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Heriot's 10 Glasgow Hawks 17: McNeish gaffe costly as visitors hold their nerve

EVERYBODY had said this was going to be a season too close to call.

On the evidence of this rollercoaster match, that looks increasingly likely. Hawks, so imperious in the opening exchanges, were left hanging on grimly at the end but somehow held their nerve to grind out victory.

Heriot's would surely have earned a draw had Gregor McNeish, the replacement fly-half, not dropped the ball a yard from the line in the final seconds, but that miss was typical of the Edinburgh side when it came to taking chances.

Last season, Hawks finished fifth in the league thanks to a late run but were 21 points adrift of Heriot's and closer to relegation than any joust for the title. On that basis, Heriot's must have come into the match feeling confident, especially after their win over champions Melrose in the Charity Shield last week.

On the other hand, Hawks had done more rebuilding over the summer, especially among the forwards, and they made their top-four ambitions clear with a storming start. The pack were completely on top and George Horne, the younger brother of Scotland international Peter, the pulled the strings efficiently at fly-half.

There was an element of farce about the first try, since Hawks had already driven a maul over the line, but forgotten to take the ball with them; however scrum-half Paddy Boyer made amends by nipping over from the resulting scrum.

Horne converted and made most of the running as he first picked out hooker Finlay Gillies, playing at flanker, for the break and then acted as link man to spin the ball wide and send full-back Robbie Houliston in for the second score and a 14-point lead.

Heriot's, though, clawed their way back into the game, and earned their reward when No 8 Jason Hilbroke broke down the left and his quick hands carved out an opening on the right. Greed nearly cost them the chance as Ben Cogley was cut down a yard short, but centre Max Learmonth made no mistake on the pick-up.

Horne added a penalty before half-time to increase Hawks' lead, but failed to land a longer effort in the second half while his team also failed to take advantage of playing against 13 men for almost five minutes as Learmonth and Jason Hill both picked up yellow cards.

They paid the price when a line-out on the Hawks line followed by a couple of free-kicks gave Heriot's the chance to hit back, with Cammy Ferguson being driven over for the try that put his side within scoring distance. Somehow, however, Hawks survived, their increasing desperation shown as centre Davie Milne and lock Sam Thomson picked up late yellow cards that the Edinburgh side failed to exploit.

Heriot's: C Goudie (C Simpson, 41); L Steele (K Buchan, 41), M Learmonth (sin bin: 53-63), C Ferguson, H Boisseau; G Cameron (G McNeish, 64), G Wilson, R Carmichael (N Borel, 47), B Coupe, S Cessford, R Nimmo, B Cogley, M Douglas (C), J Hill.

Glasgow Hawks: R Houliston; H McPherson, T Steven (D Milne, 49), N Herron, E Oag; G Horne, P Boyer; G Strain (S Findlay, 28), J McFarlane (G Stewart, 41), B Cullinane, A Linton (C), S Thomson (A Davidson, 28-56, sin bin 79), A Kirkland, F Gillies, K Beattie (C Brodie, 28).

Referee: A McMennaman.

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Football

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