Hawick must avoid a “revenge game” when Heriot’s visit Mansfield Park this weekend if they are to continue their push for BT Premiership survival, according to club captain Bruce McNeil.
The last time Hawick squared-off against Heriot’s at Goldenacre in late September, the end result was a painful scoreline for both supporters to watch and players to be part of.
The city side ran in 12 tries to one in a 70-7 virtuoso attacking performance that rendered the Robbie Dyes a beaten and bloodied mess, and epitomised their lowest point of the 2017-18 season.
“They embarrassed us up there. It wasn’t a game you’d want be a part of, it wasn’t good,” said McNeil, who admitted his side are out to right the wrongs of that September beating but not issue unfiltered revenge.
“We want to win on Saturday, everyone who plays the game wants that. We also owe it to the club and supporters, but we want to do it the right way, as a team and together, not with guys going off solo taking actions into their own hands,” continued McNeil.
“Boys’ pride was hurt following that game. It wasn’t something many people want to experience, but the players know they have to be controlled and put a lid on anything they think they want to do to gain some revenge. Boys have to be composed if we are going to win this one.”
The visit of Heriot’s comes on the heels of a disappointing Boxing Day 10-8 Border League defeat to Jed-Forest, while simultaneously the return fixture of head coach George Graham first game at the helm following the stepping down of Darren Cunningham.
“This was George’s [Graham] first game he took charge of, he was pretty hurt by our performance that day and the boys want to make sure they don’t repeat that,” added McNeil, who is targeting Saturday as a spark that hopefully helps them in the Premiership survival push.
“He will have us fired up and ready for what they will come at us with. I spoke to George ahead of this weekend’s game and he said training this week was going to be a lot harder than usual, it would be tough, brutal really.
“We all know how important the game is and we want to make sure we rebound from that Jed result, which everyone was disappointed with but not completely devastated by, with a performance worthy of Hawick and make sure our relegation push starts back up where we left off before the Christmas break.”
Weather permitting, Saturday’s fixture will kick-off at 3pm on Mansfield Park, with the 3G pitch at Volunteer Park mooted as a possible alternative if Mansfield Park is ruled unfit for purpose.
Elsewhere, in the BT Premiership, Melrose host Ayr in a rescheduled version of the game which was controversially postponed last month, when Ayr complained, only a couple of minutes before kick-off, that sections of the Greenyards pitch were unplayable.
Melrose, with a 100 per cent record of bonus-point victories in the league to date, are among a handful of Borders clubs who managed to squeeze in some match practice during the spells of milder weather around the festive season, scoring a handsome 49-0 victory over Selkirk in the Booker Border League and defeating Gala 43-18 in the customary Boxing Day fixture for the Waverley Cup.
Rose president Douglas Hardie said they were delighted with both results.
“Against Gala, we fielded quite a number of young players coming through the ranks, who normally play with Melrose Storm, and they all stepped up to the plate and did their job more than adequately,” he added. “Gala put up a good show and stuck in very well. Credit to them – their heads never went down and they tried right to the end, and that exemplified itself with the final try being scored by Gala.”
The margin of the win over Selkirk was perhaps a surprise to some – as was Selkirk’s failure to score.
“In fairness, their score perhaps didn’t reflect the effort they put into it,” added Hardie.
“They did put a lot of hard work into that game – they are a very stuffy side and certainly tried their best but perhaps didn’t get the reward they deserved.
“At no time did you think we would lose the game, but not to get over the whitewash was probably more than a bit disappointing for them.”
Head coach Rob Chrystie said: “The really good, big pleasing thing for me was that the boys who came in have played really well.”