ALAN LORIMER @ Mansfield Park
HAWICK made sure of their place in the Tennent’s Premiership play-offs after running in six tries to eventually overwhelm a Musselburgh side that proved difficult to break down but which was short on creativity evidenced by the visitors’ inability to cross their opponents’ line.
And with Marr achieving victory over Edinburgh Accies, Hawick now find themselves in third position in the Championship table and should that remain the order after the next two rounds then the the Greens will be headed to Troon in the play-offs.
Although the final score made pleasant reading for Hawick, the reality is that the margin could have been a lot bigger had the Greens been more accurate in the first half. Instead there were too many handling errors, albeit shifting the ball was a tad hazardous in the blowy conditions, and as a result Hawick were limited to two unconverted tries before half time.
But, as Matty Douglas observed, his charges produced an end-loaded performance, something they have not managed this season. “Too often this season we’ve dropped off a bit after half time and haven’t really put in an 80 minute performance, but I feel today we did just that,” he said. “We could have taken a few more chances with the overlaps we created but to get five points today is what we wanted. We just have to make sure we keep pushing on”.
Yet, approaching the beginning of the last quarter Hawick’s lead was slender with the scoreline at 17-12 , a point Musselburgh’s coach, Graeme Paterson, took as a positive from his team’s performance.
“For 60 minutes of that game we were in it and then they seemed to turn it up a notch in the last 20. They were able to sustain pressure and we just couldn’t hold them out for the last couple of scores. It was disappointing that we didn’t cross their line. We had a couple of chances but we just couldn’t hold on to the ball”.
Playing with the stiff breeze Musselburgh struck first with a penalty goal by Danny Owensen, the visitors most penetrative player. Hawick’s response was a period of pick-and-drive play from the forwards that ended with the energetic Shawn Muir crashing over for an unconverted try.
Musselburgh had a chance to score when prop Craig Owenson was put into the clear 15 meters short of the Hawick line only to be denied by a try-saving tackle by the Greens’ full-back Bailey Donaldson. The visitors, however, gained reward for their pressure with a second Danny Owenson penalty to regain the lead.
A yellow card for flanker Calum Champion weakened the visitors’ defensive effort, exploited by Hawick with a surging run from Ross Graham and a deadly finish by Stuart Graham for the home side’s second try, again unconverted. But before the break Owenson again showed his accuracy off the tee with his third penalty kick to leave his side trailing by just one point at half time.
Early in the second half, Danny Owenson regained the lead for his side with a fourth successful kick but that was to be the end of the scoring for Musselburgh as Hawick turned the screw with powerful forward play . Then, when the ball was released along the line, a massive overlap allowed Glen Welsh to canter over for a try, converted by Kirk Ford.
Hawick now eyed the bonus point and gained itwhen Ford put in a delicate cross-field chip which was taken by Ronan McKean for the wing to score in the corner. A try off the back of a five metre scrum by Stuart Graham while Musselburgh were without their yellow-carded scrum-half Luhann Kotze and the conversion by Ford put Hawick out of reach, and when replacement scrum half Deaglan Lightfoot picked his way over for a delightful try, Ford was able to seal victory with the conversion goal.
Hawick: B Donaldson; E Stanger, A Mitchell, Glen Welsh, R McKean; K Ford, Gareth Welsh; S Muir, R Graham, R Macleod, R Smith, S Fairbairn, C Renwick, C Sutherland, S Graham. Subs: C Tait, T Hope, M Renwick, D Lightfoot, M Tait.
Musselburgh: R Hindhaugh; R Smith, R Watt, S Watt, G Tait; D Owenson, L Kotze; C Owenson, R Stott, C Arthur, W Fleming, P Brown, C Champion, M Crawford, L Hutson. Subs: R Haining, J Haynes, J Lister, J Crain, M Cimprich.
Hawick: Tries:S Graham 2, Muir, McKean, Glen Welsh, Lightfoot; Cons: Ford 3.
Musselburgh: Pens: D Owenson 4.
Scoring Sequence (Hawick first): 0-3; 5-3; 5-6; 10-6; 10-9 (h-t) 10-12; 15-12; 17-12; 22-12; 27-12; 29-12; 34-12; 36-12.
Yellow cards –
Musselburgh: Champion, Kotze
Man-of-the-Match: For a second successive week Ross Graham showed why he is a top class player, with a display of powerful running that repeatedly made huge dents in the Musselburgh defence and, alongside the equally impressive Shawn Muir, was at the heart of Hawick’s driving play.
Talking point: Hawick can now relax slightly having made certain of their place in the play-offs (as well as achieving a first defence of the Bill McLaren Shield). What they need to do now is look for ways of better using their talented backs as they attempt to consolidate or even improve on their third position in the table.