Hawick battle back to beat Gala

Hawick's Sean Goodfellow carries the fight to Gala at Netherdale on Saturday.
Hawick's Sean Goodfellow carries the fight to Gala at Netherdale on Saturday.

A new-look Hawick side overcame a 19-point deficit to post a hard-fought victory over Gala in Saturday’s final pre-season friendly at Netherdale.

In a patient performance at what has traditionally been a difficult venue in the past, Hawick maintained a high level throughout.

Restricted to a single converted touchdown from new signing Wiaan Girebenow in the first period, the Robbie Dyes won with patience and panache in the second half, running in 26 points to secure a well-deserved victory.

Although the result provided little insight into how the Greens will fare when these matches are contested with league points at stake, there are promising signs ahead of the new season.

“Overall it was a great day with both the firsts and seconds winning against very good Gala sides,” said Hawick captain Bruce McNeil.

“For the firsts, we made it very difficult for ourselves with a dreadful opening 40 [minutes], leaving ourselves dead and buried.

“We eventually came alive in the second half and really got to work. We stopped sitting back and watching them play and took the game to them.

“The hard work we have been putting in this pre-season started to show as our fitness in the latter stages was better than theirs. We wore them down and ran in some good tries to leave us with a nice baseline to work from this week in training ahead of Melrose on Saturday.”

There is, of course, little a team can discover about themselves until the limits of a comfort zone are left behind, and for Hawick, Saturday’s performance provided an indication as to what they can and can’t handle once sustained pressure is applied and adversity is imminent. While some teams eventually crumble, the Greens’ refusal to buckle after a torrid first period, before forging a flawless second-half performance, showed a facet they can add to their BT Premiership arsenal for the challenging season ahead.

Hawick struggled early on to break down the hosts, Gala’s David O’Hagan providing flashes of class in the No.10 role, combined with a tough-tackling, gutsy performance from their forwards.

A brace of tries from prop Luke Pettie, added to by George Graham, with O’Hagan converting a pair, against a single Girebenow effort, converted by Neil Renwick, saw Gala 19-7 up at the break and seemingly in complete control.

In the second half, the Maroons picked up where they left off. Nippy scrum-half Graham running in for his second score after he took advantage of a labouring Greens defence to tap-and-go on the 10-metre line, before running clear untouched under the posts. O’Hagan landed the resultant conversion.

The next 30 minutes, however, was one-way traffic in the opposite direction as Hawick cut their hosts to pieces with a rampant back line that further underlined just how much of a difference head coach Nikki Walker and his coaching team’s offensive philosophy has made to improving the Greens’ fortunes over the last 12 months.

Tries from John Coutts, Shawn Muir and Lee Armstrong, two converted by Renwick, levelled the scores at 26-26, before vice-captain Rory Hutton capped a sublime second-half display with a lovely individual effort, converted by Renwick, to hand Hawick the spoils.