ALAN LORIMER @ Mansfield Park
HAWICK have not lost at Mansfield Park in a Premiership match since 2019 but they will take little satisfaction from maintaining that record after drawing with a Selkirk side which, with a below strength back-line, went into the game as distinct underdogs. But of course this was a Border derby game and in the event it was always likely that re-enacted historic hostilities would override Premiership passion.
Matty Douglas, the Hawick head coach, was quite clear about his dissatisfaction at the result. He said: “We’re very disappointed. I thought we we were never at the races today. We had six or seven chances to put the game away in the second half but inaccuracies cost us dear.
“I think we can fix a few things for next week. We’ll look again at the breakdown and some of the problems in defence. For us, it was probably one that got away. We’re building a decent squad now. We’ll improve for next week. We’re hoping to have Shaun Fairbairn back and possibly Ross Graham,” predicted Douglas.
This weekend’s other Premiership match reports:
For Selkirk the draw was a confidence lift and especially so in the light of the extensive injury list that the Philiphaugh club is carrying. “We’ve had a tough pre-season,” explained Scott Wight, the Selkirk head coach. “I said before the game ‘look at the back line we’ve NOT got available today!’ But even so I thought the squad we had here was good enough to win.
“We were in the game but gave away a sloppy try just before half-time. We asked for a bit of dog in the second half and the boys showed that in abundance. I thought [teenager] Munro Job was excellent for his first game. He does the donkey work as well as the glamour stuff. We’ve now got two games at home – Glasgow Hawks and Jed – and we’ll be targeting two wins,” suggested Wight.
An indication that this was a first-of-the-season was the scoreboard, which after almost 20 minutes of play read Hawick 0 Selkirk 3, the meagre point haul for the visitors coming from a fifth minute Matthew Reid penalty.
Selkirk had profited from a strong defensive performance and an ability to scrap for the ball, their efforts for the most part thwarting Hawick’s attacking ploys, most of which where through the forwards.
Then, as the first quarter sank into history, Hawick suddenly changed their tactics, using for the first time in the match their powerful back division and gaining a reward for their decision, with a try by winger Ronan McKean from a break by Kirk Ford.
Selkirk regained the lead with a second Reid penalty but then in the final minute of play in the first period threw away their advantage with an ill-judged ball transfer that presented Ford with the simplest of interceptions and a try under the posts for the centre, his conversion putting the Greens 12-6 ahead at half time.
Atonement was instant as Selkirk responded with a try at the start of the second half by Ross Nixon after the visitors’ forwards had mauled close to the Hawick line. Reid’s conversion kick then gave Selkirk a one point lead.
That advantage was dismantled by Hawick with a Ford penalty goal. Selkirk, however, hit back strongly with a short-range try by their Polish international prop Zenon Szwagrzak, converted by Reid to make the scoreline 20-15 in favour of the visitors.
Somewhat stunned by being in arrears, Hawick threw everything at Selkirk in pursuit of a score to at least level the game and were rewarded when a backline move off set-piece resulted in a second try for McKean. Sadly for Hawick, Ford’s touchline conversion attempt rebounded off the near upright.
In the last few minutes, Hawick tried desperately to win the game and should have when they worked an overlap only for Andrew Mitchell’s pass to the unmarked Lewis Ferguson to skid along the ground, underlining the point that to achieve victory execution of basics is … somewhat important.
Hawick: L Ferguson; L Gordon-Woolley, A Mitchell, K Ford, R McKean; K Brunton, H Patterson; S Muir, M Carryer©, R Macleod, D Redpath, R Linton, S Graham, C Sutherland, J Linton. Subs: T Hope, N Little, C Renwick, G Welsh, B Donaldson.
Selkirk: M Reid; H Clarkson ,R Cottrell, A Grant-Suttie, F Anderson; R Nixon, J Hamilton, L Pettie, J Bett, Z Szwagrak, A Cochrane, J Head, A McColm, S McClymont, M Job. Subs B Riddell, C Graur, R Cook, C Turnbull, B Cullen.
Referee: S O’Neill
Hawick: Tries: McKean 2, Ford; Con: Ford; Pen: Ford.
Selkirk: Tries: Szwagrzak, Nixon; Cons Reid 2; Pens: Reid 2.
Scoring sequence (Hawick first): 0-3; 5-3; 5-6; 10-6; 12-6 (h-t) 12-11; 12-13; 15-13; 15-18; 15-20; 20-20.
Yellow cards –
Man-of-the-Match: Perhaps Hawick underused what looks to be a good backline but when the men behind the scrum did move the ball wide they looked dangerous in no small part due to the creativity of Kirk Ford, who fends off the valid claims by Jae Linton of Hawick, James Head of Selkirk and his team mate Ryan Cottrell, to claim the man-of-the-match award.
Talking point: Hawick will see this result as at least two points dropped but they will have learnt much from this opening game, perhaps the main lesson being that other sides are likely to contain equally strong forwards. For Selkirk, this draw was a fillip for the Philiphaugh men ahead of two consecutive home games into which they can take a new-found confidence.