Premiership play-off: Hawick book their place in Final with hard-earned win over Kelso

Champions will once again host Currie Chieftains in league season climax

Calum Renwick on the charge for Hawick versus Kelso. Image: Malcolm Grant
Calum Renwick on the charge for Hawick versus Kelso. Image: Malcolm Grant

Hawick 25

Kelso 9

ALAN LORIMER @ Mansfield Park

HAWICK will face Currie at Mansfield Park in a repeat of last season’s play-off final after defeating a combatant Kelso side in the semi-final stage. Currently no official date has been announced for the final but it seems 4th May is the bookies’ favourite for the clash between the two consistently high performing teams in the Premiership. 

The Greens were always clear favourites coming into the play-offs semi final but it took them until the second half to achieve the anticipated dominance over Kelso in a game that was a reminder of the passion for rugby in the Borders at club level and also of the interest it commands among the fans from both towns.

Ultimately, Hawick had the cards necessary to win and crucially a number of key game-breakers able to crack a Kelso defence which for much of the game had stood up to the pressure exerted by the defending champions. Kelso tried to move the ball in the first half but could not find a way through the Greens’ rigid defence and in the end the 3-0 try count in favour of Hawick was the telling statistic.


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Kelso’s ability to take the game to Hawick was acknowledged by the Greens’ coach, Matty Douglas, who said: “In terms of the first half Kelso lived off the atmosphere in the ground. We just couldn’t get out of our own half and made some silly mistakes. We gave them penalties, which was frustrating for me, but then in the second half our pack really stood up. Our driven line-out and our scrum were very strong and I think the bench played a big part. We dominated but we probably left five or six tries out there because of the slippy ball and difficult conditions.”

But whatever the flaws, if any, in his side’s performance, there was no disguising the coach’s sense of pride in reaching the last stage. “To be in the final again is another massive achievement for us and our performance in the second half would suggest we’re in the running to retain our title,” predicted Douglas, who paid tribute to the large cohort of Hawick fans at Mansfield, saying: “I’m so glad we had a big crowd here today. It made a massive difference”.

Kelso’s player/coach, Bruce McNeil, conceded that his former club, Hawick confirmed their position in the Premiership.

“Ultimately the better team won,” he admitted. “We came out in the first half and fired some shots. We wanted to make sure we gave ourselves a chance at half time and we did that. It was just unfortunate that we couldn’t keep up the tempo and the pressure in the second half.”

“It means a lot to Kelso having reached this stage,” he added. “But you get to a stage then you want to keep going. The lads have trained hard and it’s just phenomenal how much better they’ve become. It’s a pleasure to coach this group of players. They want to keep learning and want to get better.”

If Kelso had gone into this winner-takes-all play-off as underdogs then this tag was quickly discarded in the first five minutes of play after a display of possession-retaining rugby and clever movement of the ball that had Hawick’s defence stress-tested.

In the event, Kelso were held out and when Hawick finally dug themselves out of their own half the Greens showed the strength of their scrummaging to force a penalty in front of the posts presenting Kirk Ford with a simple three points dividend.

Then, when Hawick were penalised in the contact area for one of these annoying hands-on-the-ground infringements, Dwayne Patterson answered with a smoothly struck kick at goal.

The Poynder Park men, buoyed by matching Hawick, came close to scoring a try when Archie Barbour was put in the clear only for the visitors’ full-back to be tackled five metres short of the line. But all was not in vain for Kelso as referee Rob McDowell (son of Simon) had signalled an offside allowing Patterson a second success at goal, to put his side ahead for the first and only time in the match.

Hawick needed a bit of sparkle in their performance and in the event Lee Armstrong duly obliged with two side-stepping runs that put the Greens into an attacking position inside the Kelso red zone. And from a five metre scrum, Jae Linton picked up from the base, fed Ford who then sent a long pass to Charlie Welsh for the wing to cross in the corner. Ford having contributed hugely to the score then added the extras. .

The first half still had further points to deliver and again it was Patterson who was the provider with his third penalty goal to leave the teams separated by a single point going into the break.

Hawick, perhaps embarrassed by being just one point ahead, quickly changed matters and after a powerful run by Andrew Mitchell the ball was transferred to Ronan McKean for the big wing to squeeze in at the corner.

Ford missed the difficult conversion but quickly made amends with a penalty kick, following a dominant scrum. Hawick seemed to be heading for a big win but their progress to this goal was checked by scrum-half Gareth Welsh being shown the yellow-card for tackling Kelso’s wing James Thompson in the air.

Kelso, however, could not take full advantage of their numerical advantage despite putting pressure on Hawick, and when the Greens brought on their strong bench they dominated proceedings thereafter, finishing strongly with a try just before full-time by Dalton Redpath, converted by Ford from wide out.

 
Teams –

Hawick: K Ford; C Welsh, A Mitchell, L Armstrong, R McKean; K Brunton, G Welsh; S Muir©, F Renwick, N Little, D Redpath, F Wilson, S Graham, C Renwick, J Linton. Subs: R Anderson, R Graham, C Sutherland, D Brooker, D Lightfoot, B Donaldson, M Tait.

Kelso: A Barbour; J Thompson, D Patterson, F Robson©, R Tweedie; M Hastie, A Tait; G Shiells, E Knox, T Logan, C Thompson, K Melbourne, B McNeil, M Woodcock, C Brown. Subs: J Glendinning, A McGregor, A Asante, E Thompson, N Stingl, M Wilson, A Sweenie.

Referee: R McDowell

 

Scorers –
 
Hawick: Tries: C Welsh, McKean, Redpath; Cons Ford 2;  Pens: Ford 2.

Kelso: Pens Patterson 3.

Scoring Sequence (Hawick first): 3-0; 3-3; 3-6; 8-6; 10-6; 10-9 (h-t) 15-9; 18-9; 23-9; 25-9.

 

Yellow cards –

Hawick: G Welsh (61mins)

 

Man-of-the-Match: Quite a few candidates, among them Calum Renwick, playing his 100th match for Hawick and his brother Fraser. Behind the scrum, Kirk Ford when he moved to stand-off for the injured Kyle Brunton again showed what a class player he is while at inside centre Lee Armstrong provided the vital spark in attack. But this was a Hawick performance based on solid forward work exemplified by the hard working Dalton Redpath who is the MOTM

Talking point: The game was watched by an enthusiastic crowd (that included the Vice-Chairman of World Rugby) suggesting that the club game is still a good product that deserves more from Murrayfield than it currently receives. The final should be even better.


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About Alan Lorimer 352 Articles
Scotland rugby correspondent for The Times for six years and subsequently contributed to Sunday Times, Daily and Sunday Telegraph, Scotsman, Herald, Scotland on Sunday, Sunday Herald and Reuters. Worked in Radio for BBC. Alan is Scottish rugby journalism's leading voice when it comes to youth and schools rugby.

14 Comments

  1. what a great game and advert for club & borders rugby with a big crowd, hopefully the debacle of the final date is put to bed asap and will not be played 4th May

    although Hawick won I still don’t believe they are playing to their potential and haven’t been all season. if the rumoured coaching changes in the summer are happening i think it will be the best thing for that group of players with fresh ideas and outlook for the sterner challenges they will face next year and for the coach less said the better the shouting of complete nonsense during the game is awful very lucky to have that group of players where 8 or 9 are far far too good to be playing at the level they are. anyway should be a great final with chieftains to get revenge?

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  2. A terrific endorsement of the top level club game and Borders rugby. Get the final on ASAP at the expense of the cup.

  3. Well done to both teams. Hawick march on as expected but Kelso can be proud of their first season back in the top flight where they’ve surpassed expectations. Should be a cracking final but for goodness sake get it sorted for soon, not May!

  4. I find the whole mystery surrounding the date for our club showpiece baffling. If it is indeed 4th May, I’m baffled beyond baffled . Hawick and Currie should be given every opportunity to conclude the season at the earliest opportunity. A couple of solutions would be to compress the IDC into one week, so playing Saturday, Wednesday, Saturday, something the players i have spoken with would favour, of course the committee men might disagree, remember this is about the players. Or, play the 1st round of the IDC without players from Hawick and Currie, which would give the opportunity to others. Or, move their Cup fixtures this weekend to 13th April. Whatever the solution might be or is let’s not have an 8 week window between semi final and final for the best 2 club sides in the country.

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    • Absolutely. The final should be the showpiece of the club season and not fitted in in a couple of months time. If only the clubs had a governing body who had some interest in them and their supporters.

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  5. Gutted to have missed this one. From pictures it looked a great day for Borders rugby. Well done to the green machine, hopefully I’ll not miss the final whenever that is.

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  6. It was tough conditions, but it was great to see such a big crowd with two committed teams. Kelso should be so proud of the team and all involved in their rebuilding job. They’ve got plenty of talent and will hopefully use this as a springboard. The greens just had too much power; they were business-like and were able to go through the gears when needed. Well done to Currie as well, and I just hope Murrayfield does Scotland’s flagship game proud and gives the final all the bells and whistles that it deserves, and that includes addressing any ambiguity around the final date. There’s still a rugby heartbeat south of the central belt, and no one knows what the future brings, but community club rugby needs all the support it can get, and Scotland would reap the benefits of that support.

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  7. Final looks like being 4th May.
    It is of practically no interest in the hallowed halls of EH12 so don’t ask them.
    Great credit to Kelso for their performances this season. Looking forward to the final to see who really won the league ! Would Currie like us to carry out an early pitch inspection?

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  8. This was a true club rugby occasion ! Despite poor weather , wet dull and chilly, a very big crowd turned up to witness a hard fought Border tussle. Despite Kelso Races being on at the same time a
    very large Kelso support descended on Mansfield Park to watch a game that produced tension right to the final quarter. Just goes to show that if you give the supporters a fixture with real meaning they’ll turn out to support their team. What great progress Kelso made in their journey this season in prem one ending up in the playoffs where they faced up the mighty Hawick. Alas the far from super series could never pretend to replicate today’s excitement. Good luck to Hawick in the final and let’s keep the title in the Borders.

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  9. A great Border derby. Kelso are a tough outfit and they showed that today. Interested to see how much better they can get next season, their improvement this season has been very impressive.
    Credit to Hawick. Weathered the storm in the first half through outstanding defence and pulled away in the second half. Professional display from the Greens.
    Looking forward to the final… whenever it may be!!

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    • To the kelso Laddie Hawick Scrum was good today the front 8 was outstanding do you agree

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