ALAN LORIMER @ Riverside Park
HAWICK consolidated their position in the top four of the Tennent’s Premiership after achieving a bonus point win over over a resistant Jed-Forest side, who, like their opponents, were seeking to purge the New Year hangover from their previous match.
In the event, both teams answered their own self criticism, albeit one was a winner while the other had to settle for second place. For Hawick, it was all about performance after a below par showing against Glasgow Hawks two weeks ago and retaining the dynamism that has been the Greens’ hallmark this season.
“I asked for a reaction this week because we just weren’t good enough against Hawks, and today I saw it,” said Matty Douglas, the Hawick coach, who offered special praise to teenage winger Elliot Stanger, the nephew of Tony. “I’m all for giving youngsters a chance. He certainly didn’t look out of place today.”
Two others who caught the eye were hooker Ross Graham and flanker Calum Renwick, who constantly gave Hawick the forward momentum that ultimately led to victory. Behind the scrum, Douglas gave credit to centre Glen Welsh. “Glen was tasked with tackling hard in midfield and he certainly did that. I thought overall we were very strong in defence. We were under the cosh at the end of the first half but we held out. I was happy that we conceded only 10 points.”
Hawick’s other big player was stand-off Kirk Ford, who, aside from kicking six from six off the tee, provided composure in the back-line to make the Greens’ attack more fluent.
Jed may not be chasing a top four spot but neither do they have to worry about losing their place in the Premiership. After the ructions following their loss to Musselburgh last weekend and the departure of their erstwhile coach Scott Tomlinson the emphasis was on recovering composure.
And while the scoreline may suggest otherwise, Jed were very much in the match for extensive periods. “We were disappointed by the margin of defeat,” conceded David Grieve, Jed’s interim coach, who must have been very pleased by the contribution of a strong bench.
“We have depth now particularly in the front-row. I thought the difference today was that Hawick took all their chances. They were clinical at times,” concluded Grieve.
Hawick wasted little time in registering first points, scoring after only four minutes when Shawn Muir showed soft hands to send Andrew Mitchell in for a try under the posts, easily converted by Ford, who then added a penalty goal.
Jed showed their attacking potential when their exciting young wing, Mason Cullen, side-stepped several defenders to set up a promising position in the Hawick 22, only for a turnover to give Stanger the chance to demonstrate his skills with ball in hand.
Hawick struck again, this time from a clever line-out ploy which ended with prop Ruaridh MacLeod crashing over and Ford again supplying the extras for a 17-0 lead.
That seemed to imply an impending crushing defeat for the hosts. Jed, however, changed that view with a try just before half-time from a series of pick-and-drive thrusts before the ball was moved wide giving centre Gregor Young the chance to work a wrap-around move for an unconverted try.
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Jed, using their bench to maximum effect, had the better of the early second half exchanges but it was Hawick who claimed the first points with a second penalty goal from Ford. Moving into the last quarter Hawick scored their third try this time from a break by Ross Graham and support from Muir, who barrelled over, Ford again cool in front of the posts.
The Riverside men, however, refused to capitulate and were rewarded for a period of pressure with a try by their sizeable prop Paulo Ferreira from a peel round the front of five metre line-out.
Hawick chasing their fourth try showed patience in pursuit of their goal and when they secured their bonus point it was a gem of a score. From a line-out, Hawick set up a driving maul and when the ball was released to the backs, Glen Welsh pulled the Jed defence before delivering a delicate pass to Mitchell for the big centre to score his second try of the match. Ford then put the final touch to the game with his sixth success off the tee to seal a sumptuous win for the Greens.
Jed-Forest: L Young; M Cullen, G Young, G Munro, R Marshall; R Nichol, N Stingl; G Paxton, F Campbell, P Ferreira, A Sweenie, D Wardrop, B McNeill, F Scott, C Cowan. Subs: T Jeffrey, H Meadows, J Hynd, C Skelton, R Shirra Gibb.
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.
Referee: J Smith
Jed-Forest: Tries: G Young, Ferreira.
Hawick: Tries Mitchell 2, MacLeod, Muir; Cons: Ford 4; Pens: Ford 2.
Scoring Sequence (Jed first): 0-5; 0-7; 0-10; 0-15; 0-17; 5-17 (h-t) 5-20; 5-25; 5-27; 10-27; 10-32; 10-34.
Man-of-the-Match: Ross Graham and Calum Renwick were outstanding for Hawick in taking the game to Jed. It’s very difficult to separate these two but Renwick just nudges the award with both his dynamism and his sheer endurance.
Talking point: If only every January produced the kind of top-of-the-ground conditions that were evident at Riverside then we might have a different view of winter rugby. Hawick certainly took advantage of the running surface to play a fast game. So too did Jed who despite the result will take much from this game and with nothing to lose from now on they can perhaps relax into their traditional sevens style of play and shake off some of the tensions that have surrounded Riverside of late.