ALAN LORIMER @ Mansfield Park
HAWICK earned an unexpected draw at Mansfield Park after matching Heriot’s with a passionate performance in both defence and attack that will give the Borderers hope that relegation from the Premiership might be avoided.
Heriot’s travelled south with the expectation of picking up at least four championship points to consolidate their position in the top four but in the event, and in spite of having the services of the Edinburgh back row Cornell Du Preez, who was called up for the Scotland squad this autumn, the Goldenacre men were unable to impose their physicality on the game.
Was this a technical matter or was it something to do with the history of tight matches between these two clubs?
“We expect a tough match every time we’re down here and we get it. We’re never let down,” said the Heriot’s head coach, Phil Smith, who admitted that his side had blown opportunities to come away with a win.
“We didn’t put the game to bed when we had our chance. We didn’t kick at goal in the first half when we should have and when we opened up an eight point gap in the second half we didn’t get that extra surge to make sure of the game,” he reflected.
Heriot’s certainly put pressure on Hawick in the set-piece in both the scrums and the line-outs, while the crispness of their back play suggested a greater return on the cards than proved to be the case.Hawick’s forwards, if giving away both height and weight, more than compensated by putting on a display of committed defence and ferocity at the contact area. And behind the scrum, Hawick’s backs looked the more assured with ball in hand, with an intuitive game in contrast to Heriot’s more structured approach.
“I thought our defence was very good today. We got off the line quickly and marched them back. The performance for us was everything. Winning or losing it was great having that attitude of wanting to win,” said Hawick’s forwards coach, Scott McLeod.
Outstanding for Hawick was their skipper and number eight Bruce McNeil, who looked more the professional than his opposite number in the Heriot’s side; and winger Darcy Graham, whose combination of ball skills and sheer pace make him star quality for the Greens.
For Heriot’s, Callum Marshall ruled the line-out aside from showing mobility around the field, while the front-row can take plaudits for their work in the scrums, with replacement Stuart Mustard catching the eye with a number of useful contributions when he came off the bench.
Heriot’s looked winners in the opening exchanges as their heavier forwards threatened to score from a driven line-out. But Hawick, cleverly, opted not to engage the maul and were able to extricate themselves from a difficult situation.
After defending valiantly, Hawick then showed their skills with ball in hand, with a period of possession which ended with McNeil supplying the scoring pass for winger Wesley Hamilton. Ali Weir succeeded with the touchline conversion attempt.
Hawick messed up the restart and were under pressure yet again as Heriot’s were awarded two penalties in quick succession. From the second of these, the visitors kicked to the corner and drove the ensuing line-out. Hawick collapsed the maul and English exchange referee Calum Sharp had no option but award a penalty try, easily converted by Hagart to level the scores.
After the break Heriot’s appeared to engage a different gear, their quick handling and a structured attack in which Du Preez appeared twice produced an unconverted try for full back Charlie Simpson.
Hagart and Weir exchanged penalty goals before Darcy Graham showed clever skills by breaking through the Heriot’s defence and then following up his own kick. From the resultant play Hawick won a penalty and opted to run the ball and it was Graham who was the beneficiary. The Scotland under-20 wing diving in at the corner to level the scores.
Weir was left with a touchline conversion attempt from the ‘wrong’ side but this time his kick went wide leaving the two teams to contemplate what might have been, if only….
Hawick: A Weir; D Graham, G Johnstone, L Armstrong, W Hamilton; R Hutton, B Campbell; S Muir, F Renwick, C Mackintosh, D Lowrie, K McNeil, R Gibson,S Graham, B McNeil Subs M Landels, D Johnstone, S Fairbairn, T Corless, N Renwick.
Heriot’s: C Simpson; J Rae, L Steele, J Semple, G Parker; A Hagart, A Simmers; M Bouab, M Liness, S Cessford, C Marshall, R Nimmo, M Maltman, S Dewar, C Du Preez Subs S Mustard, G Cameron, C Smith, T Wilson, R Mulveena.
Referee: C Sharp
Hawick: Tries: Hamilton, D Graham; Cons: Weir; Pens: Weir.
Heriot’s: Tries: Penalty Try, Simpson; Cons: Hagart; Pens: Hagart
Scoring sequence (Hawick first): 5-0, 7-0, 7-5, 7-7 (h-t) 7-12, 7-15, 10-15, 15-15
Yellow Cards –
Man-of-the-Match: Darcy Graham. The winger may not be the biggest in the game but his pace, his skill on the ball and his defence are exemplary. And he used all these attributes, his try five minutes before full time giving Hawick a draw.
Talking Point: The distribution of professionals is distorting the results of the Premiership. While professionals may be good for the amateur game there must surely be a fairer way of apportioning these top players than exists at present. Now is the time to make sure that a better distribution is in place for next season