Premiership preview: Matty Carryer backs Hawick youth ahead of Glasgow Hawks trip

Only one match goes ahead in the top flight of Scottish club rugby this weekend

Matty Carryer carries the ball for Hawick against Glasgow Hawks in a tight clash at Mansfield Park earlier this season. Image: Malcolm Grant

HAMICK captain Matty Carryer is one of the more experienced heads in the club’s 1st XV squad and, ahead of their Tennent’s Premiership trip to Glasgow Hawks on Saturday, he has praised the younger players coming through at Mansfield Park.

With Scottish Rugby this week leaving it up to senior clubs themselves to decide if they are able to fulfil fixtures under the current restrictions with the Omicron variant of Covid still hitting hard, four of the scheduled Premiership games for have been postponed.

Hawks, placed fifth in the top flight table, and the Greens, in third, are both keen to play, though, and the Borderers will be travelling to Glasgow unless anything changes in the next 24 hours.


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It is perhaps no surprise that Hawick are keen to get out on the field again given they won their last three games before the festive break, following a thrilling 29-24 defeat to leaders Currie Chieftains at Malleny Park on November 6th.

On November 27th they got the better of GHA 48-22 at the Volunteer Park 3G facility, on December 4th they edged out Selkirk 14-9 at Philiphaugh and then they rounded off a successful first part of 2021-22 with a 24-22 triumph over Edinburgh Accies at Mansfield Park on December 11th. In that last game they also won back the Bill McLaren Shield which they will now begin to defend in future home matches.

For now, though, they are on the road and looking to complete a season’s double over Hawks to push them ever closer to securing a top four title play-off place.

The Hawick squad for this game contains several relatively young players such as Ruaridh Macleod, Calum Renwick, Deaglan Lightfoot, Andrew Mitchell, Bailey Donaldson and Tom Hope, while on the bench sits the real ‘young team’ in up-and-coming teenagers Corey Tait, Connor Sutherland and Sam Frizzel.

“The younger boys have been brilliant for us this season,” says Carryer, who starts at hooker but can slot in across th front-row. “It is always good to have a core of senior players and we have that with the likes of myself, vice-captain Shawn Muir, Shaun Fairbairn and Stuart Graham, but you also need the next wave of players coming through and we have that.

“Some of the guys in their early 20s managed to get a batch of first XV rugby under their belts before the pandemic, but guys like Corey, Connor and Sam have come straight out of the Hawick Youth Rugby set-up having missed quite a bit of rugby because of lockdowns and the like, and have really taken to senior rugby well.

“They have bought into the culture at the club and done everything that has been asked of them and the youthful energy rubs off on us older boys in the squad!

“We have a great spirit at the club just now and everyone in the 1st XV squad, and those who play for the Force [the 2nd XV] are tight-knit, working hard for each other and battling to get results.”

 

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Unbeaten this term at home, Hawick, led by young head coach Matty Douglas and forwards coach Matt Landels, have their eyes trained on a home semi-final in the play-offs.

To do that they would need to leapfrog Marr into second place with Currie looking like they have top spot nearly sewn up.

There will be plenty of twists and turns – on and off the rugby field – in the coming weeks before the play-off spots are confirmed and Hawks will be a very dangerous opponent this weekend given they still have top four aspirations themselves.

“When we played Hawks at our place in October it was a really hard fought game [Hawick won 14-10] and we expect nothing different this time around, especially away from home,” Carryer, the 31-year-old former Gala and Peebles man who works as a shepherd in the Yarrow Valley in the Borders, explains.

“When the Scottish Rugby news came through about having the chance to postpone games, Hawks were straight on the phone to us saying they were keen to play and, after we discussed it as a coaching and playing group, we were keen to as well.

“As a squad we haven’t had a game since December 11th, but we had built up some nice momentum at that point and we want to try and find that again quickly and kick on.

“Hawks will be gunning for a win too, so we will have to be at it from the first minute to come away with a win.”

The Glasgow side have not played since December 4th when they beat Jed-Forest 17-10 at Balgray. They are 11 points behind Accies in fourth and have a game in hand, so know a victory when some of their rivals are idle is much needed.

HOW IT STANDS –

THE LOWDOWN –

GLASGOW HAWKS V HAWICK

VENUE: Balgray @ 2pm *

* May be moved to Lochinch

TEAMS –

Glasgow Hawks: M Stewart; R Flett, B McGroarty, F Gosse, J Pinkerton; L Brims, M Donaldson; M Downer, P Cairncross©, G Strain, S Halafihi, J McLean, L Stewart, I Carmichael, L McNamara. Subs: A Rogers, R Chisholm, F Burgess, J Thompson, R Joy.

Hawick: B Donaldson; L Gordon-Woolley, A Mitchell, A Redpath, R McKean; K Ford, D Lightfoot; S Muir, M Carryer©, R Macleod, R Smith, S Fairbairn, R Graham, C Renwick, S Graham. Subs: C Tait, T Hope, C Sutherland, S Frizzel, K Brunton.

KEY BATTLE: Paul Cairncross versus Matty Carryer

TEAM NEWS –

Glasgow Hawks: Jack McLean comes back into the starting team in the second-row while Ruaridh Chisholm earns a spot on the bench. Both have recovered from head knocks. Iain Carmichael’s impressive performances in December have warranted him a start at number seven. Playmaker Liam Brims, the stand-off, has recovered from an injury sustained earlier in the season and centre Brendan McGroarty returns to the starting line-up having missed the last game versus Jed due to work, meaning James Pinkerton moves to the wing, with Ronan Joy joining the bench having returned from injury.

Hawick: A settled squad to choose from – minus three Edinburgh Rugby Academy players Ben Evans, Rudi Brown and Dan Gamble – means a return to the starting team for centre Aaron Redpath, back-row Ross Graham and tighthead prop Ruaridh Macleod. Tom Hope and Kyle Brunton are added to the bench.

WHAT THE COACHES SAY –

“The boys are buzzing to get back playing rugby again. This week has proved difficult as we were unable to get a training venue for Tuesday and had to knock a lot of rust out on Thursday, but the lads looked sharp. Matty Douglas has done a great job in his first year in charge at Hawick and we look forward to the challenge he and his lads bring. The last two games between the teams have been very tight so we know we have to take every opportunity that comes our way …” – Andy Hill (Glasgow Hawks)

“You couldn’t get a bigger game first-up after the Christmas break, both teams fighting for a play-off spot and Hawks will definitely be up for this one on their home patch. It should be a cracking game and we feel we are in a good place going into this contest. We are as strong as we can be and if we can put an 80 minute performance in and not fall off at 60 minutes we feel we can come away with something. There has been a lot of speculation this week with games being called off up and down the country due to Covid, but we have worked closely with Hawks to make the right decision for both teams and I know they’re taking every precaution to make sure it’s as safe as possible for both sets of players. The players have been heavily involved in the decision to play this game as their safety and wellbeing comes first …” – Matty Douglas (Hawick)

VERDICT:  Hawks have shown that on their day they can certainly compete with the top four in the league, but consistency has let them down at times. With six regular season games to play they still believe they can make the play-offs and certainly at home they are a match for anyone. Having Liam Brims back is a big boost as he controls the way they attack.

With a new head coach and a young squad at the start of the campaign, no one was sure what to expect from Hawick, but they have done well so far. At times away from home they have got off to slow starts, but they seem to have found a real battling spirit in the last couple of months and they will need it in spades to get over the line here.

A narrow away win.


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About Gary Heatly 207 Articles
Gary has loved rugby ever since he can remember and since 2004 he has covered the sport and others in a professional capacity for many publications and websites and runs his own company, GH Media.

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