A large crowd greeted the two best sides in the league, in anticipation of possibly the toughest and most important game any of the players will have been involved in.
Gala travelled down the A7 looking to avenge their only defeat of the campaign to a last-gasp kick that rewarded Hawick with victory earlier in the season.
Only two minutes into the game and Hawick’s continued indiscipline gave Gala a penalty and a chance to open the scoring. The kick looked good, but drifted just wide. Gala were exerting pressure from all over the pitch, and the normally impeccable Hawick defence was being run ragged. The visitors eventually made the breakthrough, a quick move orchestrated by their stand-off saw former Hawick starlet James Parker join the line at full pace. With the defence stretched, Parker raced up the touchline before rounding in under the posts. The conversion hit the post before going over.
On the restart, Gala were quickly penalised for not retreating to an onside position and Corey Wilson fired Hawick back into the game.
But Gala stepped up their game and another foray into Hawick territory and another infringement allowed them to extend their lead once again.
Hawick needed to find some forward momentum and on the half-hour Wilson launched a beauty of a kick up field to just outside the Gala five-metre line. Craig Kyle stole the ball at the line-out and zipped it along the line to Sam Bandeen who was stopped short, but with the forwards chasing up in numbers the ball was secured and sent back across the pitch where Jack Wilson caught a glimpse of the line and went for glory. Although he was swamped by the Gala defence, Andrew Ford was on hand to pick up and pass to flying winger Ryan Elliot, who just managed to get downward pressure on the ball. Wilson’s conversion just missed the target for a half-time score of 10-8 in Gala’s favour.
Yet again Hawick conceded a penalty right after the kick-off, and a kick from distance increased Gala’s lead. Whatever the coaches said had the desired effect and Hawick roared into life. Great play by Ford and Scott Anderson forced Gala onto the back foot when conceding a penalty, with Wilson reducing the deficit to two points once more.
Another poor clearing kick had Gala breaking for the line but the final pass to their wing was not taken cleanly and adjudged to have went forward.
By now the intense game was taking its toll on the players, with Parker for Gala, then Lewis Anderson for Hawick, both going off injured.
The Wands eventually got a period of possession and it was Gala’s turn to show their defensive prowess, withstanding tryline rushes from Ford, Andrew Baillie and Grant Huggan.
Well into injury-time, Gala were throwing everything at Hawick. For what seemed like an eternity the Wands repelled attack after attack, with Jack McColm, Fergus Hislop and Dean Gillan to the fore. Discipline was key as Gala pushed forward to within kicking distance, Hawick not putting a foot or hand out line.
Just when it looked like they had weathered the storm, a pass from nowhere to the right wing had Gala flying towards the line. Somehow he was taken down just short, but as the ball was recycled to their battering ram prop, Ford managed to get a hand on his shirt, just enough to hold him up before the support arrived to bundle him and the ball into touch.
n Peebles Colts v Hawick Wands, tomorrow, kick off 2pm. Bus sponsor: JRW.
n A Wands ladies’ night will be held on February 23. Tickets £5.