ALAN LORIMER @ Mansfield Park
PREMIERSHIP leaders Hawick safely negotiated their way through the first round of the Scottish Cup with what was eventually a decisive win over Jed-Forest, raising the prospect of a league/cup double for the Greens this season.
Hawick were winners of the first ever Scottish Cup final at Murrayfield when they edged out Watsonians with a late try by their Scotland A stand-off Scott Welsh and the last time Hawick were in the final was eight years ago when their current coach, Matty Douglas, was a member of the Greens squad.
“The Cup is a big thing for Hawick,” confirmed Douglas, who believes there is no better time than the present for his unbeaten side to be aiming for the double, given that prospects beyond this season could be affected by the possible loss of several key players to the semi-professional ranks. Significantly among the spectators at Mansfield Park was former Scotland, Lions and GB Rugby League star, Alan Tait, who was recently confirmed as head coach of the Southern Knights.
This weekend’s other Scottish Cup results:
Scottish Cup: Musselburgh overcome mid-match wobble to despatch Highland
Scottish Cup: Heriot’s Blues recapture that winning feeling against Biggar
Scottish Cup: Stirling County pick up morale-boosting win over Aberdeen Grammar
Scottish Cup: Glasgow Hawks edge out Gala at end of tense tussle
“The double has to be a target this season for this squad, given the way we’re playing. You never know what will happen next season with Super6, so we may have to make the most of it now,” urged Douglas, who nevertheless appreciates that lofty ambition can be realised only if his squad maintains focus on the remaining matches.
“We have a week off and then we’re into the business end of the Premiership. We play GHA at Mansfield in two weeks time. They’ll be fighting desperately for survival so performance-wise we’re going to have to raise our game from today’s showing.”
So what has brought Hawick to a position of being able to think ambitiously? “Look, I think there’s been a great buy-in this season. We kept most of last season’s squad and to were able to add to it. In terms of performances this season we’ve achieved a lot. We’d never won at Currie for 15 years, we’d never won at Heriot’s for ten years, we’ve done the double over Currie and Accies. On the whole it’s been a fantastic season and I just want the boys to keep focussed. There’s a trophy at the end of it but I’m under no illusion that play-off rugby is easy. We’ve been there last year and experienced disappointment.
“The other thing is that we’ve added two new coaches [Lewis Bertram and Graham Hogg] and they’ve put their own stamp on our game. Player-wise, we’ve got 34 training every week. Everyone’s fighting to get in the team. It’s trying to reinstate that playing for Hawick is a massive honour and as long as I’m here I’ll continue to push that.”
In many ways, Jed’s head coach, Andy Brown, is on a similar mission to improve the club, but with perhaps not the same resources to emulate Hawick.
“Our aim this season was to change the culture,” said Brown. “When I came to the club the culture wasn’t the best around, but steadily the club is buying into what I’m about and what Mark Lee [assistant coach] is about and creating a positive environment where everybody is valued.”
Jed may be out of the Cup but according to Brown, the Riverside club wants to complete its Premiership programme in style. “We want to finish well in the Premiership. We want our final Premiership game this season against Edinburgh Accies at Riverside to be a good one. We want to finish on a high.
“I don’t think the scoreline today reflected the game. We know how we want to play. Our problem is that we don’t have the depth of the likes of Accies or Hawick so to be able to compete the way we do is impressive.”
Jed certainly showed their competitiveness in the first half when playing with the wind they led 7-5 at the break after scoring an early try by front-row Paulo Ferreira converted by Finlay Scott. Hawick, however, replied with a first half try from Dalton Redpath before taking a hold on the game in the second half.
Calum Renwick began Hawick’s fightback with a solo try off the tail of a line-out, Kirk Ford converting before adding a penalty from a metre inside the Jed half.
Then, in the final quarter, Hawick added further tries from Connor Sutherland, Stuart Graham and then Ross Graham, two of these converted by Ford for a comfortable win.
Hawick: C Welsh; L Ferguson, A Mitchell, E Reilly, R McKean; K Ford, G Welsh; S Muir©, R Graham, R Macleod, D Redpath, S Fairbairn, C Sutherland, C Renwick, S Graham. Subs: F Renwick, T Hope, M Carryer, J Linton, G Huggan.
Jed-Forest: M Cullen; L Elder, Gregor Young, O Cranston, R Shirra-Gibb; C Young, L Walker; A Sweenie, P Ferreira, H Meadows, D Wardrop, C Skeldon©, Garry Young, F Scott, B Fotheringham. Subs: J Story, E Lauder, J Hynd, A Bambrick, C Douglas.
Referee: S O’Neil
Hawick: Tries Redpath, C Renwick, Sutherland, S Graham, R Graham; Cons: Ford 3; Pen: Ford.
Jed-Forest: Try: Ferreira; Con: Scott.
Scoring Sequence (Hawick first): 0-5; 0-7; 5-7 (h-t) 10-7; 12-7; 15-7; 20-7; 22-7; 27-7; 32-7; 34-7.
Yellow cards –
Hawick: S Graham
Man-of-the-Match: It might be daunting for a young player to come into a successful Hawick side, but Charlie Welsh looked unfazed by the occasion and showed coolness and a good deal of flair throughout to earn the man-of-the-match award.
Talking point: Hawick have stated their target for the season. Realising the dream of the double will be difficult but do-able, provided their key players remain in one piece. Jed, meanwhile, want to be at their best for the visit of Edinburgh Accies to Riverside on 18th February. Thereafter, preparations for a different stage will beckon and one on which the Royal Blues can excel: The Borders Spring Sevens Circuit.
Premiership: Currie Chieftains book home play-off and leave Marr hanging