Premiership: Hawick confirm top dog status with big win over Selkirk

Greens once again finish regular season at summit of the league table

Jae Linton on the charge for Hawick versus Selkirk at Philiphaugh. Image: Grant Kinghorn

Selkirk 3

Hawick 59

ALAN LORIMER @ Philiphaugh

IRRESPECTIVE of what happens in the play-offs, Hawick are the 2023-24  Premiership champions after victory over Selkirk at Philiphaugh in their final league match put the Greens into an unassailable position in the league table.

Hawick needed only one point from the encounter at Philiphaugh but in the event they came away with considerably more than required having collected a bonus point early in the second half before finishing with a nine-try haul. The victory also means that the Bill McLaren Shield has found its way back to Mansfield Park.

The huge scoreline was confirmation of Hawick’s superiority in the Premiership this season and confirmation too of head coach Matty Douglas’ skills in piloting his charges to a second successive title.


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Reflecting on Hawick’s second title win, Douglas said: “It’s probably been harder this year. Last year we went through an unbeaten season. This year every team wanted to beat us and raised their game. To sum it up,  it’s been another amazing season. All the boys want to play for the club. We won sixteen games this season, but that doesn’t just happen: it’s the extra hours the boys put in and the work of the back-room team.

“But this is not the finish. We’ve got the play-offs now and it looks like we’ll be up against Kelso in the semis. But today showed why we are Premiership champions. I thought we were clinical from the word go and the boys thoroughly deserve it. I thought there were some outstanding performances today” added Douglas.

Hawick’s performance, boosted by the return of second-rows Dalton Redpath and Fraser Wilson, was the near perfect showing, borne of clever attacking, strong and dynamic defence, massive fitness levels and strong contributions from the replacements.

For Selkirk, who were fresh off a fine win against Edinburgh Accies at Raeburn Place last weekend, defeat to Hawick was a deflating experience. Their head coach, Gordon Henderson, however, was magnanimous in his praise of Hawick.

“There is a big gap. Sometimes you’ve just got to take your hat off and admit you’ve come up against a much better side. Our guys were disappointed because they thought they were better than that. But they weren’t. Hawick have special players like Lee Armstrong, Jae Linton and Andrew Mitchell. We have to be honest and say we were second best,” he acknowledged.

“They got three breakaway tries. On another day that wouldn’t have happened but you can’t change things now. What we can do is change going forward.  We have to regroup and raise our game for our next match against Heriot’s,” Henderson added.

 

Hawick showed their determination to collect the Premiership point they needed by retaining possession for the opening five minutes of play, and then capitalising with a try by Andrew Mitchell from a chip ahead by Lee Armstrong.

Kirk Ford added the conversion points but two minutes later Hugo Alderson ate into Hawick’s lead with a lengthy penalty goal.

Hawick, always eager to move the ball, attacked from deep in their own half, Linton outgunning the Selkirk defence before passing to Ronan McKean. The big wing was stopped but when the ball was moved across the park, Ford delivered a long pass to give Mitchell his second try of the match.

Ford looked to have rounded off some stylish Hawick handling only for the referee to chalk off the ‘try’. But it mattered not for the Greens who increased their lead with a try by Ford from a move initiated by Armstrong and which exhibited clever and accurate handling from the Hawick backs. From wide out, Ford succeeded with his second conversion to put his side 19-3 ahead going into the break.

Playing with the stiff breeze, Hawick forced Selkirk to defend in their 22 and soon drew the benefits, Ford slipping over for the bonus point try and then converting his own score.

Selkirk enjoyed a spell of continuous possession but their attempts to utilise admittedly slow ball ended with a knock-on, handing Hawick a chance to reset the scoring button, this time Linton benefitting from intelligent handling with replacement Morgan Tait‘s contribution key.

Ford made it four from five with the conversion kick and then added to his tally by slotting the extras to a try by Armstrong, who turned a dropped Selkirk pass into another score for Hawick.

The rout continued as Calum Renwick latched on to loose ball before using his speed to sprint to the line for a score under the posts presenting Ford with a simple conversion kick.

Finally, Selkirk moved to within five metres of the Hawick line but the home side’s efforts again came to nought and worse for the Philiphaugh men Calum Renwick fastened on to spilled ball before sprinting 70 metres for an unconverted try.

It was now a lap of honour for Hawick who added a further try – a second for Armstrong – after the centre collected a neat chip ahead by Kyle Brunton, Ford converting to complete a day of celebration for the champions.

 

Teams –

Selkirk: C Anderson; F Wheelans, A Grant-Suttie, R Nixon, B Cullen; Aaron McColm, H Alderson; L Pettie, J Bett, Z Szwagrzak, Andrew McColm, A Cochrane, L Cassidy, S McClymont©, K Westlake. Subs: S Clark, B Riddell, C Turnbull, J Welsh, C Easson.

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 Macleod, D Brooker, D Lightfoot, M Tait.

Referee: Callum Worsley

 

Scorers –

Selkirk: Pen: Alderson

Hawick: Tries Mitchell 2, Armstrong 2, C Renwick 2, Ford 2, Linton; Cons: Ford 7.

Scoring Sequence (Selkirk first): 0-5; 3-5; 3-10; 3-12; 3-17; 3-19 (h-t) 3-24; 3-26; 3-31; 3-33; 3-38; 3-40; 3-45; 3-47; 3-52; 3-57; 3-59.

 

Man-of-the-Match: There were numerous candidates for the MOTM award and on a day when Hawick sealed the Premiership title it might be redundant to talk about special players. In terms of tries Andrew Mitchell’s brace confirmed the big centre as a special player, while Kirk Ford again showed himself to be creative player with a special talent and moreover not a bad goal kicker with 14 points here. But the player who plotted so many of Hawick’s tries was centre Lee Armstrong, whose return to the Hawick team this season has been key to the Greens’ success, so he is the MOTM

Talking point: Hawick will celebrate their second successive Premiership title win but after the party their thoughts and preparation must now turn to the play-offs, the timing for which has not yet been announced. Whether the follow on from the straight Premiership league is necessary is the subject of another debate but with Cup games, district championship matches and the play-offs all competing for calendar dates you get the feeling that something has to give.


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About Alan Lorimer 340 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.

7 Comments

  1. Was expecting more of Selkirk yesterday. Men against boys.
    The Greens looked a different level during the 65 mins we watched before heading back over the hill.
    Hawicks attack was a thing of beauty, getting better and better and that alongside the “grunt” upfront makes them clear favourites moving forward.
    Bruce McNeil or Shawn Muir is that some type of joke? McNeil looked half decent in a very poor Hawick side before his departure and if rumours are true he’ll certainly not be welcomed back to Mansfield with open arms in a few weeks time.

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  2. ‘you get the feeling that something has to give’ : in my book that would be the play-offs. The old saying is that the league table doesn’t lie. It seems unfair that a team which comes good in the Spring could deny a team which has been consistent all season. It has happened andnearly happened again last year. Dramatic stuff, to be sure, but it would have been unjust on a team that was unbeaten all season. Thereisalready a knockout tournament (and Hawick won that too!)

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  3. Good on the kelso haddie…..bruce mcneill or shawn muir, i know who i’d always have and it would be shawn every day. However Kelso’s confidence is interesting to see, am sure Shawn will be noting it for the semi.

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  4. The Kelso scrum and pack will eat Hawick up in the semi finals, Kelso to lift the league title from 4th and your ‘talisman’ will be in reverse all game, cmon the kippers!!

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  5. Well done Hawick deserved status as the leagues top dogs and showed it is going to take a very special team to defeat them to deny them back to back crowns

    Hawick’s front five were absolutely outstanding and that’s how this performance was built, fair mentions of the special players Linton Mitchell and Armstrong who were all a level above any Selkirk player, Lee Armstrong and Kirk ford have been Hawick’s best and most creative backs this season but Hawick’s talisman without a doubt is Shawn Muir and has been for some seasons he has replaced Bruce McNeil in that Hawick side in his influence and they meet in the semi finals what a match on the cards we have at Mansfield!

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