WITH the toss of a coin handing Hawick home advantage, the Premiership side will start tonight’s Border League Final as hot favourites against a National One outfit Kelso, but it won’t be a walk in the park. The return to Mansfield Park of former Hawick captain Bruce McNeil, who is now player-coach at Poynder, provides a delicious extra sub-plot to this match.
“We have a front-row shortage at the moment,” acknowledged Kelso Director of Rugby Eck Hinnigan, before highlighting that this is just the sort of game where form and reputations go out the window. “It has been a long hard season and we have patched together a squad we believe can win the match and, after all, it’s a Border derby and a final so anything can happen – but we know we must be at our very best to win this one.
“Hawick have not lost at home all season so that’s how big the challenge is,” he added. “However, we have performed well this season in Border derbies with wins against Gala, Melrose and Selkirk, so hopefully that has put us in a good place to push Hawick all the way for this prestigious trophy.
Meanwhile, Hawick will be keen to erase form of the pain from their Premiership play-off semi-final loss at Marr just over a fortnight ago, a game which had a disappointing outcome for the Mansfield men although their performance underlined the progress Matty Douglas‘ young squad has made over the course of this season.
If the Greens do come out on top them this will be their 50th Border League success, with Melrose on 20 titles a long way back in second place in the roll of honour. Kelso, meanwhile, are chasing their sixth Border League win.
Kick-off is at 7.30pm.
Hawick: B Donaldson; M Tait, A Mitchell, Glen Welsh, R McKean; K Ford, G Welsh; S Muir, M Carryer, R MacLeod, R Smith, S Frizzell, R Graham, C Sutherland, S Graham. Subs: T Hope, R Linton, T Huggan, D Lightfoot/J Chelley, C Riddel, E Stanger, J Delaney.
Kelso: M Wilson; R Combe, D Patterson, F Robson, A Roberts; M Hastie, A Tait; R Wight, E Knox, A Frame, A Common, K Melbourne, G Cessford, K Dryden, B McNeil. Subs: M Thompson, C Arthur, K Gibson, J Walker, C Thompson, G Millar, B Lyall.