DAVID FERGUSON @ Poynder Park
HAWICK took the spoils and a try bonus point from this cracking Border derby. This contest was a very different affair from the first meeting of the teams this season when ‘the Greens’ won 61-7 at home.
There was little between the sides for long spells and the game was still in the melting pot in the final stages, by which stage Hawick had summoned all their deep reserves of resilience to cope with a yellow-card swiftly followed by a red, and proceeded to strangle the hard-working hosts into submission.
Kelso looked to be facing an uphill battle when the league leaders opened the scoring after just six minutes, captain and skipper Shawn Muir finishing off a line-out maul, moments after their own talisman Bruce McNeil had been sent to the sin-bin for a high tackle. Referee Calum Worsley had wasted no time in warning Kelso skipper Frankie Robson after an early flurry of high tackles, from both sides, and it seemed a very quick yellow, but it was to become part of Kelso’s downfall. They would go on to concede 18 penalties, ten in the second half, and, while there were some debatable calls, that and Hawick’s nous as the game threatened to get away from them proved the difference between the teams.
Muir admitted: “That was a massive difference to the game at Mansfield, but we knew it would be tough, and it is a brilliant five points for us.
“Kelso have learned about the Premiership and are more wary and streetwise now, and they have experienced boys in there like Bruce McNeil and Grant Shiells, so they made it very tough for us. But I can’t fault our boys. We were down to 13 men at one stage and played the last quarter with 14, and the boys were outstanding to see it through. Some boys like Connor Sutherland and Jae Linton play like they’re two men, and we needed that today. Our defence and the way we shut the game out was perfect.”
A key player for Kelso was tighthead prop Terry Logan, a former Hawick player, and he admitted: “At Mansfield early in the season the boys were a bit shell-shocked and scared to try things against the reigning champions, and we played in our shells there. But today we came out and played, and fronted up very well in defence. Our down side was letting them have easy outs with too many penalties, especially in their 22. But credit to Hawick, they dug in and played in the right areas.
“We can’t fault our boys because that was a big performance and we put everything in, and we could have won it. But it shows how much we’re improving when we’re gutted not to beat the champions and we finish within eight points. We just need to take confidence from this and push on next week now.”
The Green Machine was not as well oiled in attack this week as it has been, but Kelso take a lot of credit for the way in which the forwards and half-backs Andy Tait and Murray Hastie took the game to them, and refused to buckle or let Hawick get away. A try by Logan after 20 minutes, converted by Dwain Patterson, had the large Poynder crowd on its feet, but Hawick were clinical when they got a sniff of ball in the first half and it proved third time lucky with breenges off a line-out maul when Muir dived over.
A penalty against Kelso wing Angus Roberts for not rolling away after a fine tackle seemed harsh, but Hawick seized on it and Andrew Mitchell capitalised on a penalty advantage to dart through the home defence in the 22 and sprint to the posts. Ford’s conversion made it 21-7 with six minutes of the first half remaining, but Kelso finished the half strongly, laying siege to the home 22, and eventually were rewarded when Shiells crashed over the line.
Kelso lifted their support by opening the scoring in the second half with a Patterson penalty, cutting the deficit to six points, but again penalties let Hawick off the hook as they sought to close it further. When Hawick attacked the home 22 they were tighter and Mitchell again found space to show his trademark blend of silky running, power and pace to score a second try from a brief spell on the front foot.
However, home hopes rose significantly when Hawick scrum-half Gareth Welsh was yellow carded, and Kelso hit back with hooker Euan Knox scoring from a lineout maul – capping the front-row try fest – and the Ross Graham was shown red, after one too many dust-ups for referee Worsley, and the Kelso crowd began to sense a real upset.
Hawick possibly did too, and that’s where their experience told. They took a grip of the game, keeping play in the home half, and despite Ford missing a penalty – and the hosts losing skipper Robson to a yellow card – Kelso were given no glimpses of the Greens’ half apart for one occasion at the death. But that ended with Hawick regaining possession and with it the five points required to keep their Premiership title campaign on track.
Kelso: A Barbour; A Roberts, D Patterson, F Robson, R Tweedie; M Hastie (J Thompson 54), A Tait (C Thompson 45); G Shiells, E Knox (J Glendinning 80), T Logan (A Asante 80), E Thompson (A Common 34), K Melbourne, L Tait, M Woodcock, B McNeil.
Hawick: K Ford; C Welsh, A Mitchell, L Armstrong, R McKean (R Anderson 64); K Brunton, G Welsh; S Muir, R Graham, N Little, D Redpath, C Sutherland, S Graham, C Renwick, J Linton.
Referee: Calum Worsley.
Kelso: Tries: Logan, Shiells, Knox; Cons: Patterson 2; Pen: Patterson.
Hawick: Tries: Muir 2, Mitchell 2; Cons: Ford 4.
Scoring sequence (Kelso first): 0-5; 0-7; 5-7; 7-7; 7-12; 7-14; 7-19; 7-21; 12-21 (h-t) 15-21; 15-28; 20-28.
Yellow card –
Kelso: Bruce McNeil (6 mins), Robson (69 mins)
Hawick: Gareth Welsh (54 mins)
Red card –
Hawick: Ross Graham (58 mins)
Man-of-the-Match: This was a real Border battle with perspiration beating inspiration as both sides went at it hammer and tongs from first to last, to ensure most finished in the same brown coloured strips. While Andrew Mitchell’s two tries proved decisive, both sides owed much to the quality of their defence and tight play, at set-piece, rucks and mauls, and the second and back-rows of both teams worked tirelessly. So it’s a tough call this week, but his two tries and cool skipper’s head means Shawn Muir shades it from Terry Logan, Euan Knox and Grant Shiells in a great battle of the front-rows.
Talking point: The number of penalties dished out, particularly to the home side, had many scratching their heads, and with a yellow card issued for a high tackle – the main demeanour of the day – after just six minutes it was a surprise we didn’t see more cards flourished, particularly when Hawick rattled up a few of their own in the second half.