Currie Chieftains 40
IAIN MORRISON @ Malleny Park
IN perfect conditions with Malleny Park looking like it could host the local bowling club, two unbeaten teams clashed in a first versus third tie and something had to give. In the event the home team ran out comfortable winners if “comfortable” is the right word for playing in yesterday’s heat.
The victory means that Chieftains have successfully defended the Bill McLaran Shield four times at home, meaning they become the fifth team to have their name engraved on the trophy.
It was a little scrappy given the conditions with both sides conceding a few too many turnovers but there was also heaps to like with a slew of tries for the home side who racked up six in total, four in the first half, two after the break, all but one of them expertly converted by fly-half Gregor Hunter.
“I was really pleased with the effort of the boys in between the big events,” said Chieftains’ head coach Mark Cairns after the match. “Getting up off the ground in defence, getting into position in attack which gave us the ability to execute much better than we have in the last few weeks.
“We executed really well. We took our chances. Hawick made some opportunities for themselves but they will be disappointed with the return rate on those opportunities. I am delighted that we managed to execute very efficiently.”
Oddly enough, the home team’s domination was kick started by a yellow card around the 25minute mark. No surprise there, except that this yellow was awarded to the home full-back Charlie Brett, who tackled a Hawick player off the ball. At the time Chieftains were already leading 12-3 but after Brett had enjoyed his ten minute stint on the naughty step he returned to the game with his team 26-3 ahead, with the hosts scoring two superb tries while short-handed.
Hawick had their moments and they bossed great swathes of this match but they lacked the finishing finesse of their opponents, who rarely entered the Hawick red zone without making the visitors pay in points. The hot, dry conditions probably didn’t help Hawick who will relish the return match at Mansfield and doubtless do a little rain dance ahead of kick off.
“We are way, way, way better than that,” said Hawick coach George Graham after the match but only after a lengthy debrief with his players. “The problem for me was our intensity, we never really had any.”
The start of the second half was a case in point. With Graham’s half time ‘advice’ ringing in their ears the Hawick forwards set up camp five metres from the Chieftains line. They earned three scrum penalties and banged their heads repeatedly against the Currie defence but despite countless phases they never really looked like scoring a try.
Once Chieftains lifted the siege the home team scored two tries in three minutes, the second a long range effort of real excellence, although Hawick won’t be happy with their tackling on inside centre Adam Hall, who was allowed far too much space.
Hawick did score a try on the stroke of half-time which says much about the Greens’ dependence upon set-piece plays. They milked a penalty at a scrum, which they bossed all afternoon thanks to the efforts of the pint-sized loosehead Dale Johnstone. They kicked into the corner, won the line-out and mauled the ball over the line, with Polish international prop Craig Bachurzewski the last man up, claiming his fifth try of a season which is only three weeks old.
That was the best of it because they had already conceded four and the match was pretty much sewn up at the break by which time the Chieftans enjoyed a 26-8 advantage.
The home team had scored inside the opening five minutes when Brett sliced through the Hawick line and sent winger Cammy Meager over in the corner for the simplest of scores. Mike Vernel scored next when the big lock broke off from a rolling maul and crashed over the Hawick line.
Then Brett coped his yellow card and the setback seemed to inspire his yellow shirted colleagues to produce their best, counter-attacking from the numerous turnovers Hawick gifted them.
Matt Poole broke from his own twenty-two and made it deep inside Hawick territory before the big lock passed to No 8 Wallace Nelson, who was untouched on his way to the line. Then Hunter made a classic fly-half outside break to send Cammy Scott over for Chietains’ fourth.
Hawick had got their first score just before the break and another went to scrum-half Gareth Welsh who took a quick tap penalty under the sticks to finish the scoring for the day.
But in front of their own fans this was the Chieftains’ day and the home side dotted down twice in quick succession in between the two Hawick tries to stymie any thoughts of a fightback. The first went to winger Archie MacLean after a long, patient build up, the second to centre Steven Hamilson, a length-of-the-field-effort after his fellow midfielder Hall had done all the hard yakka.
Both teams had their chances in the final quarter but with the relentless heat sapping the legs neither side could quite summon the wherewithal to score again and both the game and the players ran out of steam.
Currie Chieftains: C Brett; C Meager, S Hamilton, A Hall, A MacLean; G Hunter; G Christie; J Argiro, G Carson, C Ramsay, M Vernel, M Poole, H Ferguson, F Scott, W Nelson. Subs: E Blair, J O’Brien, C Scott, F Sayers, M O’Neill.
Hawick: A Weir; R McKean, M Bannerman, A Mitchell, L Gordon-Woody; B Donaldson, G Welsh; D Johnston, M Carryer, C Bachurewski, D Sudden, K McNeil, S Graham, Billy McNeil, Bruce McNeil. Subs: C Renwick, R Toogood, S Fairbairn, J Linton, K Burton.
Referee: B Blain.
Currie Chieftains: Tries: Meager, Vernel, Scott, Sayers, McLean, Hamilton; Con: Hunter 5.
Hawick: Tries: Bachurzewski, Welsh; Con: Donaldson; Pen: Weir.
Scoring sequence (Currie Chieftains first): 5-0; 5-3; 10-3; 12-3 173; 19-3; 26-3; 26-8 (h-t) 31-8; 33-8; 38-8; 40-8; 40-13; 40-15.
Yellow cards –
Currie Chieftains: Brett
Man of the Match: Currie’s classy fly-half Gregor Hunter was a small oasis of calm and control in a game played at a fierce pace throughout.
Talking point: It was a beautiful day for running rugby but Hawick’s insistence of utilising just one man at the back, rather than two or even three, looked like a tactical mistake because Hunter found acres of space in the backfield throughout this match.