ALAN LORIMER @ Volunteer Park
DESPITE winning the second half, GHA still finished on the wrong side of a big scoreline against Hawick in a match that was relocated from Mansfield Park to the Volunteer Park following a power cut at the Greens’ spiritual home.
Moreover, the match had to kick-off an hour later as its new venue was hosting a top under-18 game between Hawick Youth and Gala Wanderers. That might have affected GHA but less so perhaps than having the misfortune to experience a breakdown just outside Edinburgh on their way to Hawick.
“We had to wait on the hard shoulder until a replacement bus arrived,” explained GHA’s head coach Trevor Carmichael, who did not offer this as a reason for his side’s lop-sided performance. “We just committed quite a few errors in the first half and gave Hawick plenty opportunities to exploit several weaknesses in defence. The first half was pretty disappointing. We’re a better side than that but we have to take some positives from the game. We did, after all, win the second half 14-12.”
Certainly, GHA deserved their second half honours after finding the confidence to move the ball accurately and to tighten their defence. Nor did the GHA forwards allow themselves to be subdued by the more muscular Hawick pack, allowing the visitors to win a much greater share of possession than they had achieved before the break.
As for the victors, the bonus point was in the bag in under half an hour of play, which may explain why they took their foot off the gas after the interval. But perhaps the real reason for their loss of efficiency in the second half was the withdrawal of stand-off Kirk Ford at the break with a tight hip flexor.
All the same, Hawick were pretty pleased with their first half performance as their coach Matty Douglas confirmed when he said: “I thought in the first half we were very accurate. Second half we just fell off the tempo. We had a couple of injuries and had the change a few positions. But the injury to Ford allowed us to give young Bailey Donaldson a run at stand-off. We lost a bit of shape at times but at the same time I’m pretty happy with where we are at the moment”.
GHA, who train on a 3G pitch in Glasgow, showed their familiarity with this type of surface in the opening minutes when their explosive start gave stand-off Andrew Goudie space to cut through a stretched Hawick defence for an unconverted try.
Hawick, playing in red jerseys, replied almost immediately with a try by Jae Linton in the wake of a powerful surge by centre Andrew Mitchell. Ford added the conversion points before supplying the extras to a touchdown by skipper Matty Carrier from a driven line-out.
Then, when Mitchell intercepted in busy traffic, the former Super6 centre used his power to score under the posts leaving Ford with the simplest of conversions.
A penalty by GHA’s scrum-half George Baird checked Hawick’s try scoring momentum but not for long as a sidestepping run by opposite number Gareth Welsh provided the groundwork for a Stuart Graham try which was quickly followed by a touchdown from prop Shawn Muir. Then with GHA full-back Grant Mollinson in the bin, Welsh zipped in for a try to give Hawick a 36-8 half-time lead.
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Any notion that GHA were going to accept more of the same in the second half was quickly scotched when Goudie made a darting run before laying on a scoring pass to Max MacFarlane, Baird adding the conversion goal. That clearly rattled Hawick who replied with a close-range try from Muir, converted by Donaldson.
A try by Will Alton converted by Goudie tilted the second half balance in GHA’s favour before Mitchell evened up the post interval try tally by scooping up the ball after a spilled pass and then sprinting 60 metres to round off the match.
Hawick: B Donaldson; B Evans, L Gordon-Woolley, A Mitchell, R McKean; K Ford, G Welsh; S Muir, M Carryer, T Hope, R Smith, S Fairbairn, S Graham, C Sutherland, J Linton. Subs: R Graham, D Gamble, C Renwick, R Brown, M Tait.
GHA: G Mollison; M MacFarlane, C Lonergan, A Stirrat, S Derrick; A Goudie, G Baird; T Brogan, G Hiddleston, M Fox, A Kerr, J McCarthy, W Graham, S Plumridge, J Bruce. Subs: E Cavan, D Ewing, W Alton, M Johnstone, C Hyde.
Referee: R Mabon
Hawick: Tries: Mitchell 2, Muir 2, Carryer, S Graham, Welsh, Linton; Cons Ford 3, Donaldson.
GHA: Tries: Goudie, MacFarlane, Alton; Cons: Baird, Goudie; Pen: Baird.
Scoring Sequence (Hawick first): 0-5; 5-5; 7-5; 12-5; 14-5; 19-5; 21-5; 21-8; 26-8; 31-8; 36-8 (h-t) 36-13; 36-15; 41-15; 43-15; 43-20; 43-22; 48-22.
Yellow cards –
Yellow cards –
GHA: M MacFarlane
Man-of-the-Match: Hawick loose-head Shawn Muir has worked hard to regain the form that earned him Scotland Club XV honours. Against GHA, he was at the heart of Hawick’s effect forward effort and deservedly takes the man-of-the-match accolade.
Talking point: Hawick’s coach Matty Douglas emphasised that to be in the Premiership’s top four it’s necessary to have a strong forward pack. At the Volunteer Park, Hawick confirmed that they possess strength in this area and moreover have depth on the bench. But will it be enough to secure a top four finish?