A View from the Touchline – Premier League: 7.12.19.
Hawick RFC 20 pts (t 2, c 2, p g 2) v Currie Chieftains 14 pts (t 2, c 2)
The low grey clouds and drizzly rain were not the weather for a trip to Mansfield Park, especially as the ‘Greens’ were experiencing a recent revival after their poor start to the season. Sure enough, the only patch of brightness during this ‘dog-fight’ of a rugby match on a dismal afternoon, came from the Christmas decorations that twinkled around the buildings of the surrounding area.
Although the green pitch was already sodden and looked greasy, more heavy rain was forecast before halftime, and the older heads in the reasonably sized crowd knew that this could be a long, difficult afternoon for the visitors. Immediately the horrors of last year’s fixture came flooding back, when a confident Chieftains team lost their way in the December murk and mud of a Borders rugby stronghold.
The Chieftains were not only facing a big, well-drilled Hawick pack, that constantly had them under pressure at scrum time, but the added hazard of a stiff breeze did not help; and then the heavy rain arrived. For almost all of the first half the ‘Greens’ pinned their opponents to the confines of the 22. Whenever they looked like breaking free of the stranglehold, Ali Weir’s accurate boot forced them back, and as Currie’s frustration mounted, so did the errors and their penalty count. Within 15 minutes Hawick had recorded their first try. They recycled efficiently, went through the phases and finished with some classy running rugby. Ali Weir converted Logan Gordon-Wooley’s corner flag try and added a penalty goal a short while after.
It was not only the territorial battle that the visitors were losing, possession was also hard to come by: Cameron Meager was sent to the sinbin for an unfortunate high tackle, which appeared to be two players running into each other. Things started to look bleak when Ali Weir slotted a penalty goal for off-side, just before halftime, and extended Hawick’s lead to 13 points. With barely a minute remaining before the break, Currie’s fortunes changed; they found their rhythm with driving forward play that followed a searing run from Cammy Meager, and culminated in a try for dynamo prop, Reece Patterson. Against the wind, Adam Hall kicked a splendid conversion.
Halftime score – Hawick 13 pts, Currie Chieftains 7 pts.
It was now Hawick’s turn to face the elements, and in the grim conditions a 6-point lead did not seem insurmountable; but could the visitors live with the prevailing weather and the notorious Hawick crowd? From the re-start Currie did not use the breeze to the same advantage as the home team had in the first half, and play was concentrated around the middle of the pitch. Considering the conditions, the Chieftains’ handling was pretty good, but they always encountered staunch tackling and dark arts at the breakdown. For nearly 15 minutes progress was slow, and their cause was not helped by another, needless yellow card for questioning the referee’s decision.
Concerted driving forward play again brought the visitors reward. Mike Vernel, Sam Edwards, Rhys Davies, Wallace Nelson and unstoppable Roy Vucago all punched holes and made ground deep into the Hawick 22. The pack peppered the goal line, with Hamish Ferguson, Fergus Scott and Graeme Carson going close, but the cunning Hawick forwards revelled in the slippery conditions until Mike Vernel took a short pass and shot over the line to score. Adam Hall converted the hard-fought try to give Currie a slender one-point lead.
The Chieftains now seemed to have a controlling grip on the game, and mistakes were appearing in the home team’s ranks. Hawick were shown a yellow card, for a shirt pulling incident, as the visitors chased for the try line; a further Currie score looked ominous. Unfortunately, the atrocious weather was now
closing in, and when a loose ball was hacked through the attacking Currie backs, they had to turn but could not catch Andrew Mitchell in a race for the touchdown. Bailey Donaldson converted the try and for the remaining ten minutes Hawick defiantly defended their line, disrupting everything that the Chieftains tried to do.
The visitors were never out of Hawick’s 22 and twice they crossed the whitewash for what appeared to be legitimate scores, but after consultation, the referee, who was unsighted, was not convinced that the ball had been correctly grounded under the heap of bodies. In the final dramatic moments, the Chieftains lost possession, won it back again, but finally knocked the ball forward with the try line beckoning. When the referee blew for time, the Mansfield team and their loyal supporters went wild with delight. They had toppled the team above them in the League, and had consolidated their third-place position, which must also boost their chances of a play-off slot.
As anticipated, on a wet windy winter’s day, playing Hawick at Mansfield Park is no picnic! No doubt the experience will harden the Chieftains’ resolve and stand them in good fettle for the remainder of this campaign, especially with a top-of-the-table clash against Marr, coming up next weekend. There is only one point between the top two teams, so next Saturday’s fixture at Malleny Park should be quite an event. Please arrive early as a large crowd is expected; kick-off time is 3.00 pm. I.J.S – 8.12.19.
Currie Chieftains team v Hawick –
15 Fraser Sayers, 14 Cameron Meager, 13 Steven Hamilton, 12 James McCaig, 11 Archie MacLean,
10 Adam Hall, 9 Gregor Christie, 8 Rhys Davies, 7 Wallace Nelson, 6 Hamish Ferguson, 5 Mike Vernel,
4 Sam Edwards, 3 Reece Patterson, 2 Fergus Scott, 1 Graeme Carson.
Bench – 16 Grant Williamson, 17 Matias Argiro, 18 Matt Poole, 19 Roy Vucargo, 20 Calum Hunter.
Match Officials –
Referee – Michael Todd
RA 1 – Stuart Wright
Ra 2 – Brian McGuff
Images (c) : Kenny Baillie