ALAN LORIMER @ Mansfield Park
HAWICK retained their top position in the Tennent’s Premiership after achieving victory by a half century margin of points over bottom-placed Musselburgh and in the process kept a firm grip on the Bill McLaren Shield.
In all, Hawick ran in nine tries, two of these a brace for the Greens’ mobile hooker, Ross Graham. If there could be any cause for concern then it was the unequal distribution of the scores; seven of the Hawick tries were bagged in the first half but only two after the break.
Hawick’s coach, Matty Douglas, however, was not concerned as he indicated shortly after the conclusion to the match. “I’m not disappointed. 55-5 is a pretty good scoreline. I thought first half were very good but to be fair I think Musselburgh got back into the game in the second half,” he said.
“I thought we would have pushed on a little more in the second half after being 41-0 up at half-time but credit to Musselburgh they got a couple of penalties in the second half and they came back at us. I thought our discipline in the second half was a bit poor especially at the breakdown” .
As to the return match next Saturday, Douglas is keeping his feet firmly on the ground. “These reverse fixtures are totally different. You could win one week and they could be totally different the next week. We just have to deal with the pressure again and keep moving on and see where we go from there,” he suggested.
The Hawick coach, however, predicted that his squad options will be widened by the likely return of second-row Daniel Suddon, hooker Matty Carryer and a possible reappearance of the Greens’ combative No 8 Jae Linton.
It’s a statement of the obvious that it was a difficult (and dreich) day for what was an understrength Musselburgh side as their backs coach Andrew Clark acknowledged, saying: “We’re playing against the top of the league and we’re bottom and we had to put pressure on them. But we didn’t do that. We were under real pressure in the line-out and in the set scrum and that translated into us not having a lot of ball and not being able to play the way we wanted.
“We had a few missing today. Several players had other commitments but the guys who stepped in did quite well. And if they keep progressing there’s no reason why they can’t claim regular places in the first fifteen. Hopefully for the next week’s match we can learn from the mistakes we made today and see if there’s anything we can do to make the scoreline more favourable for us.
Hawick were out of the blocks swiftly scoring within the first five minutes with a try by wing Lewis Ferguson created by a clever kick by Kirk Ford. Musselburgh stayed in the game bravely but their attempt to open up was thwarted by an interception and a try for Ross Graham.
Ronan McKean increased the try tally before Andrew Mitchell raced in for the bonus point score with barely 20 minutes played. Before half-time, the Green machine had extended their score with three further tries, one apiece by Calum Renwick, Dalton Redpath and Graham, to make it a first half haul of seven touchdowns and with Ford kicking three conversions it all added up to a 41-0 half time advantage for the Greens.
Hawick fans were contemplating the prospect of a 70-pointer but in the event Musselburgh found enough inner strength to stem the flow of points against them. That was until Shaun Fairnbairn, playing at No 8, after a number of weeks in the second-row, broke the initial second half try drought, the back-row profiting from a forward drive to the line. Ford added the conversion to give Hawick a 48-0 lead.
Musselburgh, however, refused to capitulate completely and after making territorial gains, and putting tempo into their attacking play the visitors finally claimed due points, from a try by Michael Badenhorst.
But that was to be the only note of defiance from Musselburgh as Hawick, down to 14 men after Ford had been shown the yellow card for a late tackle, regrouped for a final effort. From a penalty kick to the corner by Kyle Brunton, the Hawick forwards drove the ensuing line-out, giving replacement Fraser Renwick a well practiced try, the conversion by Brunton bringing the curtain down on a one-sided game.
Hawick: K Ford; L Ferguson, A Mitchell, E Reilly, R McKean; K Brunton, G Welsh; S Muir©, R Graham, R Macleod, D Redpath, E Demirel, C Sutherland, C Renwick, S Fairbairn. Subs: F Renwick, N Little, S Graham, H Patterson, L Gordon-Woolley.
Musselburgh: P Cunningham; R Smith, F Thomson, R Watt©, S Watt; M McMillan, F Call; R Hanning, B Stott, E Bonthron, J Haynes, M Badenhorst, J Herbert, J Lister, P Bogie. Subs: F Duraj, R Brown, J, Crain, R Young, D Owenson.
Referee: C Worsley
Hawick: Tries: Ferguson, R Graham 2, McKean, Mitchell, C Renwick, D Redpath, Fairbairn, F Renwick; Cons: Ford 4, Brunton.
Musselburgh: Try Badenhorst
Scoring Sequence (Hawick first): 5-0; 10-0; 15-0; 20-o; 22-0; 27-0; 29-0; 34-0; 39-0; 41-0 (h-t) 46-0; 48-0; 48-5; 53-5; 55-5.
Yellow cards –
Man-of-the-Match: Hawick’s forward pack did the real damage against Musselburgh and central to that effort was prop Shawn Muir, playing his 200th game for the club.
Talking point: Hawick will be grateful for another five championship points in the bag but playing against a side that was missing a number of key players was not the test that the wannabe champions would have desired.