Do Hawick need to go back to the drawing board after just two games of the 2017/18 BT Premiership season?
Hawick supporters need only point to the near 100 points conceded over the Greens’ opening two defeats of the season to suggest something needs changing.
A win-loss record, however, at the beginning of a campaign can always be misleading when extrapolating that into what the season will or will not become.
Currie and Heriot’s started 0-3 and 0-2 respectively last season but in both instances found their way to 10 wins and fourth and fifth place finishes. On the flipside, Watsonains began the season with three-straight victories but were battling to avoid relegation at season’s end. Wins and losses tell us little when a season kicks-off, but defensive efficiencies or to be more specific, total points conceded, reveal a whole lot more about how a team will fare.
In Currie’s three straight losses, the Malleny Park outfit conceded 50 points, excluding a monstrous 53 points to Ayr in their opening game, and went on to allow an average of just 25.3 points and 2.9 tries per-game the rest of 2016/17.
In Watsonians’ case, the Edinburgh side conceded 52 points in their opening games then went on to concede an average of 33.3 points and 4.2 tries per-game. What those numbers reveal is that while Currie lost their three opening games, they were defensively a sound unit and that would ultimately help them right the ship and lead them to the play-offs, while Watsonians’ stunning start was just that, a start, and they would eventually regress, unable to hold that form, to what they actually were.
So that brings us to Hawick. What are they? Are they any good? Can they turn it around?
Hawick in 2017 have been one of the bigger disappointments to start the season.
It’s not because the Greens lost to sides who more than likely will be competing for a play-off spot come the end of the season or because they blew a 22-13 half-time lead to Stirling County or because they once again were on the end of a lopsided result.
No, Hawick, one of Scottish rugby’s traditional bluebloods, have been a disappointment in the first two weeks because after an offseason filled with significant changes and declarations about how their 2016/17 deficiencies have been corrected, look a lot like they did last season.
And that’s not a good thing. Hawick were not a terrible team in 2016, that title is Gala’s, but they weren’t great either. Hawick were an offence-first side last term, racking up impressive points tallies and were generally exciting to watch with a refreshing brand of rugby, the only drawback was they were pedestrian defensively .
Following the near-miss of relegation, Hawick brought in Darren Cunningham to replace the departing Nikki Walker. Cunningham, the former Kelso and Jed-Forest coach, is regarded as one of the more progressive coaches in the Premiership.
The early results have been alarming, albeit Cunningham missed the opening game due to an overseas trip. Hawick, despite all the changes, are essentially the same team as they were under Walker, offense-first and little defence. The Greens have managed eight tries and picked-up two try-scoring bonus points in their opening contests, an improvement from just three tries in total this time last season, and have been competitive in both fixtures until capitulating.
But defensively, conceding 95 points over two games, 53 points worse than in 2016, they are not breeding much confidence they are capable of producing a Currie or Heriot’s-like turnaround.
If history has taught us anything, it doesn’t get better when you are shipping almost 50 points a game at this stage of the season. Hawick’s defence needs a dramatic alteration or the wheels are coming off this side quicker than expected.