ATHOLL INNES @ Mansfield Park
HAWICK maintained their strong start to the new Premiership with an emphatic success at Mansfield Park to gain a seven-try win in a game in which GHA reserved their best for the second half.
The hosts led 33-0 at the break before GHA found more possession and dominance after the interval, but by then it was too late to salvage anything but pride. And a late try by Andrew Mitchell and a second from Polish international prop Craig Bachurzewski completed the victory that was effectively secured by the interval.
But there was drama before a ball was kicked. Hawick captain Shawn Muir injured a knee in the warm-up and was taken to hospital, requiring Ryan Toogood to come off into the side for his first start while the kick-off was delayed by 15 minutes as the GHA bus was delayed on the Edinburgh bypass by an accident.
Premiership match reports:
Hawick, who faced the wind in the first half, changed their colours from green to red and Billy McNeil, one of three members in the same family raced down the left wing for the opening try in just three minutes, but Ali Weir missed the conversion. However, Weir found his kicking boots six minutes later to convert Ronan McKean’s try following a Bruce McNeil burst, to give the hosts a 12-0 lead.
Hawick continued to dominate in the sunshine as GHA struggled to get to grips with the game and it was no surprise when hooker Matty Carryer drove over the line in 15 minutes and again Weir converted.
Hawick had sealed the bonus point by 24 minutes when Bachurzewski drove over the line and Weir’s kick, helped by the wind, added the goal points. GHA had yet to trouble the Hawick defence with the hosts controlling all aspects of the game
The visitors brought on Scott Carson but the Greens (or Reds on this occasion) continued to dominate. The home side won a succession of penalties, opted for the scrum each time, and were rewarded when Carryer added his second try just before the break and Weir converted for a 33-0 half-time lead.
GHA had work to do in order to salvage anything and Tony Brogan and Mike Ryan came on in the second half. The visitors showed more aggression and determination to take play into the Hawick 22, but the home side won a penalty to clear the danger. However, GHA continued to push and they got their reward when lock Jamie McCarthy charged over the line in 55 minutes and Adam Scott converted.
Hawick rung the changes in a bid to regain some form of control and with 15 minutes left, Mitchell burst through the visitors’ defence to score and Weir converted, followed by Bachurzewski’s second score.
Hawick Head Coach George Graham praised the performance of 18-year-old Toogood. “I thought that he was outstanding,” he said. “I am pleased with the win, but we need to look to 80-minute performances instead of 40. In the second half, they (the players) thought that it would just happen and I was disappointed that we let in a score.”
GHA coach Trevor Carmichael said that he was proud the way the team had fought back in the second half. “It was a massive learning experience for us and we made a few mistakes and let Hawick into it in the first half,” he said.
Hawick: A Weir; R McKean, A Mitchell, M Bannerman, L Gordon-Wooley; B Donaldson, G Welsh; R Toogood, M Carryer, C Greer, D Suddon, K McNeil, S Graham, Billy McNeil, Bruce McNeil. Replacments: C Renwick, K Brunton, S Fairbairn, J Linton, D Johnstone.
GHA: A Scott; J Craig, C Binnie, C King, A Purewal; R O’Keefe, A Gillman; A Cornwell, E Cavan, S Fisher, A Kerr, J McCarthy, s Plumridge, D Ewing, M Marinkovic. Replacements: S Carson, T Brogan, M Ryan, G Baird, M Pate.
Referee: L. Fish.
Hawick: Tries Billy McNeil, McKean, Carryer 2, Bachurzewski 2, Mitchell; Cons Weir 5.
GHA: Try McCarthy; Con: Scott.
Scoring sequence (Hawick first): 5-0, 10-0, 12-0, 17-0, 19-0, 24-0, 26-0, 31-0, 33-0 (h-t) 33-5, 33-7, 38-7, 40-7, 45-7.
Man-of-the-Match: It was a baptism of fire for Ryan Toogood and he stood up well, being praised by head coach George Graham after stepping into the imposing boots of Shawn Muir just before kick-off – but a prolonged absence for the talismanic captain would be a major set-back for the Mansfield men.
Talking points: GHA should take solace from the fact that although they have been on the receiving end of a couple of fairly heavy defeats during these opening rounds, they won’t face many tougher challenges than Currie Chieftains and Hawick during the remainder of the campaign.