ALAN LORIMER @ Mansfield Park
HAWICK took a step nearer to a home semi-final in the play-offs after achieving a bonus point win over Jed-Forest, while for the Riverside outfit it was a step nearer to the trap door and the inevitable exit from the Premiership.
Other than spread bets, the turf accountants would have been reluctant to accept punts on this game between the Premiership leaders and the team at the polar opposite end of the championship, such was the inevitability of the outcome
And so the final victory by 9-2 in tries came as no surprise to the Hawick faithful, who will not see their team in action at home again until the play-offs, assuming, of course, that there are no major catastrophes between now and the end of the Premiership.
Playing against a Jed side seeking it’s first win could have been a dangerous hazard for Hawick but in the event the Greens, while not being as dominant as the scoreline might indicate, put in a performance that was characterised by a sequence of quality tries, much to the satisfaction of head coach Matty Douglas.
“The big emphasis this week was playing for 80 minutes and I thought we did that,” reflected Douglas. “I thought we scored some very good tries in the conditions and kept going even after we got the bonus point in the first half. We didn’t ease off and really kicked on. I’m happy with where we are at going into the break”.
“We’ve been trying to evolve our attack. Last season we were round the corner and we’d go to a line-out and try to maul but looking at the first two scores: that’s the kind of blueprint we want. We ‘re not just doing the pick-and-go game.”
He continued: “Jed fought for everything today. They wanted their first win. In the past we’ve struggled in games like this and found it hard to stamp our authority. But we stuck to our task well and were able to bring our bench on earlier and that will benefit these younger players.”
As for Jed, relegation appears to be an accepted outcome of this season’s campaign for some time now. The team’s coach, David Grieve, admitted this to be the case and revealed that the Riverside club are making rescue plans for their altered status next season.
“There is stuff being done behind the scenes,” he explained. “We’re trying to get our structure in place. We’re getting there; we know what we need in both admin and coaching. We need to have it in place by start of next season.
“On the playing side, there’s boys returning from Australia like Fin Scott and Calum Young, and we’re looking to have Grant Paxton (front-row) back from injury. There’s also a lot of talent coming up through the 18s. But the important thing is we have to stop the rot now.”
Hawick took five minutes to register their first five points with a try by Lee Armstrong, the inside centre finishing off, with some style, good approach work by Andrew Mitchell and Connor Sutherland.
Kirk Ford converted and the full-back was again on target to add the extras to a try by Stuart Graham from slick handling by Armstrong and support from Sutherland.
Dalton Redpath kept the scoreboard ticking over with a close-range try, Ford once more kicking the additional two points, but just as it seemed Hawick had moved into unstoppable scoring mode, Jed showed that they are capable of troubling opponents by driving a line-out maul for a try attributed to Elliot Lauder.
Then, after Ben Fotheringham was shown a yellow card for a high tackle, Sutherland finished off a sharp break by Hawick’s impressive scrum-half Deaglan Lightfoot to secure the bonus point, Ford’s fourth successive conversion taking his side into the half-time break with a 28-5 advantage.
Slick handling just after the interval by Dalton Redpath and Ronan McKean produced an unconverted try in the corner for the hard working Calum Renwick but again just as it seemed Hawick were racing away Jed defied the odds to produce a short range try for second-row Clark Skeldon, this time Dom Buckley succeeding with the conversion kick.
But that was it for Jed, who slipped further behind when Mitchell scored under the posts off set-piece ball, leaving Ford with a simple conversion. Then, when Russell Anderson scored from a short line-out throw, Ford had a more challenging conversion kick but duly slotted the extra points.
Hawick lost replacement Tom Hope to the sin-bin but that did little to blunt the eagerness for more points, delivered this time by Charlie Welsh and owing much to the creativity of Armstrong.
Kyle Brunton, taking over Ford, kicked the difficult conversion but the stand-off was just wide with his attempt to add the extras to a final try by Lightfoot, rounding off a not unexpected large win for the defending champions.
Hawick: K Ford; C Welsh, A Mitchell, L Armstrong, R McKean; K Brunton, D Lightfoot; S Muir, R Anderson, N Little, D Redpath, F Wilson, C Sutherland, C Renwick, S Graham. Substitutes: M Brogan, T Hope, D Brooker, Gareth Welsh, M Tait.
Jed-Forest: L Elder; B Irvine, G Young, D Buckley, R Shirra-Gibb; O Cranston, M Glen; M Purvis, H Keith, N Bates, C Skeldon, D Wardrop, E Lauder, B Roff, B Fotheringham. Substitutes: J Bowie, J Hynd, G Law, B Howe, H Stenhouse.
Referee: Michael Todd
Hawick: Tries Armstrong, Graham, Redpath, Sutherland, Renwick, Mitchell, Anderson, C Welsh, Lightfoot; Cons: Ford 6, Brunton.
Jed-Forest: Tries Lauder, Skeldon; Cons: Buckley.
Scoring Sequence (Hawick first): 5-0; 7-0; 12-0; 14-0; 19-0; 21-0; 21-5; 26-5; 28-5 (h-t) 33-5; 33-10; 33-12; 38-12; 40-12; 45-12; 47-12; 52-12; 54-12; 59-12.
Yellow cards –
Hawick: Hope (70 mins)
Jed-Forest: Fotheringham (37 mins)
Man-of-the-Match: Hawick had a number of players who deserve the award, among them scrum-half Deaglan Lightfoot, who looked dynamic and constantly threatened the opposition defence, Andrew Mitchell, who is developing a confidence that points to higher performance levels, Lee Armstrong, who is the creator of Hawick’s backline tries, but Connor Sutherland, for his all round performance, that incorporated great support play, good line-out work and powerful defence, is the MOTM.
Talking point: Two teams in different circumstances. For Hawick ,who will not have a home game until the play-offs (assuming they finish in the top two), there is still a sense that their best performances are yet to come. Meanwhile, for Jed there is already the acceptance of relegation, albeit they are not arithmetically there yet. For a club that has excelled in the sevens game and which has proved worthy of a Premiership place up until this season, there is the urgent need to address and then solve the problems that have beset them in recent months.