Silver Saturday: Hawick returnee Lee Armstrong plans to make it fourth time lucky at Murrayfield

Hawick centre Lee Armstrong believes he has unfinished business at Murrayfield. Image: Malcolm Grant
Hawick centre Lee Armstrong believes he has unfinished business at Murrayfield. Image: Malcolm Grant

THEY say that absence makes the heart grow fonder and, after a four-year gap, Lee Armstrong has been loving being back in a Hawick jersey this season, with the fact that he has rejoined the Mansfield Park set-up during a particularly successful period in the club’s storied history a big bonus.

The stand-off/centre took a break from playing at the end of the 2018-19 campaign, with the imminent arrival of daughter, Blake, driving his decision to spend more time with his family. But he always intended to return to playing rugby and it was very much a case of when, not if, he would get back out on the pitch again.

Armstrong was an impressed – and perhaps slightly envious – admirer as Hawick swept all before them last season on their way to a Premiership and Scottish Cup double, and come the summer he felt the time was right to throw his lot back into the selection mix as the ‘Greens’ set about making sure they were not going to be one-season-wonders.


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“I didn’t want to come back just to make up the numbers,” said Armstrong, who recently celebrated his  34th birthday. “Watching last season really got me keen to play the game for my hometown club again and I put in a lot of hard work over the pre-season period to get my fitness levels back to where they needed to be.

“The guys in the squad were really welcoming on my return. I obviously knew a fair few of the more experienced guys like captain Shawn Muir, Nicky Little, Stuart Graham and others, while Andrew Mitchell and Kirk Ford were coming through just when I was finishing up last time, but everyone was great with me from the off

“I wasn’t sure at first how much I would be involved with the 1st XV squad, but I have played in most games this season and that has really helped me get back into it and find a bit of rhythm in my game.

“As a more experienced player, I guess my game has changed a bit now and I maybe don’t have the turn of pace I used to – some would say I never had it!  but I feel that the matches I have under my belt from over the years can be of benefit to the young players around me, so I just try to communicate with them on the pitch and help them through games.”

After an unbeaten season in league and Cup in 2022-23, every other team was keen to knock Hawick off their perch this time around, and when Marr came out on top in the second game of the Premiership campaign in September some wondered if the Borderers would be as strong again.

They answered those doubts emphatically and ended up with 16 wins, one draw and one loss in the Premiership regular season to top the standings, while they have since beaten Kelso in a play-off semi-final and are hosting Currie Chieftains in the Premiership final next weekend.

Hawick have also seen off Dundee Rugby and Chieftains to get to this weekend’s Cup final with Edinburgh Accies and they have already lifted the Border League title.

 

 

So, their treble dream is still very much on track and Armstrong, who has mainly played 12 this year withMitchell outside him, said:  “That Marr game in September was just a bad day at the office, anything that could go wrong went wrong and if we were still playing now we probably wouldn’t have scored any more points!

“The character in the group was never in doubt, but the loss did give us a jolt and the week after we put plenty points past Kelso and we haven’t looked back since.

“With the Force [2nd XV] guys winning a Border Junior League and Cup double, it has meant that competition for places has always been high and training sessions have been sharp.

“And I think we showed in the recent Cup semi-final win against Currie in terrible conditions that we are a team who can adapt to the game that is in front of us and know how to win.”

Despite all the success at Mansfield Park over the last two years, there was drama off the pitch recently when head coach Matty Douglas and forwards coach Lewis Bertram left the club after being told their contracts would not be renewed post 2023-24.

Graham Hogg, who was the backs coach, is now interim head coach, and is being assisted by Roddy Deans and Scott MacLeod. Armstrong says that having a series of big matches to prepare for over the last month has helped keep minds focussed purely on results rather than any other goings on.

 

 

Former Scotland Club XV cap Armstrong has had a stellar career to date, but one thing missing is a Murrayfield win.

“I lost a junior final there for Hawick PSA against Hawick Wanderers many moons ago, I lost a Shield final with Hawick YM in 2011 to Lasswade, and I lost the 2015 Scottish Cup final with Hawick to Boroughmuir, so I am hoping it’s fourth time lucky,” Armstrong stated with a wry smile.

“Accies are a good side with some strong players and they maybe underperformed in the league, so we are certainly not taking this challenge lightly.

“We just have to focus on our own game and not the occasion and if we do that I am confident we can put in a good performance and get the desired outcome.”

 

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Silver Saturday: full schedule and team lists for all seven matches

About Gary Heatly 463 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.

1 Comment

  1. Lee it’s been a joy to watch you again in the Green a true top bloke and a great rugby player enjoy

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