Hawick Linden 28 Lismore 10
It was a special day for the Linden as they returned home to the Volunteer Park for the first time in eight months to play their first game on the new 3G pitch.
A great deal of hard work by many people brought an ambitious plan to fruition and the 3pm kick-off meant the match was played under floodlights which helped show off the new pitch and surroundings at their spectacular best.
Visitors Lismore quickly let it be known they weren’t just there to make up the numbers for the Linden’s welcome home party. In the third minute a stunning run by Royal Blues’ full-back John Frew saw the full-back slice through a host of would-be tacklers and deep into the 22.
However, when tackled, he was isolated and turn over ball was deftly chipped in behind the Linden defence and the bounce sat up for Scott Hall to gather on his own 10 metre line and the full-back had the pace to go the distance. Conor McAndrew kicked the conversion and added a penalty goal to leave the Linden 10-0 down after 10 minutes.
It could have gotten worse for the Royal Blues three minutes later as the Lismore No. 8 made great ground but what should have been a scoring pass was adjudged forward.
The Linden made the most of the reprieve as they worked their way to the other end and a Matthew Mallin line-out catch set up a drive which went to ground near the line. Graham Colville spotted a gap to pick and go right through the middle of the ruck to touch down and Gavin Stirling converted.
It was turning into a ding-dong affair as the bigger Lismore forwards played with control whilst the Linden looked to up the pace of the game whenever they had the ball but had to be careful with their clearing kicks as the visitors’ back three were dangerous runners.
It took until the 31st minute for another score as Stirling popped over a penalty goal for a high tackle to tie the scores at 10-10.
Soon after, great work from a scrum saw Colville make good yardage and linked with Matthew Bell on his outside but a kick in behind went into touch. Lismore then spilled ball in their own 22 and Graeme Anderson looked to capitalise as he hacked on but the ball ran dead in the now shorter in-goal area. A home score wasn’t to be denied though as, five minutes from the break, the Linden did well to win a ruck and it was Colville once more who charged on and managed to step out of a tackle to put his team in the lead for the first time.
With half-time looming, Colville was at it again as another thumping run had would-be tacklers bouncing off him bringing roars from the crowd. Following yet another Colville run the Royal Blues created an overlap but the try opportunity was lost as a pass was dropped. Play was brought back for a penalty though and Stirling’s successful kick made it 18-10 to the Linden at the break.
The home team looked to extend their lead but two early second-half penalty goal attempts, the second after great play by the Hair twins, failed to find the target. The Royal Blues started to use their bench and replacement Kirk Ford took over the kicking duties to slot a penalty on 53 minutes.
The Linden had the chance to go for the jugular but spurned a couple of chances to score. Lismore were not for folding and continued to threaten and long periods of possession tested the home defence which stood firm.
With time almost up, the Linden had the final say. A line-out was overthrown and Matthew Mallin greatfully caught the ball at the back and showed lightening pace to fly off into the Lismore half and quick ball from a ruck on the try line saw replacement scrum-half Rory Graham on hand to touch down and Ford’s conversion completed the scoring.
This was a great way for the Linden to start a new era at the Volunteer 3G securing win No.7 on the trot in an entertaining game which Lismore greatly contributed to.
The forwards were immense. Simon Spalding had a great tussle with his opposite number at scrum time and No. 8 Graham Colville was outstanding with ball in hand giving his young back row colleagues Macaulay Parker and Matthew Mallin a great lead.
The backs looked like they were enjoying the faster surface, none more so than John Frew as did wingers Matthew Bell and Kieran Murphy. The centre combination of skipper Graeme Anderson and Sandy Walker were as solid as ever.