Royal Blues put up a real battling display

Hawick Linden's Glen Welsh with the ball.
Hawick Linden's Glen Welsh with the ball.

Hawick Linden 15 
Broughton 33

Unbeaten League leaders Broughton made the trip to the Volunteer 3G having comprehensively routed the Linden 80-17 at Wardie earlier in the season.

It would take a mammoth effort for the Royal Blues to turn around such a scoreline. The final result doesn’t tell the full picture of a superb effort by the home team who held the lead just before the game entered its final quarter.

On a cold, wet and miserable day, conditions were difficult for both teams and thankfully the 3G surface prevented what would otherwise have been an inevitable mud-bath.

Broughton took the lead on six minutes from a line out catch and drive, skipper Craig Wishart being credited with the touchdown and Gavin Tainsh converting.

Two minutes later home captain Graeme Anderson responded with a penalty goal. Soon after a great line out take by Euan Hair preceded Glen Welsh slicing through the visitors defence.

The centre linked with Matthew Mallin, who had the pace to beat the cover and the wing forward’s try put the Linden in front 8-7.

On 20 minutes they added to their tally. With Broughton in possession at a ruck, a loose ball was kicked on by Anderson and, when he hacked on again, it looked like it had gone too close to the last defender but it was that man Mallin again who was first to get a hand to the ball. Anderson slotted the conversion to put his team 15-7 ahead.

Craig Smith caught the kick-off and went off on a great run into the Broughton half but the Linden unwisely kicked when moving the ball would have continued the threat and they were then penalised which was kicked to touch.

Following the lineout, Wishart burst through and looked likely to score but was tackled in the shadow of the posts. A quick recycle though allowed stand-off Tainsh to go dart over the whitewash.

Home stand-off Gavin Stirling had to retire with a leg injury to be replaced by his cousin Barry Sutherland. With no further scoring in the first period, the Linden headed into the break 15-12 in front.

When John Frew was high tackled early in the second period he left the field with the experienced Steven Anderson coming on for his first game for two seasons. Then winger Gary Alexander also suffered a leg injury and was stretched off with the recovered Frew coming back on.

With 58 minutes gone Broughton winger Ryan McNight caught a kick and there didn’t appear to be much danger but his neat kick ahead sat up nicely for Dan Smith, who raced onto the ball and headed under the posts for Tainsh to convert. Middle row Hair departed following a head knock with Cammy Friell entering the fray.

With the game in the balance the killer blow for the Royal Blues came with 15 minutes remaining.

After a Casper Jones kick and catch sucked in the home defence, the ball was shipped wide to winger Andrew Tainsh, who touched down for brother Gavin to convert and put Broughton 26-15 ahead.

The Linden were left to go after what would have been a deserved losing bonus point and it looked like Glen Welsh would secure it but he was tackled fractionally short of the line.

When the Royal Blues moved the ball they were turned over and Broughton worked their way to the other end. With the last play of the game Neil Armstrong touched down and Tainsh’s kick completed a cruel end to the match for the home side.

Alas, the Linden lacked a bit of composure at times, just forcing things too much, and little mistakes at key moments prevented them building momentum.

Make no mistake, though, this display once again demonstrated the huge progress from early in the season. Jordan White carried ball well with support from front row colleagues Reece Hartdegan and Keith Mabon. Flankers Matthew Mallin and Macaulay Parker got themselves about, scrum-half Rory Graham was also in fine form but Glen Welsh was the pick of the backs with some good hard running.

Linden: J Frew, M Bell, G Anderson, G Welsh, G Alexander, G Stirling, R Graham; J White, R Hartdegan, K Mabon, S Hair, E Hair, M Parker, M Mallin, C Smith; Subs: C Friell, L Sharkey, B Sutherland, E Wood, S Anderson, L Robertson, J Hogg.