DAVID BARNES @ Meggetland
IF Nicolas Cage is looking for inspiration for his next film project then a remake of this game might be right up his street. It was certainly fast and furious – and although it perhaps lacked in artistic merit at times, there was no shortage in edge-of-the-seat drama.
With so much at stake, it is perhaps no surprise that this was such an edgy encounter – but both teams deserve credit for the battling spirit they demonstrated, and for their determination to go out and win the match (rather than simply battening down the hatches for fear of losing it).
In the final reckoning, the outcome was just about fair, with a late penalty from Matt Douglas earning the visitors a losing bonus point which could still be crucial in the final count at the end of the season.
This victory sees Boroughmuir climb to seventh in the table and, crucially, five points clear of the bottom spot occupied by Hawick.
“Going into a four week break with a bonus point win makes Christmas and New Year that little bit easier,” said Peter Wright, the relieved Boroughmuir coach. “The next two games are tough against Ayr and Hawks, but we’ve beaten Ayr already and I think we can beat either of those teams. There are no easy games in this league so it’s not over yet.”
The losing team can take some comfort in the knowledge that they only trail Gala by virtue of a slightly inferior points differential, and that they still have their Border rivals to play. Also, Watsonians are just four points ahead, so they are not out the woods yet, either.
Hawick have already been written off several times this season and have managed to keep their heads just about above water, and assistant coach Scott MacLeod sees no reason why it should be any different on this occasion.
“We are never going to be the biggest or most physical team so we need to rely on passion and heart and the history of playing for the green jersey. I think that has been working: against Heriot’s at home we stuck in brilliantly and against Ayr we would have won it wasn’t for ten minutes of madness, so we’re not gone yet. Nobody likes coming to Mansfield Park so we need to win our home games and then pick up something on the road. If we’re nothing else, we’re battlers,” he said.
Hawick felt they had the edge in the scrum, but it was a penalty awarded for Boroughmuir when the packs locked horns in the middle of the park in the fourth minute which led to the home team’s first score. They kicked to the 22, won another penalty and went for the corner, setting up an attacking line-out which provided the platform for Aubrey Mncube to peel round the front and barge over.
Matt Douglas banged home a penalty for Hawick, but the visitors soon dropped further behind.
Chris Laidlaw’s kicking from hand was not always on the money, but his contribution to Boroughmuir’s second try was spot on, when he sent up a beautifully shaped cross-field effort which released the hard-running Grant McConnell. Darcy Graham managed to pull the Boroughmuir winger down just a few yards from the line, but Craig Keddie was on hand to pick-up and scuttle over.
Hawick narrowed the gap again with a second Douglas penalty, from in front of the posts for an offside, which must have been hard for Boroughmuir to swallow because the visiting full-back had just got away with swinging a punch in the direction of Jordan Edmunds after the whistle. There was no real harm done, but given that the incident happened right in from of the linesman, it is astonishing that there was no sort of sanction from the match officials.
Not that the home team spent any time feeling sorry for themselves. They immediately got their own back in the most effective possible way – by stealing possession at a line-out for Mncube to grab his second try under the shadow of the posts.
Hawick came out after a break like a team fighting for survival – which, of course, they are. The magnificent Darcy Graham grabbed two tries as Hawick scrambled back to just a single point deficit with 20 minutes to go, and the flying winger looked a short-odds certainty to grab his hat-trick and simultaneously put his team ahead for the firdst time in the match, when he gathered a loose ball on his own line and set off up the touchline like a rocket.
Laidlaw did remarkably well to get across for the crucial tackle before Graham disappeared over the horizon. The Boroughmuir man concussed himself in the process and had to be replaced, but it was almost certainly a price worth paying. The stand-off is a key man for the Edinburgh side in terms of directing play, but that may well be his most important contribution to the cause this season.
There was another momentum shifting moment when Jack Cosgrove was rather harshly yellow-carded for over-vigorously contesting the ball on the deck, and having weathered the storm Boroughmuir were ready to finish this game off. A slick move off the back of a scrum in front of the posts saw Keddie burst clear, and then offload out of contact for Greg Cannie to grab the try.
Boroughmuir charged back upfield straight from the restart, and might have grabbed try number five if second-row Callum Atkinson had showed a bit of composure at the end of his lung-bursting 50 meter dash. The 6ft 10inch youngster will be disappointed at squandering that opportunity with a poor pass, but his work-rate and athleticism mean that coach Wright is unlikely to harbour too deep a grudge over that one incident.
Hawick battled on, and got some sort of reward at the death when Rob Cairns was yellow carded for playing the ball on the deck close to his own line. With no time left on the clock, Douglas chipped over the penalty to secure the bonus point.
“You’re 19-6 up at half-time and you’re stuck between a rock and a hard place because you can play rugby, but if you do that against Hawick and make mistakes then they’ve got that capability to come back and hurt you. They started the second half really well and all of a sudden it is 19-18, and at that point there were guys in the management team thinking we are not going to win this – but the boys dug it out well and dominated the rest of the game,” concluded Wright.
Boroughmuir: R Cairns; J Edmunds, R Kerr, M Hare, G McConnell; C Laidlaw©, N Fowles; D Robertson, T King, T Gracie, J Ure, C Atkinson, A Mncube, C Keddie, M Tweddle. Subs: S Clark, M Henry, M Walker, D Steele, G Cannie.
Hawick: M Douglas; W Helu, D Graham, G Huggan, W Hamilton; R Hutton, B Campbell; J Cosgrove, F Renwick, C Mackintosh, D Lowrie, K McNeil, R Gibson, S Graham, B McNeil©. Subs: S Muir, M Landels, D Redpath, G Johnstone, K Brunton.
Referee: D Sutherland
Boroughmuir: Try: Mncube 2, Keddie, Cannie; Con: Laidlaw 2, Steele.
Hawick: Try; Graham 2; Con: Douglas; Pen: Douglas 3.
Scoring Sequence (Boroughmuir first): 5-0; 5-3; 10-3; 12-3; 12-6; 17-6; 19-6 (h-t); 19-11; 19-16; 19-18; 24-18; 26-18; 26-21.
Man-of-the-Match: He is rough round the edges, but Callum Atkinson – from Wilmslow but studying at Heriot-Watt university – has the size, athleticism and work-rate to be a very good second-row.
Talking Point: Hawick are one of the clubs pushing for a return to district rugby but do they really believe a South match will ever be able to provide this sort of intensity and drama? This really mattered – and it showed.