ALAN LORIMER @ Mansfield Park
THERE was a collective sigh of relief at Mansfield Park as Hawick registered their first win in the 2016-17 BT Premiership after defeating Boroughmuir in an eight-try thriller.
The try spoils were shared equally providing bonus points for each side but what ultimately separated the two teams was Muir’s propensity to give away penalties in vital areas of the pitch allowing Hawick to kick four penalty goals.
“It was a great feeling getting our first win in five weeks. But don’t get us wrong we’ve got a lot to work on.” admitted the Hawick skipper, Bruce McNeil. He added : “There’s a lot of confidence within this team. We’ve always believed a win was not far away.
“We know what we’re capable of and so today we just wanted to go out there and express ourselves. We did that well today against a good Boroughmuir side. What we did today was play simple rugby. Flash stuff comes when you’re thirty points ahead.” suggested McNeil.
What Hawick must improve is their kicking from hand in general and their box-kicking in particular. Repeatedly they merely handed possession to Boroughmuir with poorly executed kicks and a lack of urgency in the chase, an area of the game they will want to work on before taking on Glasgow Hawks at Anniesland in Round 6 of the Premiership.
But the Greens can reflect on a number of positives from the game, notably their forward play in which Fraser Renwick, Stuart Graham and Keith Davies were impressive throughout. And, behind the scrum, eighteen-year old stand-off Kyle Brunton, who came off the bench at half time, posted a very encouraging performance.
For Boroughmuir, the back three of Dougie Steele, Grant McConnell, and Jordan Edmunds looked a class act, claiming three of their side’s four tries and threatening whenever they were in possession. Former Millfield player, McConnell raced in for two excellent second half tries, confirming his growing stature and his selection for the BT Academy.
Impressive too for Muir were stand-off Chris Laidlaw, who found gaps in what was at times a stretched Hawick defence, prop Ross Dunbar, who displayed good support play and number eight Audrey Mncube, who was the visitors’ cleaner-up par excellence.
Hawick, after being let off the hook when Muir centre Ronan Kerr fumbled a potential scoring pass, opened the scoring with a Neil Renwick penalty goal, while at the other end Laidlaw was off target with a similar effort.
The visitors, however, soon atoned, a crisp handling move putting Dunbar into space before the prop delivered the scoring pass to Edmunds.
The Greens then regained the lead after the forwards softened up the Muir forwards with a driven line-out that created space for scrum half Bruce Campbell to dive over for a try converted by Renwick.
The lead changed yet again, this time from a well judged cross kick from Laidlaw, a perfect catch by McConnell, and intelligent support work from Mncube to give flanker Craig Keddie a try out wide, leaving Laidlaw with a difficult but successful conversion attempt.
It seemed that Boroughmuir would hold on to their lead until half time but when Wesley Hamilton plucked a Muir kick-ahead out of the air, the Hawick wing raced down the left touchline for a timely try to give Hawick a 15-12 interval advantage.
The Hamilton try seemed to instil confidence in the Hawick side and that was underlined when Hamilton took a pass at pace before outflanking the Muir defence to open up an eight point lead, increased to eleven minutes later with a Renwick penalty goal.
Boroughmuir’s penalty count was growing and when Sam Johnson tried to slow down ball at a ruck the Muir scrum half was binned, the offence resulting in another penalty goal by Renwick.
Renwick then looked certain to score after Keith Davies had opened up the Muir defence but the full-back was tackled just a metre short of the line. Hawick should have pressed home their advantage but instead turned over possession allowing the visitors to attack from deep and giving McConnell the chance to show his dangerous running with a try from 80 metres out, Laidlaw converting.
Hawick, however, were able to reply quickly and this time it was Lee Armstrong who did the damage – the Scotland Club XV cap using clever footwork to carve his way through the Muir defece for his side’s fourth try, Renwick again adding the conversion points.
If the spectators had not already had good value for their money then Boroughmuir provided another thrilling score by moving the ball from a line-out, before teasing the Hawick defence and allowing McConnell to race in from the blindside to complete a double.
Laidlaw’s conversion put Muir within seven points of Hawick’s score but four minutes from full time Armstrong kicked his side’s fourth penalty goal to deny Boroughmuir a second bonus point.
Hawick : K Ford; N Renwick, G Johnstone, G Huggan, W Hamilton; L Armstrong, B Campbell; S Muir, F Renwick, C Mackintosh, M Robertson, B McNeil, R Gibson, S Graham, K Davies Subs M Landels, T Skeet, D Harlen, K Brunton, S Bandeen
Boroughmmuir: D Steele; G McDonnell, R Kerr, M Hare, J Edmunds; C Laidllaw, S Johnson; R Dunbar, J Bett, D Robertson, J Ure, R Woodland, C Keddie, M Walker, A Mncube Subs S Clark, D Winning, M Johnstone, A Cox, A James
Referee K White
Scorers Hawick Tries Hamilton (2), Campbell, Armstrong Cons Renwick (2) Pens Renwick (3) Armstrong
Boroughmuir Tries McConnell (2), Edmunds, Keddie Cons Laidlaw (3)
Man-of-the-Match : Grant McConnell. The former age grade cap is now realising the potential he showed as a teenager. His two tries against Hawick were top drawer.
Talking point : Neither side had pros today. A level playing field at last.