Premiership Final: Currie Chieftains coach Mark Cairns praises team after triumph over adversity against Hawick

Hawick's head coach Graham Hogg promises his side will bounce back stronger after setback

Currie Chieftains head coach Mark Cairns is carrier from the field on fans' shoulders after his team's Premiership Final win over Hawick at Mansfield Park. Image: © Craig Watson - www.craigwatson.co.uk
Currie Chieftains head coach Mark Cairns is carrier from the field on fans' shoulders after his team's Premiership Final win over Hawick at Mansfield Park. Image: © Craig Watson - www.craigwatson.co.uk

IF there is one lesson that teams should learn from play-off finals at Mansfield Park it is this: make sure you finish with less than a full complement of players if you want to win. 

14 man Currie Chieftains followed the formula to the letter by losing their talented scrum-half Gregor Christie minutes before the half-time break following a spear tackle on his opposite number Gareth Welsh that resulted in a red card dismissal.

Students of the game will recall that Hawick famously pulled off a sensational win over Chieftains 12 months ago with a last-gasp try in the corner by Ronan McKean despite the Greens being down to 13 men. This year’s play-off final between the same two teams exhibited the same theme by delivering a verdict in favour of the numerically reduced Malleny Park side.


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The loss of Christie could so easily have been a turning point in the match but in the event Currie were able to adjust to the situation as their head coach Mark Cairns acknowledged. “There was that moment before half time when we were reduced to 14. But we didn’t let things get on top of us. We bounced back quickly.”

But if Currie’s resilience was a winning factor then so too was the fact that they had played Hawick three weeks earlier in the semi-final of the Scottish Cup at Mansfield Park. They knew the strengths of the likes of No 8 Jae Linton, who has been such a tour de force for Hawick this season, and organised their defence around neutralising the back-row’s explosive breaks.

Cairns, however, suggested that the other difference between the Cup semi and the Premiership final was the conditions at Mansfield Park. “Three weeks ago we learnt a lot but importantly about playing in wet weather. It’s a really hard place to come in bad weather. We couldn’t really impact the game with our game-plan that day. And Hawick dealt with the conditions much better than us.

“The fact that we were coming down here on a better day and with a dry pitch gave us confidence we could execute our game-plan and play the way we like to play. The boys knew this was an opportunity to win the league and we took it,” stated Cairns, who praised the leadership of his stand-off Jamie Forbes.

“Jamie was outstanding, he played us in the right areas of the pitch. He got the guys understanding what they should be doing. And crucially he kicked all his goals,” observed Cairns.

The Currie head coach, having twice won Premiership titles in his playing days at Malleny Park, fully appreciates what winning the Premiership play-off means to the players. “It’s about the guys experiencing this and being part of a special group, that’s now written in history,” he insisted.

As to the Currie performance on the day, Cairns opined: “We were effective in some moments. The try we scored early doors from a penalty move was straight off the training ground. In other moments we could have moved further ahead but didn’t. So it became a nail-biter”.

For now, Currie deserve to luxuriate in the afterglow of victory but they will know that next season in what will be a hugely beefed-up Premiership containing many Super Series players, competition will step up several notches. But if they can maintain the same high standards they achieved this season they will surely be in the mix for honours 12 months from now and particularly if they can retain classy players like Rhys Davies, DJ Innes and, one has to add, teenage prop Ollie Blyth-Lafferty, who did a commendable stint off the bench against the formidable Shawn Muir.

 

 

For Currie, breaking down the hitherto unconquerable battlements of Mansfield Park was a feat in itself such is the fearsome reputation the famous Borders ground has built. The flip side is Hawick losing a long winning streak at home, albeit they did not surrender that long unbeaten record without a fight.

So why did the unthinkable happen? Knowledgable Hawick fans suggested that the Greens had not been able to adapt their style while others suggested that they should have played Kirk Ford in the stand-off position for the entire game, their theory vindicated after Ford moved forward from full-back in the final quarter when  Hawick’s backs looked much more threatening.

Hawick’s interim head coach Graham Hogg , however, conceded that it was certain aspects of Currie’s game which were key to winning and moreover hinted that the Edinburgh side might have come into the game fresher than the Greens.

“I thought their kicking game was outstanding today,” he said. “It was certainly better than ours and I thought that’s what got them over the line. We knew they were going to come at us. There would have been something wrong that after three weeks off they didn’t play like that.”

And should Hawick have taken greater advantage of Currie’s red-card handicap?  “It could have been a turning point but Currie stuck together and kept the ball and we just couldn’t get field position in that second half,” replied Hogg. “Some key decisions went against us but that’s just rugby.

“We weren’t great today by any stretch of the imagination but to still stick in the fight and be there at the end is credit to this group and how hard they’ve worked together,” suggested Hogg, who thinks that, while the play-off final was disappointin, it should not be a set back to the club’s ambitions next season.

Much will depend on whether Hawick rugby can continue to flourish at all levels but Hogg is confident that the system that has produced so many good players is functioning well.  “The conveyer belt will still be working and we’ve identified a few boys coming through,” he said.


Premiership Final: courageous Currie Chieftains break Hawick hearts

About Alan Lorimer 358 Articles
Scotland rugby correspondent for The Times for six years and subsequently contributed to Sunday Times, Daily and Sunday Telegraph, Scotsman, Herald, Scotland on Sunday, Sunday Herald and Reuters. Worked in Radio for BBC. Alan is Scottish rugby journalism's leading voice when it comes to youth and schools rugby.

9 Comments

  1. One lesson Hawick could take is not to get rid of the coach going for a double double. What idiots boot there coach out 3 games away from that achievement. Maybe the players thought they new best and the new regime have lost the league title and their home record well done to them. The grass is not always greener on the other side.

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    • You do Currie a mis-service, as simply put they were the better team & that’s why they won & Hawick lost – that’s sport chum!

  2. One lesson Hawick could take is not to get rid of the coach going for a double double. What idiots boot there coach out 3 games away from that achievement. Maybe the players thought they new best and the new regime have lost the league title and their home record well done to them. The grass is not always greener on the other side.

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  3. Always impressed by The Offside Line. Another good season, informing and entertaining.

    Well done to Currie today. Over 3 years they deserve some silverware.

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  4. Mouse to another commenter “ Just ignore him …he’s just stirring it as usual”

    Also mouse: commenting under every single of my comments 😂

    I’m not stirring, just calling out the excuse making instead of giving currie their dues, its not a good look for the game when there is constant suggestions that its the refs fault they loss.

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  5. “Some key decisions went against us but that’s just rugby”

    Can Hawick supporters not just give credit to Currie without making excuses about the ref? It really is sad to see from the interim head coach.

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