ALAN LORIMER @Mansfield Park
HAWICK kept intact their unbeaten run in this season’s Tennent’s Premiership after achieving a bonus point victory over Jed-Forest in a match that had all the hallmarks of Borders derby, not least an en masse fracas towards the end of the game that ultimately proved beneficial for the home side.
Borders versus Borders games have a dynamic of their own, partly because the players involved know one another so well having played against each other from an early age. That certainly was evident here with Jed refusing to adopt the role of the underdog against the Premiership leaders for much of the match and indeed at times they had Hawick’s defence system fully stretched .
Of course the talent of such dangerous runners as Gregor and Lewis Young and Mason Cullen in a backline that can test most sides does help. Moreover Jed’s backline kept Hawick’s line breakers in check.
“I’m very proud of the lads, To think that this bunch of players who didn’t have much direction at the beginning of the season could be competing against what is statistically the top team in the league is amazing. We matched them for physicality and were in the game right to the end. We’re laying the building blocks now,” reflected Jed’s coach, Andy Brown.
For Hawick ,there were mixed feelings about the game although satisfaction was derived from securing the bonus point even if it was gained from the last play of the match. The Greens perhaps have still not fielded their optimum combination but they are certainly not short of resources – they have three class act hookers in their squad and in addition they are expecting the return to rugby of second-row Daniel Suddon.
Hawick’s coach, Matty Douglas, is still developing a certain style with his side and admits: “We need to stick to structure a bit more. But credit to the players for finishing on a high. At times I thought we were really good today, especially the backs”
After dominating the opening 10 minutes Hawick had little to show for their advantage that resulted only in a missed penalty attempt at goal by Kirk Ford and a yellow-card for Super6 campaigner Fraser Renwick.
By contrast Jed showed what can be done with limited possession after Ricardo Ferreira’a interception triggered a handling move that involved Robbie Shirra-Gibb, Mason Cullen and Finlay Scott, checked only by the vigorous work of the Hawick forwards at the breakdown.
The game seemed to be settling into a stalemate contest until Hawick produced a moment of inspiration from a piercing run in midfield by Lewis Ferguson and then from the subsequent possession crisp handling and a try for the returning Rhys Tait. Kirk Ford duly converted and with 10 minutes remaining of the first half Hawick were 7-0 ahead.
Hawick tried their utmost to add to their points tally but were frustrated by a Jed’s trenchant defence and their innovative methods of escape from their 22 metre prison.
With half-time beckoning, Jed broke out from their own half and when Hawick were penalised for offside the visitors kicked to touch forcing a five metre line-out. It looked the ideal position from which to launch a maul but instead Jed opted for repeated surges at the line. Hawick’s close range defence, however, held firm to prevent what seemed an inevitable try leaving Hawick with a seven point interval advantage.
Jed began the second half with a positive mindset, the visitors dominating possession and territory in the opening minutes. Then, from a penalty created line-out, Jed deployed their forwards in an initial thrust and when the ball was moved wide Cullen danced through midfield only to be stopped five metres from the line. Jed, however, moved the ball from the contact area to set up a siege on the Hawick line which ultimately produced a try for No 8 Garry Young, converted by Finlay Scott.
Hawick replied by pinning Jed back in their own 22. The visitors’ defence again looked robust but when they, perhaps ill-advisedly, tried to extricate themselves from the danger area, the ball was spilled and then scooped into the hands of Andrew Mitchell who sped diagonally though Jed’s detracted defence before delivering the scoring pass to Ferguson. Ford added the extras, allowing Hawick to regain a seven points advantage.
Then, after a storming run by replacement Ross Graham, Hawick looked set to add a third try only for Tair to ignore the five-man overlap to his left before being swallowed up by the Jed defence.
Hawick, however, did not have long to wait before atoning, replacement Gareth Welsh showing both speed of thought and foot to capitalise from a tap-penalty close to the Jed line. Once again Ford added the conversion.
The question now was whether Hawick could achieve a bonus point win. A line-out five metres from the Jed line pointed to a possible answer but poor execution when the ball was moved wide after an initial maul gave possession to the visitors, who progressed downfield with sniping runs that all but resulted in a try for Shirra-Gibb.
If the fourth try now seemed out of reach then Hawick quickly contradicted that notion. They were, however, aided by a piece of fortune following a fracas that involved the majority of the players on the pitch. The refereeing team judged that Jed had offended and awarded a penalty to Hawick.
The ensuing penalty kick ragained territory for Hawick but it was a rampaging run from Dalton Redpath that set in motion the final score, a try in the corner by Shawn Muir after the Greens had moved the ball sweetly from right to left to earn their deserved bonus point.
Hawick: K Ford; L Ferguson, A Mitchell, E Reilly, R McKean; K Brunton, H Patterson; S Muir©, F Renwick, N Little, D Redpath, S Fairbairn, C Sutherland, C Renwick, R Tait. Subs: R Graham, R Macleod, S Graham, G Welsh, L Gordon-Woolley.
Jed-Forest: L Young; M Cullen, Gregor Young, R Ferreira, R Shirra-Gibb; J Mcgough, A Bambrick; G Paxton, F Scott, P Ferreira, D Wardrop, C Skeldon©, E Lauder, B McNeil, Garry Young. Subs: R Deans, T Cromarty, M Atkinson, A Sweenie, O Cranston.
Referee: Sam O’Neill
Hawick: Tries: Tait, Ferguson, Welsh, Muir; Cons: Ford 3.
Jed-Forest: Try: Garry Young; Con: Scott.
Scoring Sequence (Hawick first): 5-0; 7-0 (h-t) 7-5; 7-7; 12-7; 14-7; 19-7; 21-7; 26-7.
Yellow cards –
Hawick: F Renwick
Man-of-the-Match: Greens flanker Connor Sutherland is proving to be one of the constants in the Hawick team. Against Jed, the young back row, aside from being a useful line-out target, covered acres of pitch and showed too that his go-forward game is an integral part of his team’s success. A deserved man-of-the-match
Talking point: Hawick knew that Jed would be a tricky match but in the end their domination of territory and possession together with a sound defence was good enough to secure a bonus point against the visitors As for Jed, they will be quietly satisfied with their performance against the league leaders, and it should give the Riverside team confidence if the relegation battle goes to the wire.