Currie Chieftains 7
ALAN LORIMER @ Mansfield Park
HAWICK rolled back history to the glory days of rugby at Mansfield Park by inflicting an unexpectedly high defeat on last season’s Tennent’s Premiership championship winners and play-off runners-up. It was a performance of intelligent rugby that saw the Greens lead by a breath-taking 38-0 at half-time.
To their credit, Currie Chieftains reacted positively after the break and for what it’s worth actually won the second half 7-5. But by half-time, Hawick had caused the kind of damage that would have made an insurance company go bust and there was little way back for the Malleny men.
Undoubtedly the strong breeze blowing end to end on a Mansfield Park that was surprisingly firm, despite the excessive amount of rain that has fallen in the last two weeks, was a huge factor in the game. And in the event it was Hawick who harnessed it much the better as their coach, Matty Douglas, acknowledged.
“We were expecting a massive battle but we probably didn’t expect to be 38-0 up at half-time,” he said. “I thought we were so clinical in the first half. Our kicking game was just outstanding. We took our chances.
“Turning round we knew that with the strong wind in our faces it was going to be hard. That was a 30-point wind and they scored only one try. We put a massive effort into our defence. Our goal is to finish top of the league and we just have to keep winning” .
Hawick used not only the wind in the first half, but also their superiority in the forward battle, where all eight contributed to a strong effort that kept the Greens on the front foot during that first 40. Currie struggled in the lineout, where they found the presence of Daniel Suddon a constant menace. Another to catch the eye was Fraser Renwick, whose non-stop dynamic contributions seemed to inspire his fellow forwards.
For Currie, who were missing three regular backs, the defeat was hard to take, but it was not a complete derailment of their Premiership ambitions. “A lot went wrong today but I suppose the positive is that there’s lots we can work on” said Chieftains head coach Mark Cairns.
“We didn’t look after possession well in the first half. It was a really strong wind and if we could have kept the score to 20 points at half-time I believe we could have had a chance of turning it round. We didn’t do that, because we made poor decisions. Next week is a must win if we want to secure a home semi-final.”
Eight opening minutes of stalemate hardly suggested what might be the final scoreline. But, as a pointer to their first-half dominance, it was Hawick who finally broke the early deadlock with a scintillating try, coming from a line-out drive and then a crisp release of the ball to the backs. A timely intrusion by Kirk Ford then created just enough room for winger Lewis Ferguson to side-step his way to the line for a try converted by Ford.
The score did not dent the confidence of Currie, who replied with a spell of close-passing rugby that looked ominous for Hawick only for the ball to be spilled when it was released wide, allowing Hawick’s Ronan McKean to hack the ball upfield before its eventual destination being the Currie 22.
Hawick then won the ensuing line-out and moved the ball wide, creating space for Andrew Mitchell to suck in Currie’s midfield defence before the centre laid on the scoring pass to Ethan Reiilly, Ford again adding the extras.
Another try beckoned when Ferguson, after taking a difficult pass, sprinted for the line, but a no-arms tackle in the corner by Gregor Hunter prevented the score. It came at the cost of a yellow card and a further score , this time from the burly Mitchell, who used space to weave his way over for his side’s third try .
Ford’s accurate boot produced a the conversion points and a penalty goal for a 24-0 lead. Then with the game becoming tetchy an inevitable fracas broke out, resulting in the yellow card shown to both Calum Renwick and Gregor Christie.
It was Hawick who benefitted from the reduction of players on the field, a Mitchell kick into unguarded territory allowing McKean to race on to the ball for the Greens’ bonus-point try, turned into a seven pointer by Ford’s unfailing accuracy off the tee.
There was still time for a further first-half score and this time it came from Currie’s inability to control the ball on their line, allowing Stuart Graham to pounce for his side’s fifth score. The extras were again supplied by Ford for a 38-0 half-time lead.
Playing with the stiff breeze, Currie looked more purposeful in the second half and were rewarded for good approach work with a try by hooker Ryan Stewart from a driven line-out, Hunter kicking the conversion. This was quickly countered by a Hawick try from the hard-working Dalton Redpath, but this time Ford’s conversion attempt from the touchline hit the near upright.
Currie’s territorial gains in the second half should have rendered more points, only for their attacks to be repelled repeatedly by a Hawick side that sublimated their attacking skills seen in the first half into a display of trenchant defence which contributed handsomely to the Greens’ ending up convincing winners.
Hawick: K Ford; L Ferguson, A Mitchell, E Reilly, R McKean; K Brunton, H Patterson; S Muir©, F Renwick, N Little, D Suddon, D Redpath, C Sutherland, C Renwick, S Graham. Subs: R Graham, T Hope, R Tait, G Welsh, L Gordon-Woolley.
Currie Chieftains: J Forbes; J McCaig, G Cannie, A Hall, K McGovern; G Hunter, G Christie; J Drummond, R Stewart, C Ramsay, W Inglis, E Stewart, A McCallum, G Nelson, R Davies©. Subs: C Anderson, J Ramsay, K Steel, P Boyer, R Daley.
Referee: M Todd.
Hawick: Tries: Ferguson, Reilly, Mitchell, McKean, S Graham, Redpath. Cons: Ford (5). Pen: Ford.
Currie Chieftains: Try: Stewart. Con: Hunter.
Scoring sequence (Hawick first) 5-0, 7-0, 12-0, 14-0, 19-0, 21-0, 24-0, 29-0, 31-0, 36-0, 38-0 (ht) 38-5, 38-7, 43-7.
Yellow cards –
Hawick: C Renwick, Brunton.
Currie: Hunter, Christie.
Man-of-the-Match: Hawick’s forward strength has been on display all season but since the arrival of their Australian centre Ethan Reilly the Greens’ backline has been performing well. Reilly is not only an astute attacking player but also a very strong defender and his ability to organise the defence is a strong suit.
Talking point: Hawick retain their long unbeaten record at Mansfield Park and on present form look like they might it intact for this season at least. With a nine point lead over Currie, Hawick are now a very strong bet to finish at the top of the league proper but what they want to avoid is the fate that befell Currie last season – securing a home final and then falling at the final hurdle.