ALAN LORIMER @ Mansfield Park
HAWICK rediscovered their winning mojo to take the spoils from this Tennent’s Premiership match against Selkirk, the first Borders derby game of the championship and which with its ‘wire’ ending lived up to its billing.
It was the second successive game in which the Greens came as close as is possible to a draw, as coach Matty Douglas was quick to point out. “We were on the back of a single point defeat last week [against GHA]. But it was a great result today although I still don’t think we’re anywhere near our best,” he said.
“I thought Selkirk played well and moved the ball about. There were stern words said at half-time and I thought we turned the screw. We were pretty dominant in the scrum and line-out. But we gifted them two scores in the second half that kept them in the game.
Douglas, however, should be content with a Hawick performance that was strong and dynamic in the forward exchanges, and which behind the scrum showed glimpses of enterprising play, not all of which yielded the intended results.
For Selkirk, this was an expensive defeat in terms of personnel, with injuries to Josh Welsh, Joss Mackay, Andrew Grant-Suttie and Ryan Cottrell adding to those pre-match of Aaron McColm and Donald Nichol. Moreover, the Philiphaugh side were without their inspirational captain Ewan MacDougall, though this time not because of injury but for the reason of having just got married 24 hours earlier.
Notwithstanding these problems, Selkirk coach Scott Wight felt that his side could have made more of their opportunities. “We didn’t get the returns on the territory we had, especially in the first half,” he reflected. “We spent a lot of time in their half and didn’t come away with points. Hawick certainly got fired in among us. We came up short in the end. They probably deserved to win. They were the better team today.”
Hawick’s first real incursion into enemy territory proved profitable after making their forward power count. From a ruck, the ball squirted out and eventually fell into the hands of Matt Carryer, who barged over for the opening try, converted by Kirk Ford.
Selkirk quickly roared back but their territorial gains could not be translated into scores despite some elegant backline moves, one of which all but brought a try for wing Frazer Anderson. At the other end, Aaron Redpath came close to scoring a second try for Hawick after taking a reverse pass from his stand-off Bailey Donaldson.
Then, after Gareth Welsh was yellow carded for a high tackle, Selkirk opened their account with a penalty goal by Scott Clark, but minutes later Hawick struck decisively, this time using their slick backs. Off maul possession, Donaldson delivered a perfect cut-out pass to Ford, who cleverly created enough room for Ronan McKean to power over in the corner for an unconverted try and a 12-3 lead.
Selkirk, however, battled back and a minute before half-time scored a crucial try from a driving maul and a break off the side by scrum-half Scott Clark, who then added the conversion to his own try leaving the visitors trailing by just two points at the interval.
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It seemed that neither side could establish a dominant position in the third quarter until an inspired piece of play by the Hawick centre Kyle Brunton, whose clever chip over the Selkirk defence allowed Morgan Tait to race on to the ball for a fine score.
Hawick then stretched their lead when Ford kicked a goal after Selkirk’s replacement scrum-half Jack Hamilton, on for only two minutes, was yellow carded for preventing the Greens from winning choice possession from the ruck.
It looked as though Hawick had the game in the bag only for home supporters to be put through the spin dryer. The first nerve shredding incident came from an attack by Hawick in the Selkirk 22 that looked to result in Donaldson breaking the defence for a try. Instead the stand-off tried to offload but the recipient was the Selkirk speedster Ryan Cottrell who raced 80 metres to score in the corner.
Then, within minutes, the spin-dryer went through an extra programme when in an almost identical position, Brunton threw out a long pass which was gratefully accepted by Callum Anderson, who had the pace and the guile to outstrip the Hawick defence.
Clark added the extras to put Selkirk into a 22-20 lead with seven minutes of the game remaining. But the visitors then gave away a penalty and from 45 metres out, Ford kicked a magnificent goal to secure victory by the narrowest of margins for the Greens.
It is Hawick’s second successful defence of the Bill McLaren Shield, they need two more home wins to get their name engraved on the trophy.
Hawick: K Ford; R McKean, A Redpath, K Brunton, M Tait; B Donaldson, G Welsh; T Hope, M Carryer, R Macleod, R Smith, S Fairbairn, S Graham, C Renwick, J Linton. Subs used: N Little, C Tait, S Frizzel, D Lightfoot, J Delaney.
Selkirk: J Welsh; F Anderson, G Cottrell, R Nixon, B Pickles; C Anderson, S Clark; L Pettie, J MacKay, B Riddell, T Brown, A McColm, A Cochrane, S McClymont, A Grant-Suttie. Subs used: R Cook, K Thomson, J Anderson, J Hamilton, C Young.
Referee: R Mabon
Hawick: Tries Carryer, McKean, Tait; Con: Ford; Pens: Ford: 2.
Selkirk: Tries Clark, Cottrell, Anderson; Cons Clark 2; Pen: Clark.
Scoring Sequence (Hawick first): 5-0; 7-0; 7-3; 12-3; 12-8; 12-10 (h- t) 15-10; 20-1o; 20-15; 20-20; 20-22; 23-22.
Yellow cards –
Man-of-the-Match: Both sides are fielding a number of exciting and excitable youngsters this season (Hawick teenage Cory Tait made his Premiership debut off the bench) and inevitably in a close match what matters is the leadership of the more experienced players. In which respect Kirk Ford performed well at the right time, not least, of course, in kicking a difficult winning goal and is the deserved MOTM
Talking point: Hawick achieved their early season objective of winning two out of the first three matches and will surely take much from this, although as their coach Matty Douglas stated, there is much room for improvement. Sadly for Selkirk, there is a familiar tale of injury problems and with resources very finite at Philiphaugh this could be a problem.