by STUART RUTHERFORD
- Accies fail to capitalise on early opportunities
Although Hawick drew first blood via Lee Armstrong’s sweetly struck penalty, it was Accies who enjoyed most of the early play possession and territory. Those advantages mean very little when you don’t take your chances, however, and the capital side failed, on several occasions, to cash in on ‘red zone’ opportunities. Ben Appleson missed a straightforward penalty shortly before Armstrong’s opener, and repeated the sin later in the half; but it was at the line-out that the National One side would live to regret their carelessness. With an attacking throw-in on the Hawick five-metre line, Accies fluffed their lines, not once but twice. By half-time, Accies could easily have had a further 20 points to their name.
- Glashan hits back
After Armstrong lashed over his second penalty of the afternoon to give his side a 6-0 lead, it appeared as though Hawick’s game-plan of soaking up pressure before countering through danger-man, Darcy Graham, was proving to be to be a potent answer to Accies’ excellent ball retention. Graham – who will join Edinburgh on a professional contract in the summer – showcased why he is rated so highly with a barnstorming run down the stand-side touchline (although it is shame he kicked ahead instead of recycling when he was eventually closed down). But the capital outfit had a star of their own in Alex Glashan, and the scrum-half demonstrated the illusiveness which has seen him win 10 caps for the Scotland’s Sevens side, when he threw a wicked dummy, completely fooling the opposing fringe defence, and from 20 yards out the scrum-half was nigh on unstoppable.
- Pushover scrum stretches Accies’ lead
Holding a 10-6 lead at the break, the capital outfit looked a side fully deserving of a place in next season’s BT Premiership and only five minutes into the second period they pressed their case even further. Following relentless pressure on the Hawick try-line, in which Accies’ Clement Lacour and Jamie Sole both had darts at the whitewash stopped short, the two side’s scrummed down only metres out. With Hawick collapsing the first, a penalty try was on the cards, but that was not required. Accies front eight hit the second scrum with an almighty drive and Lawrie Seydak provided the simple finish. When Hawick’s Armstrong sliced a simple kick to the corner over the Accies’ dead-ball line, and Appleson added another penalty to stretch the lead to 20-6, it appeared as though the Borders side’s hopes of retaining their Premiership status were dead in the water.
- McNeil won’t be denied
After John Coutts scrambled over the whitewash to give his side a fighting chance of a comeback, every fragment of momentum seemed to switch to the men in green. Accies – who had defended excellently up until conceding Coutts’ try – had no answer for their opponents’ relentless waves of attack, led by Rory Hutton and Armstrong in midfield. However, there was no player who epitomised the Greens’ fighting spirit more than Bruce McNeil. The captain was an inspired force at the heart of the Hawick pack and his game-squaring try was a perfect example of his never-say-die attitude. With only 15 minutes to go, the Mansfield park outfit were awarded a penalty metres from the Accies try-line, and whilst the sensible option may have been to take the simple points on offer, McNeil decided to take matters into his own hands with a quick-tap. With Accies’ goal-line defence caught unawares, the prop managed to wrestle two players over the whitewash for the game’s score. It was pure inspiration from Hawick’s club captain.
- Chalmers’ mistake proves costly
With only two minutes left on the clock and both sides out on their feet, the small matter of extra-time beckoned, but then Robbie Chalmers handed Hawick their chance to snatch victory from the jaws of defeat. After once again willing themselves into the Accies’ 22, the men in green were halted in midfield and both sides piled into the resulting ruck. With numbers lining up out wide, Hawick’s scrum-half – Bruce Campbell – stepped in to recycle the ball, but before he had a chance to pass it Chalmers jumped off his feet, over the ruck, to grab Campbell by the jersey. It was an unfortunate lack of discipline by the teenage Accies’ full-back – who had looked well measured for the lion’s share of the contest – and it gave the referee no other option but to award the penalty. With Armstrong stroking over the simple kick, Hawick’s incredible comeback was complete.