Hawick and Muir toil in drab encounter

Gary Johnstone offloads to Hue Scammell during a late Greens attack, with Kieran Willison and Nicky Little up in support
Gary Johnstone offloads to Hue Scammell during a late Greens attack, with Kieran Willison and Nicky Little up in support

HAWICK’S grip on the new Bill McLaren Shield lasted just over two hours on Saturday as they lost out to Boroughmuir.

Quite what the late, great, ‘Voice of Rugby’ would have made of this encounter one can only wonder – even the expert orator himself may have struggled to light up this dreadfully dour display.

Certainly Greens president Alister Pow’s assessment at the end that it had been a “fantastic advert for Premier One rugby” was optimistic in the extreme.

Admittedly the persistent rain made conditions difficult for both sides, but that was a mere crumb of an excuse for the poor passing and woeful kicking on show.

For all their possession and territory – which must have ranked somewhere around the 70 per cent mark – Boroughmuir were wasteful, with full-back Sep Visser guilty on a number of occasions of terrible decision making.

Hawick’s strong defence also contributed to the Edinburgh outfit’s try-less afternoon. But as good as Bruce McNeil and co were on the back foot, they were equally bad going forward.

Apart from a brief foray into Boroughmuir territory in the first half, it took until the 65th minute before the Greens offered up any real attacking threat. Gary Johnstone and Graeme Anderson both came close before Keith Davies bundled his way over, leaving the large support scratching their heads as to why it took so long for the Green Machine to click into gear.

Injuries had robbed Hawick of the services of Rory Sutherland and Danny Landels, while in the forwards, Barrie Keown and Craig Robson were drafted in from the Linden and YM respectively.

And it didn’t get any better as the match kicked off with Ryan Hogg lasting just minutes before being forced off with an arm injury.

By that time Harry Leonard had already kicked the visitors in front with a long-range penalty. They should have been further ahead as they set up camp in the Hawick 22, but it was the Greens who almost scored the first try when the talismanic McNeil hacked on a loose ball from his own five-metre line and Leonard gave chase the full length of the pitch before desperately kicking the ball over the line for Robert Cairns to touch down.

It was a sign that ‘Muir were there for the taking, but it was a sign that was ignored. Despite their supremacy in the scrum, which was surprising given the two towers Greg Scott and Ali Davidson in the Boroughmuir pack, Hawick couldn’t get on the front foot.

Their quest wasn’t helped with an injury to stand-off Lee Armstrong, which forced a reshuffle in the back line.

And it got worse as Leonard struck over another mighty penalty just on half-time.

When Graham Hogg missed touch with a penalty at the start of the second half and then kicked a second penalty wide of the posts, the signs were ominous for the home support that things wouldn’t be getting much better.

And so it proved as Leonard found his range again with another monster kick.

But as the match wore on, suddenly Hawick came to life and it was only a desperate tackle from Visser that denied Johnstone and the Boroughmuir full-back was on hand moments later as he combined with Cairns to deny Graeme Anderson when a try looked a certainty.

With the home fans awoken from their slumber the try duly arrived. The Greens bullied Boroughmuir in the scrum and McNeil stole possession inside the 22. And when the ball was spread wide, Davies, who had impressed in the lineout, crashed over.

Johnstone added the conversion, but it was too little, too late, as Boroughmuir held onto possession through their forwards until the final whistle.