WATSONIANS marched on to their second win in the BT Premiership after overcoming Hawick with a strong last quarter display, confirming their readiness to challenge for honours in this season’s championship.
It is, of course, early days in the Premiership but Watsonians look to have put together a formidable side capable of holding its own in what is a massively competitive league and one which earned plaudits from the Hawick coach, Nikki Walker.
“I think that Watsonians will finish in the top four.” he said.
Certainly the Myresiders’ summer recruitment is paying dividends and none more so from the new intake than former Gala man Ewan Scott, who, against Hawick, controlled the game skilfully from stand-off.
“We knew that if we hadn’t recruited well over the summer then we’d have been in trouble. Ewan was very good today. He runs the game very well. He kicks from hand very well. Overall he’s very skilful. You saw what he did when he scored his try. He dabbed the ball through like a footballer.” said Marcus di Rollo, the Watsonians coach.
Watsonians also benefitted from having Edinburgh scrum-half Sean Kennedy in their squad. In the event it was Kennedy who turned the game with a defence-splitting move that led to Scott’s try. Not that Watsonians necessarily needed Kennedy’s presence such was the skill shown by Reiss Cullen, who was hugely influential at scrum-half before the Edinburgh pro came off the bench.
Arguably the key player for Watsonians was their skipper and number-eight Rory Drummond, who throughout the match, carrried ball effectively and showed too a transfer of skills from the sevens game.
Drummond, however, would have been one of thirty players on the field at any time frustrated by the flow of penalties at scrum time. Just about every scrum ended in a penalty making one question the whole point of this supposedly important part of rugby.
For Hawick the absence of key players is having a debilitating effect. Missing from the Greens squad was scrum-half Greg Cottrell, stand-off Rory Hutton, who is likely to be out of the game for a further nine weeks with torn tendons in his hand , and utility back Lee Armstrong, who after returning, disillusioned, from a brief spell with St Boswells, picked up a mid-week injury in training that prevented him from taking his place on the bench.
On top of all this, stand-in stand-off, Ally Weir, had to be assisted off the field after colliding with one of his own players and could be doubtful for next week’s round of games. A further piece of ill-luck was an injury to Edinburgh prop Kevin Bryce, who was forced to retire before he could make a meaningful contribution to the game.
Walker, however, is not panicking. He said: “We have a young squad of players and for them this is all about learning.”
Disappointing for Walker was the first ten minutes of the match in which his charges seemed unready for the challenge. Hawick’s lack of urgency allowed Watsonians to find holes in the Greens’ defence, most notably from the mazy running of Cullen, who set up the opening try for prop Nathan Borel, with full-back Andrew Chalmers adding the conversion.
Watsonians should have extended their lead but twice Chalmers was off target with kickable penalty attempts. Not so Weir. The Hawick stand-off succeeded with two shots at goal to leave his side trailing by a single point with the half-time score at 6-7.
Then, when Sean Crombie was yellow carded for dropping a maul, Weir kicked his third goal allowing Hawick to enjoy a brief lead – only for this to be the end of Hawick’s points flow.
A Scott penalty restored the lead for Watsonians and then, after a series of pick-and-drives, Edinburgh professional Villami Fihaki crashed over for a try converted by Scott.
Two minutes later, Kennedy, combining with centre DJ Innes opened up the Hawick defence, launching a move which ended with Scott toeing the ball over the line for a try, which the stand-off converted to seal an eventually comfortable win for Watsonians
Hawick: D Graham; N McColm, W Hamilton, K Brunton, S Bandeen; A Weir, B Campbell; S Muir, F Renwick, C McIntosh, M Robertson, D Harlen, B McNeil, A Horne, K Davies. Subs used M Landels, K Bryce, R Gibson, S Graham, J Coutts.
Watsonians: A Chalmers; S McKean, S McLeod, DJ Innes, K Young; E Scott, R Cullen; N Borel, S Crombie, S Ruwers, D Dee, C Borthwick, E Dodds, A Duckett, R Drummond. Subs used : D Miller, M Christie, V Fihaki, S Kennedy, M Bertram.
Hawick: Pens Weir (3)
Watsonians: Tries Borel, Fihaki, Scott, Cons Chalmers, Scott (2) Pen Scott
Referee: M Adamson
Man-of-the-match:Rory Drummond – the number 8’s ball-carrying and his transfer of skills from the sevens game were hugely impressive
Talking point: The majority of scrums ended in penalties. Is this the way rugby is going?
Scotland rugby correspondent for The Times for six years and subsequently contributed to Sunday Times, Daily and Sunday Telegraph, Scotsman, Herald, Scotland on Sunday, Sunday Herald and Reuters. Worked in Radio for BBC. Alan is Scottish rugby journalism's leading voice when it comes to youth and schools rugby.