Hawick’s Premiership prospects now look better after the Greens achieved a bonus-point win over Edinburgh Accies at Mansfield Park to complete the double over the Raeburn Place team.
But it was not so much the result, albeit that five points in the bag put Hawick into sixth place in the Premiership table, but more the manner of victory that excited the Greens’ supporters, such was the quality of rugby on display.
Hawick effectively had the match won within the first 16 minutes when they built up a 22-0 lead from quick recycling of the ball, clever offloading and smart finishing, complemented by a high intensity defence, but aided, too, by a sleepy start from an Accies side that appeared to be still on the bus in the opening quarter.
Both teams fielded Scotland wingers: Nikki Walker in the Hawick side and Lee Jones drafted into the Accies line-up. In the event, Walker, responsible for two of the Hawick tries, was hugely influential, involving himself repeatedly in the Greens back play, but Jones’ inability to construct meaningful backline attacks left the former Selkirk wing out in the cold.
So, too, was XXXXXX McAlpine. The big second row, who has played in all but one of Hawick’s Premiership matches this season, is an integral part of the the team and on Saturday showed his value in the line-out, in carrying ball and in fast support play. But in fact, as Hawick coach Phil Leck acknowledged, all of the Hawick forwards became effective ball-carriers as they sought to tear holes in the Accies defence before the ball was moved wide.
Of course, chief among these were No.8 Bruce McNeill and prop Shaun Muir, both of whom made good yardage with their defence-denting runs. Also showing up well on Saturday was teenage hooker Ross Graham who is being looked at for the Scotland under-20 team.
Behind the scrum, Greg Cottrell outplayed Edinburgh pro Alex Black, the new centre partnership of Gary Johnstone and John Coutts worked well, and at stand-off, Lee Armstrong, making his first start this season in the ten position, posted a polished performance that helped Hawick play a ‘go-forward’ game.
Such was the quality of Hawick’s rugby that the Greens found themselves 19-0 ahead with only 12 minutes of the game played, having shown their intent in the first minute with a break by Johnstone and close support by Coutts that all but produced an immediate score. As it was, Hawick had to wait only four minutes for their first points, a try and conversion by full-back Neil Renwick after the attack had been switched from left to right.
Then, after Coutts had made the running, scrum-half Cottrell finished off with a close-range try, again converted by Renwick, to make it 14-0 for the Greens after only eight minutes.
Hawick’s high work rate produced a further early dividend when Walker came off his wing to create havoc in the Accies midfield defence, allowing flanker Nick Mctaggart to squeeze over. Renwick missed the conversion but before the first quarter had finished the full-back put over a penalty goal.
At 22-0 down, Accies finally came to life with a try by hooker Mike Liness from a driven line-out, and then added a similar score by scrum-half Alex Black early in the second half.
But that was the end of Accies’ points gathering as Hawick reasserted themselves, first with a penalty goal by Renwick and then, after Walker had again been prominent in attack, the bonus try scored by Scott McLeod to seal an impressive win for the Greens.