Currie Chieftains 32
COLIN RENTON @ Malleny Park
CURRIE Chieftains turned on the style to take all five points from their home clash with BT Premiership strugglers Hawick. The hosts played some outstanding rugby, particularly in the first half, but had to withstand a furious finale from opponents who are scrapping for topflight survival.
The Hawick fight back came after Chieftains had emptied the bench, and the subsequent drop off in performance was a source of irritation for Chieftains coach Ben Cairns.
“I was a bit frustrated by the reaction to us making a few subs on the 50 minute mark really. I thought we controlled the game for the first 50 minutes and looked very good”, said Cairns. “That performance- first half especially – I don’t think many teams would have lived with us and that’s what we are capable of. For us, it’s about trying to replicate that for 80 minutes.”
However, there was no finger pointing from Cairns who insisted that he was not questioning the effort of his men.
“It shouldn’t matter if we make two, three or four subs, we should still be able to replicate that. And if we want to go on and win championships and be at the top of the table, we need to have strength in depth in the squad and we need to trust your subs. That’s why we put those boys on – because we have trust in them. Whether it’s what they have done when they’ve gone on or whether it’s the reaction of the rest of the players thinking ‘we’ve won this’ and backing off a little bit, I’m not sure. But our reaction to making a few subs was not good enough”, he added. “We knew that if we gave them a sniff, Hawick would be very good. We gave them a sniff and they were very good.”
The hosts took only two minutes to open the scoring, Harvey Elms, fresh from his sojourn in South African with the Scotland sevens squad raced into the Hawick 22 and freed his skipper Robbie Nelson to touch down.
Jamie Forbes struck the post with the conversion attempt, but he was on target with his second effort two minutes later, when Elms again did the spadework, this time carving his way through the Hawick defence, before offloading to Vince Wright who completed the job.
Hawick featured briefly but their first attack of note ended with a third Chieftains try. Lee Armstrong’s crosskick landed perfectly for Cammy Gray, who broke out and kicked ahead, returning play to the visitors’ 22. The ball was cleared into touch but a quickly taken lineout allowed Ruaraidh Smith to weave through the Hawick defence and pass to Forbes, who dived over, then added the conversion and kept the scoreboard ticking over with a penalty in 22 minutes.
Hawick retaliated with an unconverted score by Gary Munro but the response was instant and a lineout catch and drive ended with Stephen Ainslie crashing over for the bonus point try, leaving Chieftains 27-5 ahead at the break.
Chieftains resumed with another spell in the ascendancy and added another score when Nelson provided the scoring pass for Elms who accelerated past two defenders to touch down.
Hawick clawed back five points when Ali Weir dummied through the home defence. Then Craig Hamilton forced his way over for a converted score that sparked the chase for the bonus point try. That came in 66 minutes when Shawn Muir blasted his way over from close range. Weir again added the extras.
Another score would have given the visitors a second bonus point and set up a frantic finish, but the lack of composure that has contributed to their current plight prevented them from adding to their tally, leaving Chieftains in second spot in the table going into the international break.
Currie Chieftains: B Robbins); R Smith, H Elms, R Nelson©, C Gray; J Forbes, M O’Neil; J Cox, C Mackintosh, A McWilliam, V Wright, M Vernel, S Ainslie, T Gordon, R Davies. Subs: G Carson, D Ferguson, S McGinley, C Smith, G Faulds.
Hawick: A Weir; G Munro, G Johnstone, K Davies, L Ferguson; L Armstrong, G Cottrell; S Muir, M Carryer, N Little, C Hamilton, D Redpath, G Graham, S Graham, B McNeil. Subs: F Renwick, D Johnstone, A Baillie, L Anderson, C Ritson.
Currie Chieftains –
Tries; Nelson, Wright, Forbes, Ainslie, Elms; Cons; Forbes 2; Pen; Forbes
Hawick: Tries; Munro, Weir, Hamilton, Muir; Cons; Weir 2
Scoring sequence: (Chieftains first): 5-0, 10-0, 12-0, 17-0, 19-0, 22-0, 22-5, 27-5 (h-t) 32-5, 32-10, 32-15, 32-17, 32-22, 32-24
Man-of-the-Match: After his involvement with the Scotland sevens squad the previous weekend, Harvey Elms was back in harness, refreshed and reinvigorated. He created the two opening tries and had a sublime offload just before half time, then showed his finishing skills for try number five before coming off after 50 minutes.
Talking point: Chieftains were back to their ruthless best and played some scintillating rugby. If they come back after the break in this form, they could be title contenders.