The Greens provided their supporters with a Christmas bonus on Saturday, taking custody of the Skelly Cup and important Border League points in a comfortable 29 points to 17 win over Jed Forest at Volunteer Park, writes Alex McLeman.
Hawick were aiming to close out 2013 with a momentum-building win while securing crucial game time following a December that has seen two cancellations (Hawick YM and Gala) due to a shortage of players and the severe weather. Jed managed to keep pace with the Premiership side through a good defensive step-up and strong set-piece work but it was the Greens’ grit and determination that denied the visitors a surprise win.
Jed opened the scoring early as former Hawick Linden winger Steven Bouglas broke the home line with ease as sloppy defending and a sublime delayed pass from Chris Laidlaw allowed the speedy winger to comfortably race home under the posts. Laidlaw converted to give the visitors a seven-point lead within the opening minutes.
Hawick hit back immediately with intense pressure on the Jed line producing the opening try for the home side. Nick Mactaggart collecting the ball from Kieran Willison, who had thundered into space, to cross over, with Neil Renwick converting.
Jed edged themselves back in front with a penalty from Laidlaw as indiscipline and basic errors characterised an untidy opening quarter for Hawick which saw the visitors continually break the fragile Greens defensive line.
As the half progressed Hawick were the more adventurous, withhooker Lindsay Gibson touching down from close range following a powerful drive from the forward pack, led by Dale Johnstone and Stuart Graham.
Johnstone was making his first start for the Greens in place of the injured Shawn Muir, while Graham was looking to build on his first-half performances against Kelso and Melrose as he continued his comeback from injury. Renwick notched the converson to put Hawick 14-10 ahead.
Errors started to compound matters for Jed as momentum swung Hawick’s way. Renwick adding a penalty in the closing stages of the first period to stretch the home side’s lead to 17-10 at half-time.
Both teams used their replacements in the second half, with Rory Scott rounding off a great passage of play by the forwards to increase the Greens’ advantage, and Renwick landing the conversion.
Hawick’s improving handling skills and greater conviction saw them seize on the visitors’ inexperience, and the hosts continued in the ascendancy before full-back Renwick put the game out of reach when finishing off a team effort score. Renwick was unable to add the extras on this occasion.
Jed Forest has the final say on the scoring front, Laidlaw sparking his side’s move by splitting the Hawick defensive line on their own 22. The Greens were then caught ball watching as Jed raced home untouched through Chris Gillon who applied the finishing touch, and Laidlaw the conversion