Promotion-chasing Greens edge gruelling affair

AS THIS crucial match went into stoppage time there was a deep sense of frustration around Mansfield Park. The scores were tied at six points each and a second consecutive draw between the two sides was very much on the cards, But a share of the spoils probably wouldn’t have been good enough to keep Hawick’s automatic promotion bid on track.

Hawks were 15 points behind Hawick before kick off but had three games in hand. The odds were swinging in their favour. But this tense encounter had a sting in the tail.

A dramatic try in the 83rd minute from Lee Armstrong saw the place erupt. In what was the last play of the game, the Greens had pulled off a dramatic victory which gives them a real chance of snatching that prized promotion spot.

The rugby that preceded the drama was akin to watching a very dull, yet compelling, game of chess. Indeed, one expected someone to come along and say “Move along please – nothing to see here!”

But that is unfair because the best teams in the league were simply cancelling each other out. Hawick had their stars who can change a game in a flash, but they were shackled well by the Hawks defence, a rearguard which has the best record in the league by a mile.

Rory Hutton’s part in proceedings was reduced to a 10-minute cameo role following a day of sickness which forced him to withdraw from the starting line-up moments before kick off. Graham Hogg stepped in at fly-half in one of the most important games for the club in recent times, and coped admirably.

The match had very few key moments or talking points. It was all about the overall story of what the game meant. It was cat and mouse all the way as mind games took centre stage in place of action-packed play. Two penalties from Neil Renwick in the first half, plus Mike Adamson’s two penalties in the second period are the bare statistics. Both also missed kicks along the way on what was a cold, bleak afternoon.

It was a gruelling affair. With so much at stake nobody gave an inch and fast-flowing rugby was at a premium. Nerves played a part, too. This was not one for the purists – it was a mental and physical test. And one that exploded into one massive bout of relief at the death when Hawick turned over the ball 10 metres from the Hawks try line. Skipper Greg Cottrell passed to Hogg who threw a long ball out to Armstrong. He had Mike Adamson to beat and this he did with a dummy, before darting for the line like a man possessed. It was sheer magic!

Hawick are now 13 points clear with one game to play at Jed-Forest on March 23. It’s going down to the wire for sure and they will know what they have to do on that day.

And the added twist could be that a win at Riverside Park would probably send Jed out of the National League. It certainly will be a day on which all is to play for.