COLIN RENTON@ Myreside
NIKKI WALKER watched his men produce an impressive performance against a Watsonians side coached by his former international colleague Marcus Di Rollo, then suggested that the win had been coming, despite the recent run of disappointing results.
“We have not been far away”, said Walker, “The players knew it was a game we had to win and thankfully they managed to do it and also get the five points which I think will make a big difference.”
It was a second successive loss for the hosts, whose strong start to the campaign is now a distant memory and they had to content themselves with a losing bonus point.
It took Watsonians just two minutes to impose themselves on the game. Rory Steele raced towards the opposition line and drew two defenders before flipping a pass out of the back of his hand to Keith Young, who touched down in the corner. Andrew Chalmers missed the conversion but found his range a couple of minutes later to slot a penalty.
Hawick responded with a sustained spell of pressure that yielded a string of penalties, a warning from the referee and almost saw the visitors open their account – Ross Gibson being held up over the line. The next transgressor was Angus Duckett and he was despatched for a ten minute spell in the sin bin.
Having kicked the earlier awards into touch, the Greens opted to tap and go and the ball was moved wide from Greg Cottrell to Ali Weir and Gary Johnstone, who fed John Coutts and he completed the job. Weir’s conversion trimmed the deficit to a point.
The next Watsonians attack ended with a penalty which Chalmers banged over. That three pointer handed the initiative back to hosts who almost scored again when Euan Dods crossed the whitewash but was held up.
Neither side had really taken control of the game but Watsonians looked the more likely to score. And so it proved as Scott McLeod raced into space and offloaded to Steele who dived between the sticks, leaving Chalmers a simple conversion.
Conceding points again spurred a Hawick reaction and an attack down the right flank ended with a burst from Bruce McNeil who passed inside as he fell and found the supporting Callum Mackintosh who touched down. Weir added the extras then kicked an injury time penalty to leave the game finely poised at the break.
The first action of the second half earned a penalty for Watsonians and Chalmers added three more points with the kick.
Hawick battered away at the home defence but were held up over the line. However, they did eventually find a way through and it came from skipper McNeil whose quickly taken close range penalty caught the home defence napping and he dived over for an unconverted score that edged Hawick into the lead for the first time.
The gap widened in 63 minutes when McNeil passed to Darcy Graham who sprinted past one defender then cut inside, outpacing two more before racing behind the posts to leave Weir a straightforward conversion.
Chalmers clawed back three points when he thumped over a long-range penalty but the visitors struck what proved to be the fatal blow with five minutes to play when Greg Cottrell twisted to within a couple of metres of the line then popped the ball up for Gibson who powered over, leaving Weir a simple conversion.
Watsonians finished strongly and their pressure forced a penalty that led to Matt Landels being yellow carded. Another offence at the next scrum, prompted the referee to run behind the posts and award a penalty try which Chalmers converted.
That sparked a frantic finale as the hosts chased the win. However, the visitors managed to repel the attacks and the match ended, disappointingly for Watsonians, with a forward pass.
Walker is now urging his men to use the victory as the foundation for a strong finish to the campaign.
“If you get a couple of wins on the bounce, you could jump a few places. I think it will come down to the last couple of games of the season so we need to stay in contact with those teams that are just above us,” he said.
Watsonians: K Young; R Cullen, S McLeod, D Innes, R Steele A Chalmers, E McKirdy,; N Borel, D Miller, K Whyte J Duthie , C Borthwick, S Crombie, A Duckett, E Dods. Subs: M Christie, F Morrison, K Eastwood, A Harris, T Hart.
Hawick: N Renwick; D Graham, J Coutts, G Johnstone, W Hamilton; A Weir, G Cottrell; S Muir, F Renwick, C Mackintosh, D Harlen, B McNeil©, R Gibson, S Graham, A Horne. Subs: M Landels, G Douglas, K McNeil, G Huggan, L Armstrong.
Watsonians: Tries: Young, Steele, Penalty, Cons; Chalmers 2; Pens: Chalmers 4.
Hawick: Tries: Coutts, Mackintosh, B McNeil, Graham, Gibson; Cons: Weir 4, Pen: Weir.
Scoring sequence: (Watsonians first): 5-0,8-0, 8-5, 8-7, 11-7, 16-7, 18-7,18-12, 18-14, 18-17 (h-t) 21-17, 21-22, 21-27, 21-29, 24-29, 24-34, 24-36, 29-36, 31-36
Yellow cards –
Watsonians: Duckett (12 mins)
Hawick: Landels (77)
Referee: F Brown
Man-of-the-Match: Streetwise, abrasive and quick-thinking for his try, Bruce McNeil was the inspiration for the Hawick win.
Talking Point: The result confirms that you can never write Hawick off, so can they now build on this?
Image courtesy Kenny Baillie