Newcastle Rugby: Hawks plan best for last after major scare against Merewether

HAMILTON haven’t lost a game in three months, were runaway minor premiers and are on the cusp of creating history with a fourth straight premiership.

TOUGH TACKLE: Merewether captain Jay Strachan is collared by Hamilton winger Fiso Vasegote in the Hawks 36-28 win in the major semi-final on Saturday. Picture: Stewart Hazell

TOUGH TACKLE: Merewether captain Jay Strachan is collared by Hamilton winger Fiso Vasegote in the Hawks 36-28 win in the major semi-final on Saturday. Picture: Stewart Hazell

But coach Scott Coleman is adamant the Hawks haven’t produced their best yet.

Indeed, Hamilton were given a hell of a fright by Merewether before running out 36-28 winners in the major semi-final at No. 2 Sportsground on Saturday.

The Greens, who were under pressure at the set piece throughout, hit the front 23-22 with 15 minutes to go and had another chance to lead late when Sam Bright hit the left post with a conversion when behind 29-28.

But as they have done time and time again, the Hawks found a way to get the job done.

Tom Coupe crashed over at the death from a driving maul to seal the win.

“There are plenty of things we can build on,” Coleman said. “We were a bit disappointed in our performance but that is full credit to Merewether. They studied our game and took a lot of it away from us. The positives were that we won and no-one has really seen our game plan yet.”

Coleman expressed his frustration at three yellow cards issued by referee Jarryd Logan. Peter Bakarich and Sam McNeil were binned in quick succession for repeat infringements in the first half. Sam Morgan was carded late, his third for the season, and will miss the grand final. Coleman also queried a string of seven straight penalties against them. 

“We couldn’t contest at the breakdown because of the penalties and cards that were being given,” Coleman said. “That changed our whole game plan. At half-time we told them to tackle and then fold out. On our breakdown they were getting away with what we weren’t allowed to do in the first half. I’ll definitely ask some questions.”

A Cyril Burke led Waratahs were the last team to win four straight premierships from 1950-53.

“For the club, it would be a massive achievement, but there are probably only six blokes who have been involved in all four,” Coleman said.

The first 15 minutes on Saturday was all Hamilton. They asserted their authority at the set piece, earning penalties from the opening three scrums. Dane Sherratt landed a penalty goal and Akkersdyk produced neat footwork to cross as the Hawks jumped to a 10-0 lead.

However, Merewether managed to fight their way back. 

Jay Strachan shrugged off a high tackle from Fiso Vasegote and slid through beside the posts.

That set the tone for the match. Hamilton would grab the ascendancy, only for the Greens to hang tough.

Strachan, who powered over from 10 metres for a second try in the second half, was superb. Bright was a handful, while back-rower Jarome Wilson and prop James Sneddon never stopped.

“We knew if we put our stuff in place we would put ourselves in a position to win,” Merewether co-coach Mick Gill said. “Unfortunately we didn’t capitalise on a couple of opportunities. We will go again next week.”

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