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Glasgow Hawks 18 Heriot's 31: Finals Day crying out for a revamp as fans stay away

Only a few seconds were left on the clock when Liam Steele dived over for Heriot's third and final try in the south-west corner of the ground, and the irony may not have been lost on the improvident burger van owner who had set up his stall only a few yards away.

Heriot's captain Jack Turley and his team-mates celebrate their win. Picture: Craig Watson/SNS Group/SRU
Heriot's captain Jack Turley and his team-mates celebrate their win. Picture: Craig Watson/SNS Group/SRU

Frankly, it was just about the first piece of action the poor fellow had seen all day.

The official attendance at Broadwood on Saturday was 3322, but a fair proportion of that number had long gone by the time Steele brought the RBS Finals Day to its conclusion, just short of 7.30pm. Clearly, the format of the occasion is in drastic need of a revamp, for the atmosphere around the tidy and sun-drenched Cumbernauld ground was more redolent of a school sports day than a major event.

The nematode worms at Murrayfield that had forced the move to Broadwood could mark it down as another victory, but it was a sad experience for anyone who could think back 18 years to the inaugural Scottish rugby cup final of 1996, when Hawick and Watsonians and a ­boisterous audience of just under 20,000 celebrated the initiative that brought the competition into being. The atmosphere at this year's event was not exactly funereal, but it would be pushing it to say it was a particularly joyful occasion.

Not, that is, unless you happened to be part of the happy band of Herioters who scooped up the trophy for a third time, adding to their successes of 2003 and 2009. The Goldenacre side dominated from start to finish, wobbling only for that brief period in the third quarter when they allowed Hawks to claw a way back into the game and saw their 13-0 interval lead cut back to 13-10. "We got back in it and people stepped up," said Phil Smith, the Heriot's coach.

He described the contribution of lock forward Murray Douglas as "absolutely outstanding." Douglas, who captained the Scotland club international side earlier this season, is expected to move to Australia shortly, primarily for career reasons - he is a lawyer - but with one eye on the possibility of playing rugby professionally. Douglas trained with Edinburgh recently, but the Murrayfield outfit decided not to offer him a contract.

Heriot's might have toiled in the scrum at times, but they bossed the breakdown superbly, denying Hawks momentum and continuity. Where they really pressed their advantage home, however, was in the speed and alacrity of their back play. It had been suggested that Hawks, with more experience on artificial grass, would have benefited from Broadwood's plastic pitch, but the impression was that the surface suited Heriot's expansive style far more.

Jamie Dempsey, the Hawks' coach, had no complaints about the result, although Heriot's two late tries put a flattering gloss on the margin. "They fully deserved their win," he said. "The last couple of scores put a distance between us, but they made more of their territory than we did.

"The boys can be really proud of what they've achieved. We finished the league strongly and it's a shame we just couldn't close out this one."

If the 21-point gap at the finish overstated Heriot's overall dominance, their 13-0 interval advantage was only a modest reflection of their play in the opening period. Heriot's had set a rattling pace from the off, opening the scoring with a penalty by Graham Wilson after two minutes and then pressing hard throughout the first quarter.

Their reward came in the 14th minute when winger Harry Boisseau took a pass from Colin Goudie and raced 60 metres for their opening try. It helped Heriot's, too, that Wilson kept clipping over the penalties, while Hawks kicker Jack Steele was having a pretty miserable afternoon.

Hawks powered back into the game when Mateusz Bartoszek came on as a replacement at half-time, helping prop Brendan Cullinane muscle over for his 51st minute try, but their fightback was a wake-up call for Heriot's. As Hawks' legs tired and self-belief faded, Heriot's captain Jack Turley powered through for a try in the 76th minute, with Liam Steele adding his just before the end.

For Dempsey, there was some consolation at least in the Sarah Beany Cup, the women's final, in which his fiancée, Laura Steven, contributed two tries to Murrayfield Wanderers' 68-20 win over Melrose. "That will take a bit of living down for the next couple of weeks," he smiled. "But it was fantastic for them to do that."

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