Edinburgh Accies are staring outright relegation from the BT Scottish Premiership in the face.
Not even an inspired display from all-action back row Robin Snape could stop them sliding closer to the trap door in a 27-7 defeat by fellow strugglers Glasgow Hawks at Raeburn Place.
“I normally award our man-of-the-match indoors but Robin was so much the best player out there I just told him when I spoke with the team on the pitch afterwards,” said Accies coach Phil Leck. “There are massively less talented players than Robin in the Scottish clubs’ international squad, that’s for sure.”
As well as the industrious Snape’s ability to gain yards when ball-carrying there was another promising display of counter-attacking on limited rations from former Scotland Under-20 full back Ruairidh Young. But on a day when there was little opportunity for Edinburgh winger Jamie Farndale to shine on his return from long-term injury, that was where the positives ended for Accies.
They were outplayed up front by Hawks whose teenage prop Zander Fagerson more than lived up to rave reports culminating in his opposite number being yellow carded for what appeared no bigger “crime” than being unable to hold his own. Also impressive in the Hawks back row was former Haddington hooker Finlay Gillies, now playing in the back row while George Horne continues to look capable of dazzling at stand off.
To his credit Leck, whose team have remaining fixtures away to Hawick and at home to Stirling County while sitting five points adrift of second bottom Boroughmuir, did not dodge issues.
He said: “We got stuffed in the scrums. Hawks were a better side than us. We got fairly stuffed up front. We couldn’t get past three or four phases and couldn’t make any headway. We conceded ten points from scrums and 14 points through interceptions.
“As soon as we had ball we looked dangerous but we didn’t get any much. There is plenty of ability but what makes an impact is the lottery of the pro draft. We have to be brighter to compete at this level, though, and we are not there yet.
“I can do aggressive recruiting but I don’t have a cheque book. We don’t pay players.
“To compete at the highest level when the club game goes semi-pro (as is being mooted) is something we have to consider and we are considering.”
This was a game without structure due to regular penalties at breakdowns and with Hawks finding ways to gain penalties at the scrums there was certainly no wow factor.
Hawks came to turn the screw up front and were right to do so but there is more to them and the performance belied a lowly league placing due partly to recent games being postponed.
The visitors’ rush defence reduced Accies to playing across the pitch always under pressure until late on when at least one clear-cut overlap was butchered perhaps because confidence and composure hard been eroded.
Goal-kicking problems have beset Accies all season and although there has been an improvement lately the problem returned when Callum Ramm missed a kickable effort to open the scoring. Soon Accies were being made to pay with Neil Herron intercepting to run in from halfway, George Horne converting. Ramm soon atoned by tackling Andrew Fleming then picking up the ball to run in and add the touchline conversion but after that it was all Hawks with Horne slotting a couple of penalties for a 13-7 interval lead.
A penalty try when an Accies side seeking to wind down the clock on a yellow card for Michael Liness overstepped the mark in delaying scrum engagement followed.
Then Horne burst clear on an intercept to seal the spoils and deflate an Accies side who had been showing vague signs of shaking off their torpor.
Last year Accies survived by winning a play off involving the second bottom team. Hopes this time round appear to rest entirely on a Boroughmuir slump throwing them a lifeline but they would still have to take a minimum five points from two awkward assignments which is all they have left of the season and it is only late January.
Edinburgh Accies: Try: Ramm. Conversion: Ramm.
Glasgow Hawks: Tries: Herron, Horne, Penalty try. Conversions: Horne (3). Penalties: Horne (2).
Edinburgh Accies: R Young, C Ramm, J Marples, R Wilson, J Farndale, R Glashan, R Godsmark, L Launders, M Liness, L Niven, G Campbell (captain), E Stuart, R Seydak, R Snape, J Sole. Subs: D Bates, D Morrison, J McCarthy, J Munro, J Pecqueur.
Glasgow Hawks: J Steele, E Oag, N Herron, D Milne, P Ramsay, G Horne, P Boyer, G Strain (captain), J McFarlane, Z Fagerson, S Cummings, A Davidson, A Kirkland, T Spinks, F Gillies. Subs: S Findlay, B Cullinane, S Leckey, M Bartoszek, A Fleming.
Referee: K Allen.