ALAN LORIMER @ Mansfield Park
SELKIRK scooped up a couple of unanticipated Premiership points after holding Hawick to a draw at Mansfield Park in a match that never raised itself to the level expected of top-tier amateur rugby.
The visitors might easily have come away with four points had they converted into scores a clean break in the first half by their young replacement centre Callum Anderson and by full-back Henry Bithray in the second period. Even so, they can take considerable pleasure from the result, which saw them bounce back from losing heavily at home to Aberdeen Grammar a week earlier.
This weekend’s Premiership results:
Hawick had hoped to atone for their own defeat at Currie a week earlier with a positive display at home, but instead became involved in what could be kindly described as a scrappy contest with their Borders rivals. This was a Hawick performance lacking composure and one in which the Greens were unable to play to their supposed forward strength.
“That was a game we were looking to win.” said Hawick’s assistant coach, Dean McCracken. “We see it as points dropped. The players are very disappointed. In the second half we never stuck to our structures, we missed tackles, and dropped passes. At times it was pretty embarrassing.
“Selkirk raised their game and stuck in. We were in control at the 65-minute mark but two missed touches from penalty kicks allowed them to come back at us. We’ve got a lot of young boys but they’ve now got to mature.”
Hawick looked the more assertive side in the opening exchanges, as they penned Selkirk in their 22 with powerful forward play. The early pressure finally reaped points in the form of a penalty try after Selkirk had collapsed a fourth successive five-metre scrum.
The visitors had an immediate chance to reply only for stand-off Aaron McColm to send a penalty wide of the posts. Then when Anderson broke in the Hawick 22m area his pass was not taken cleanly.
Selkirk, however, were undeterred by these set-backs and turned the screw on Hawick with a penalty to the corner. From the line-out Selkirk went through a couple of phases before moving the ball wide ending with Bithray diving over from close range. Then in injury time Hawick’s reversion to a tight forward game all but produced a score when the Greens worked a move round the front of a lineout that put Matt Carryer on course for the line only the Hawick hooker to be met with a determined defence that forced him into touch at the corner.
Selkirk should have taken the lead after Bithray made a decisive break, but a potential scoring pass to Josh Welsh went wide of the intended receiver and a certain try was squandered. Having survived this scare Hawick returned to application of forward pressure and were rewarded when Bruce McNeil dotted the ball down after the Greens scrum had marched the Selkirk eight back over the line.
Kyle Brunton missed the conversion, leaving Selkirk trailing by just one score. Then as the game heated up Stuart Graham and Michael Waldren were sent to the bin after a minor fracas.
With a less congested rugby field to navigate, wing Luca Berte made ground after Hawick had missed touch from a penalty kick. When Berte was stopped, Selkirk moved the ball left to Anderson, who stepped his way over for an impressive try. That left the conversion to level the scores and from five meters in from touch stand-off Aaron McColm held his nerve to add the extras.
Hawick: M Bannerman; R McKean, A Mitchell, G Huggan, L Gordon-Woolley; K Brunton, D Lightfoot; D Johnstone, M Carryer©, C Greer-Bachurzewski, S Fairbairn, D Suddon, S Graham, J Linton, Bruce McNeil. Subs: C Renwick, R Toogood, M Renwick, Billy McNeil, B Donaldson.
Selkirk: H Bithray; J Welsh, L Berte, R Nixon, J Henry; A McColm, L Morelle; L Pettie, B Riddell, G Robertson, J Houston, P Forrest, A Mackay, S McClymont, E Macdougall Subs: R Cook, M Waldron, D Alexander, C Anderson, F Anderson.
Referee: R Mabon
Hawick: Tries: pen try, Bruce McNeil.
Selkirk: Tries Bithray, Anderson. Con: McColm.
Scoring sequence (Hawick first): 7-0; 7-5 (h-t) 12-5; 12-10; 12-12.
Yellow cards –
Hawick: S Graham
Selkirk: M Waldren.
Man-of-the-Match: Selkirk’s skipper Ewan Macdougall did a good job of keeping his troops’ morale high in what was at times a psychological battle against Hawick. But it was not just his leadership that was impressive: Macdougall put in a huge defensive stint that helped the underdogs earn a draw.
Talking point: Hawick’s decision to make so many changes after their defeat to Currie might have been the reason for an at times ragged performance.