory of those heroics were soon torn apart and trampled underfoot, with the players barely managing to compete for long spells of the game.
They conceded three tries in the first 15 minutes, which effectively ended the game as a contest, and it went downhill from there until the final try count was a round dozen. The referee, perhaps aware of the embarrassment being heaped on a once mighty rugby power, may have unconsciously shaved a couple of minutes off the full 80 minutes as a humanitarian gesture to prevent the score going any higher.
Hawks’ obvious superiority in all aspects of the game turned the winning of the championship into something of an anti-climax, so hopelessly ineffectual were Hawick as opponents.
The Glasgow side, who ground out an unspectacular victory to overcome nearest rivals Heriot’s seven days before, decided this time to opt for the spectacular option and poor Hawick bore the brunt of an all-out assault, which the Borders crowd watched through the cracks between their fingers with the morbid fascination more appropriate for witnessing a car crash in slow motion.
Hawks head coach Peter Wright, the former international prop who has welded this team into such a formidable unit, would have revelled in it but he was otherwise occupied in South Africa with the Scotland U-19 team. No doubt he was kept up to date with the run of play by a string of text messages that would have ended with a line of exclamation marks.
As the players were showered in the customary celebratory champagne, Glasgow Hawks president Brian Simmers said he would dearly love to see Scotland’s top club side participate in one of the European competitions, something which the SRU refuses to contemplate while it tries to consolidate the three professional teams.
"It would be good for Scottish rugby because it would create a buzz among the clubs," Simmers said. "And it would be good for the pro sides too because it would help to develop the players they want. These guys deserve the chance."
The Glasgow pro-team has already given full-time contracts to three of the Hawks players and, on the evidence of Saturday, look to have picked out the best of a pretty good bunch.
Winger Colin Shaw, who has represented Scotland at all age levels and looks a shoe-in for the senior international side in due course, scored five tries with contemptuous ease. Hooker Fergus Thomson gave the scoring pass for two of Shaw’s tries and won everything in the loose. Flanker Steve Swindall came on as a second half replacement to add an extra touch of a class to an already rampant pack.
But the nucleus of the team will still be in place next season to go for the treble. The 29-year-old Australian Mark Sitch at No8 is hugely influential, while the home-grown club captain Eric Milligan at prop holds together a powerful pack that, on a day like Saturday, can make the backs’ job as easy as taking candy from a baby with lock Richard Maxton grabbing some of that candy for himself when he galloped in from 30 metres for a try any back would have been proud of.
As for Hawick, the optimistic talk of at least having lots of youthful potential has been buried for the moment under the pessimistic accusation that the players want to wear the famous green jersey, but they don’t really want to earn it.
Coach Kevin Barrie was at a loss to explain what had happened to the team between the fine away win at Boroughmuir and the massacre in their own back yard. They did have to face Hawks without skipper Roddy Deans and Scotland under-21 centre Garry Law, who will be in the Borders pro side next season, but it was the attitude of his players Barrie ripped into afterwards.
"There are players missing training and maybe thinking the season is over," he said. "They maybe think today’s game doesn’t mean anything because we are safe and there is nothing to play for. But they have to realise that to pull on a Hawick jersey must always mean something. I don’t think some of them respect that."
The Borders still claims to be the heartlands of Scottish rugby, but the clubs are finding it hard to hang onto such pre-eminent status. Only Hawick and Melrose remain in the top flight. Gala have been relegated from Division 1 and there are no Borders teams left in the Cup, Shield for Bowl competitions.
There was another straw in the wind on Saturday too that underlines the fragile state of club rugby. On the day, Hawks also won the Second XV Division 1 title but did so by default as Hawick seconds were unable to find enough front row players to field a team.
Scorers: Hawick: Tries: Hedley, Bruce, Armstrong. Cons: Neish 2. Glasgow Hawks: Tries: Shaw 5, Maxton, Sinclair, Strang 2, Duffy, Adamson 2. Cons: Strang 10.
Hawick: R Armstrong; K Hedley, C Neish, J Houston, C Bruce; B Sutherland, K Reid; B McNeil, M Landels, W Blacklock, G Petrie, J Coetzee, D Landels, M Robertson, B Keown. Subs used: I Elliott, L Stewart, D McCracken, K Geddes for McNeil 69.
Glasgow Hawks: M Adamson; S Gordon, A MacLay, S Duffy, C Shaw; M Strang, K Sinclair; E Milligan, F Thomson, P Dalton, S Begley, R Maxton, G Francis, M Sitch, N McKenzie. Subs used: S Swindall, J Malakoty, S Low, R McKnight.