Currie Chieftains 24
IAIN MORRISON @ Malleny Park
IT was third time lucky for this match, twice postponed, and both teams were straining at the bit when it finally kicked off. A draw usually pleases no one at all but it was probably appropriate in this cae after a humdinger of a game that see-sawed one way and then the other, serving as a great advert for the club game.
When Hawick took a 21-7 lead early in the first half, the visitors were odds on to kick on and close this one out. Instead, Currie showed immense character and some much needed physicality to score three tries in quick succession and actually lead this match 24-21 inside the last few minutes, only to see Kirk Ford kick the only penalty of the game in front of the posts to earn his side a slightly fortuitous draw.
“We played some really good rugby in the first half,” said Hawick coach Matty Douglas. “Hats off to Currie because they upped their game after the break.
“They were the better team for 30 or 35 minutes in that second half but we managed to get that opportunity for Kirk to draw the game and we will leave here happy enough. We are still top of the table.”
In the past, Hawick have squeezed scrum penalties out of Currie, kicked to the corner and mauled their way to victory. The same was true to some extent yesterday, Hawick’s big men definitely brought a little more physicality and intensity to the contact zone in the opening 40, but Currie’s big men also raised their game, especially after the break, and gave as good as they got, dominating the second 40.
It was almost as if the home forwards were learning on the job, and they ended up a match for the visitors although whether they could repeat this performance at Mansfield Park is a moot point?
Both teams were happy to kick for position but Currie didn’t help themselves by losing three line-outs in the first half and another three after the break, winning one Hawick throw in return. In a game of fine margins, that stat alone will give Currie head coach Mark Cairns sleepless nights.
The scrums were more even than in the past. Shawn Muir and Graeme Carson had a good ding-dong battle that saw Hawick win an early free-kick and penalty before the sometime Currie captain made the necessary adjustments and anchored the scum far more successfully. Only at the very death, immediately before Ford’s equalising penalty, did Currie lose another scrum penalty, a costly one at that.
Hawick opened the scoring after just 12 minutes and it came, as so much does these days, from an attacking line-out after the visitors went to the corner following a high hit.
A couple of phases later and Hawick’s Deaglan Lightfoot lived up to his name when he found the blindside marked by Currie hooker Stewart and the little scrummy made it to the line, if only just.
Currie hit back almost immediately and if there was something a little fortuitous about their try it was probably deserved given the pressure they placed on the visitors.
Hawick were attacking and when Currie winger James McCaig intercepted the last pass it was almost certainly also a scoring pass. McCaig was untouched as he raced away for the try and Charlie Brett levelled the scores with his conversion, one of only two from four, the normally reliable full-back managed.
The match stayed that way for a while. Both sides testing each other’s defence, locked in a stalemate. Currie had their moments but twice in quick succession their attack fell victim to a “choke tackle” with Hawick winning the put-in at the scrum the first time and earning a penalty after the second (for back chat).
Hawick eventually nosed in front with a 33 minute score that was finished off by Ford but owed everything to a brilliant run out of defence by the leggy winger Ronan McKean, who went from one 22 to the other, evading or breaking any number of tackles on the way.
He was eventually felled but a couple of phases later Ford was able to ignore the man outside and step inside to score Hawick’s second.
It stayed that way to the break and 10 minutes into the second half Hawick had their third, courtesy of centre Mitchell who was put through a gap by winger McKean. He was actually brought down by the covering McCaig only to jump to his feet and make the line.
Having gone two scores down Currie could have folded but instead they snapped back with 17 unanswered points thanks to three tries and one conversion.
First up was a second for McCaig who found himself on the end of a long miss pass by Jamie Forbes and the winger only had to step inside the cover defense to score in the corner. This time Brett could only hit the post but Currie were still in the hunt and piled the pressure on with the crowd finally waking up to the possibilities of a comeback.
Ten minutes later they were cheering another home score, this one from veteran Joe Reynolds following a beautiful dummy/line-break by Brett who found his centre running a support line inside him.
Six minutes later, the local, vocal fans had another score to celebrate, Currie’s fourth, bonus-point achieving touchdown. Gifted a penalty when a Hawick man was caught on the wrong side of a ruck, Currie had a choice to make. Three points from a penalty would give them a one point lead, a try offered them some breathing space.
They gambled and came up trumps, lock Ali Bain diving over in the corner but only after juggling the pass just for dramatic effect.
Still there was time for one last twist. Aided by a scrum penalty, Hawick worked their way upfield and it wasn’t long before Currie were lured offside right in front of their own posts and Ford doesn’t miss open goals.
The match ended at the opposite end of the field with a failed drop goal attempt by Forbes falling short and wide of the posts but only after Hawick’s Russell Anderson had seen yellow for a deliberate knock-on.
“At 21-7 down I thought it was a long way back for us,” conceded Cairns afterwards. “But I never thought that we were out of the running.
“We were not at our best today. In the first half were we were nowhere near where we want to be but even in the second half I thought we were below our best.
“At least we won on points today because we got three (two plus a fou- try bonus) and they only got two, but it was all a bit frustrating to be honest.”
Currie Chieftains: C Brett; J McCaig, J Reynolds, DJ Innes, R Daley; J Forbes, G Christie; T Jeffrey, R Stewart, G Carson, A Bain, C West, R Davies, K Steel, S Cardosi. Substitutes: A Fletcher, J Ramsay,C Anderson, G Welsh, R Purvis.
Hawick: K Ford; C Welsh, A Mitchell, L Armstrong, R McKean; K Brunton, D Lightfoot; S Muir (Capt), F Renwick, N Little, D Redpath, F Wilson, D Brooker, C Renwick, S Graham. Substitutes: R Anderson, R Graham, C Sutherland, G Welsh, R Purvis.
Referee: David Young.
Currie Chieftains: Try: McCaig 2, Reynolds, Bain; Cons: Brett 2.
Hawick: Tries: Lightfoot, Ford, Michell; Cons: Ford 3; Pen: Ford.
Scoring sequence (Currie Chieftains first): 0-5; 0-7; 5-7; 7-7; 7-12; 7-14 (h-t) 7-19; 7-21; 12-21; 17-21; 19-21; 24-21; 24-24.
Yellow cards –
Hawick: Anderson (79 mins)
Man-of-the-Match: Kirk Ford was his usual reliable self in front of goal, and twin centres Lee Armstrong and Andrew Mitschell both ran hard lines. The forwards bossed the early exchanges but perhaps tired in the second half. For Currie, scrum-half Gregor Christie was tidy and he won one brilliant turnover on his own 22. Ryan Strewart was exceptional in the loose but must bear some blame for the line-out fiasco so the award goes to No 8 Sam Cardosi who led the way in meeting (and occasionally beating) the physical challenge posed by Hawick.
Talking point: As the clock wound down, Currie had Hawick penned deep in their own half with an attacking line-out. Hawick won the ball and the referee gave a knock-on against Currie. That led to a scrum where, for the first time since the opening 10 minutes, Hawick won a penalty and that gave them the field position to score that late penalty. Small margins!