McNeil curses defence after defeat

Hawick captain Bruce McNeil fights his way through against Stirling County
Hawick captain Bruce McNeil fights his way through against Stirling County

Hawick RFC’s BT Premiership survival hopes are fading fast after Stirling County run riot at Mansfield Park.

Hawick entered Saturday afternoon’s clash with relegation rivals Stirling County in desperate need of a complete performance, but what they received was the opposite in a 43-30 convincing defeat.

After back-to-back weeks of solid defensive work – restricting Melrose and Gala to a combined 36 points – Hawick looked to jumpstart their offense that up until Saturday had been mired in turmoil.

The Greens had managed to score just seven tries in their last five outings but against Stirling they seemed to rediscover the attacking flair that propelled them into play-off contenders last season.

The Teri faithful were treated to four tries; Stuart Graham and Ali Weir in the first half with Greg Cottrell, returning from a long injury layoff, and Wesley Hamilton in the second.

The attack show had retuned but Hawick lost this must-win battle on their supposed defensive strength. Stirling, barely challenged throughout the 80-minutes, poured 43 points on a defensive unit that shown recent signs of improvement.

“We fell short, our defence let us down, it was shambolic,” said Hawick captain Bruce McNeil, who lamented defensive errors after his side had shown positive gains the previous two weeks.

“Boys were missing simple tackles and once again individual mistakes cost us big. Stirling deserved to win. They stuck to their gameplan of physical rugby, slow the game down and pick us to pieces with small gains.

“The biggest disappointment was that against Melrose and Gala our defence was good so we worked on attack all week thinking that on the other side of the ball was sorted. But on Saturday we seem to forget how to defend. At the end of the day you aren’t going to win many games giving away 43 points.”

Hawick have now languished in the cellar of the Premiership since the opening weekend of the season.

Their regression on offense a year after showing signs of genuine talent is alarming while their Jekyll and Hide defence that has failed to slow opponents down – allowing a league high average of 35.7 points per game – consistently has left the team grasping at straws. “Scoring four tries and 30 points wins you most games in this league, it simply isn’t good enough if we are only working on one side of the ball,” added McNeil.

“Stirling weren’t creating much throughout the game. They would run straight at us time after time. The problem was boys were diving the other way when it came to putting in a tackle.

“It’s not a complicated game. We aren’t asking for a rabbit to be pulled from a hat to win. Overall it was an embarrassing performance.”

Alexander McLeman