DAVID McADAM @ Braidholm
HAWICK produced a dominant pack performance in the second half to turn a half-time deficit into a convincing win against GHA.
Torrential rain drenched the players during their warm-up, but by the time late call-up Gregor Drummond kicked off for GHA at 3pm, the sun had emerged and the game was played in dry conditions throughout. Drummond was effectively GHA’s fourth choice at stand-off, with George Baird following Andrew Goudie and Aminio Bogidrau in being declared unavailable through injury. With Max MacFarlane also injured GHA were without their first-choice midfield and they struggled for continuity.
Hawick appear to be developing a more expansive game from last season, with Kyle Brunton and Grant Huggan spreading the ball before Andrew Mitchell or Kirk Ford provide incision further out. It was a cleverly placed grubber from Ford after seven minutes that led to the first Hawick try. The GHA defender had to turn to gather the ball, before throwing out an inaccurate pass to his team mate, which Ronan McKean gobbled up. Ford’s drilled conversion attempt came back off the uprights.
The next 20 minutes followed a similar pattern, with Hawick attacking impressively, and GHA defending gamely. An injury break that saw Glenn Little replaced by Luca Bardelli after 25 minutes led to a change in momentum, however, and Scotland Under-18 winger Amena Caqusau scored two excellent tries in the space of four minutes to turn the game on its head. The first was a result of a lovely delayed pass by Charlie Lonergan, and the second a mazy run from the young winger beating two Hawick defenders out wide.
Chris Hyde’s two successful conversions gave GHA a 14-5 lead, before Hawick closed the gap to 14-12 just before half-time when Dalton Redpath shrugged off a couple of poor tackles to score the visiting team’s second try, which Ford converted.
The second half saw a much more traditional Hawick performance, with their pack working so closely as a unit that you could have thrown a blanket over them all for most of the half. GHA gave away a series of penalties because of the pressure they were being put under, and on every occasion Hawick followed a familiar pattern: Ford kicked to the touchline, Matt Carryer found his jumpers, and the pack mauled the ball towards the GHA line.
Mr Gaffney awarded a penalty try to Hawick after just such a move in the 47 th minute, and then veteran Nicky Little emerged with the ball for try number four after another maul four minutes later. That was to be Little’s last involvement, as he and fellow front rower Carryer were replaced by Tom Hope and Ross Graham.
The substitutions made no difference – the pattern continued. On 59 minutes, after another lineout maul, Callum Renwick slalomed over for try number five, and in the last few minutes it was fellow back-row Connor Sutherland who scored try number six, Ford converting both tries.
For GHA, it was a difficult second half, with their pack coming off second best. Hyde provided their only scoring, with a penalty and a converted try, the latter when he outsprinted the Hawick defence from the halfway line to run in under the posts.
Matty Douglas, the Hawick coach, was delighted with the result. “GHA are a good side and for us to put 40 points on them is really pleasing,” he said. “We’re not going to change overnight, but it’s good to see some of what we have been working on coming to fruition, and we had an outstanding pack performance in the second half today.”
GHA’s Trevor Carmichael was magnanimous in defeat. “We have had a few injuries this week so continuity was difficult,” he said. “But Hawick are a good team, and with our defence not being as good as last week, they were just too
good for us today.”
GHA: C Hyde; A Spowart, C Lonergan, G Little (L Bardelli 26), A Caqusau; G Drummond, R MacFarlane (F Johnston 60); J Low, A Falconer, M Fox (D Sutton 68); A Kerr, S Callaghan (F Faulds 52), S Plumridge (A Flynn 60), D Ewing ©, L McCutcheon.
Hawick: K Ford; F Douglas, G Huggan (B Donaldson 63), A Mitchell, R McKean; K Brunton, Gareth Welsh; S Muir, M Carryer (R Graham 52), N Little (T Hope 52); D Redpath, S Fairbairn (H Donaldson 75), C Sutherland, C Renwick, J Linton (S Graham 65).
Referee: W Gaffney.
GHA: Tries: Caqusau (28, 31), Hyde. Cons: Hyde 3. Pen: Hyde.
Hawick: Tries: McKean (7), Redpath (35), Penalty (47), Little (51), Renwick (59), Sutherland (80). Cons: Ford 3. Pen: Ford.
Scoring sequence (GHA first): 0-5, 5-5, 7-5, 12-5, 14-5,14-10, 14-12, 14-19, 14-24, 17-24, 17-29, 17-31, 17-34, 22-34, 24-34, 24-39, 24-41.
Man-of-the-Match: Any one of the Hawick pack would have been worthy winners, but for dominating the lineout in the second half, and galvanising a faultless forward effort, I’m going for Dalton Redpath.
Talking point: Hawick are undefeated after five games this season, and although they won here with a dominant pack, it looks as though their game is evolving. Next week they have Marr. That will tell us whether they are title contenders this year.