Howe of Fife 27 Glasgow Hawks 17
Scottish Hydro Electric Cup Round 4
Howe of Fife put three-times former winners Glasgow Hawks out of the Scottish Hydro Electric Cup at Duffus Park today with an inspired performance spiced with invention, intelligence and resolve.
This was a thoroughly well-deserved triumph for the leaders of National League Division One. They may have looked slighter of frame than their Premiership One visitors but their strength and technique at contact left Hawks disgruntled and their offloads in the tackle were an absolute joy.
Hawks made surprisingly little use of the pace at their disposal out wide and looked to this observer as if they expected their hosts to buckle in the face of percussive forward rumble. When Hawks were coming off second best in that particular arm wrestle they ought to have had the wit to adapt.
Instead, it was the confidence with which Howe went about their duties that became the story of the match.
Six of the Howe side were part of the Bell Baxter/Howe of Fife combo that won the Schools and Youth Cup double two seasons ago and even without the likes of openside Chris Fusaro, full-back Peter Horne and flanker Michael Fedo who are making headlines at higher levels, the graduation to the adult game is proving equally relentless.
John Lathangie, part of the Howe coaching team, said the pre-match instructions had been “just to have a real go at them. We just wanted to play our style of game and keep the ball alive.” And what a heart-warming show we got as a consequence.
Howe took the lead through an Iain Aitken penalty, the full-back miscuing his second attempt on the quarter-hour after Hawks’ prop Nick Cox had been sin-binned for persistent team infringement.
Though short-handed, Hawks scored a fine counter-attack try off turnover ball in their own 22, where No 8 Grant Strang – who remained a lone composed figure for Hawks throughout – fed Jonno Wright for the winger to romp in. Stand-off Michael Rainey converted but that was the first and last time that Hawks led.
Just short of the half-hour, Howe replied with some blistering continuity and tackle offload to enable flanker and captain Pete Black to scuttle over. Iain Aitken converted.
The game was coming to the boil now but when Hawks lock Matt Whittleston inexplicably delayed a pass that had simply to go through hands for try to scream out in neon lights, it was Howe who illuminated matters with Rory Drummond’s interception.
It seemed initially that the winger had miscalculated by not pinning his ears back and going for the line. His coolness, however, and some adroit linkage enabled right wing Andrew McLean to dispatch Iain Aitken for Howe’s second try which he converted himself for a half-time advantage of 17-7.
Howe were down to 14 men by the interval when lock Terry Turpie was sin-binned on the intervention of touch-judge Jim Oswald and Hawks exacted retribution right from the restart with some wide spread, the injection of pace from substitute full-back Robbie Hair and Peter Jerecevich’s shrewd use of the narrow side to see Ally Maxwell thunder over.
Cue for more of the same? Well, no, as Howe continued to offer more. On the hour, as the script would have suggested Premiership fitness would have begun to tell, it was Howe who got their pick and go flowing. They opted to scrum rather than go for goal from a close-range penalty and though they were thwarted on that occasion, they remained unperturbed as stand-off Ross Aitken followed his older brother Iain on to the try sheet jinking over for brother to convert and give the home team a 24-12 lead.
The Aitken show continued with a 66th minute penalty and though Hawks did pull back a 72nd minute try through substitute front-row forward John Maclay – following a penalty which saw Howe lock Graeme Steedman yellow-carded – there just didn’t appear to be the appetite from the visitors to stage a fightback, such was the comprehensive energy and passion that Howe had brought to the match.
Our picture shows the victorious Bell Baxter High School team from the 2007 Bell Lawrie Scottish Schools Cup Final. Six of that team were in the Howe starting XV that defeated Hawks.