THERE was considerable praise from Hawick head coach Phil Leck after this narrow defeat, and an acknowledgement that his team was always likely to be up against it given the respective preparation by the two sides, writes Martin Laing.
Clearly disappointed, Leck was nonetheless philosophical afterwards and quick to point out the positives. “I’m very pleased with the effort. We’ve been playing Selkirk, Kelso and whatever, and they’ve been playing much higher level sides [British and Irish Cup contests], so their preparation has been harder than ours.
“But the lads have stood up. We’ve got injuries that mean we’ve only 20 players who have pulled the tripe out and have done well.”
Hawick were forced to defend, often desperately, for long periods in a contest in which they were outgunned, especially in the first half, as Leck recognised. “We defended OK but that’s because we didn’t impose ourselves on the game,” he said. “We tried to play some field position in the second half but if we’d kicked more sensibly we could perhaps have built something but we kicked to the wrong areas and that allowed them to put us under pressure again.”
Hawick, despite being second best, could in fact have stolen the game, Rory Hutton missing a long-range penalty that was the last kick of the contest. Before that, though, County had led early on courtesy of a Brian Archibald kick but a telegraphed pass by Stuart Edwards allowed Nikki Walker to intercept and sprint clear for a try under the posts, which Lee Armstrong converted for a lead that Hawick did not deserve.
Thereafter it was one-way traffic, with County unfathomably unable to turn pressure into points until injury time at the end of the first half when Garry Mountford barged over to finish a break by Danny Gilmour.
Hawick’s excellent defensive work was rewarded soon after the restart when Armstrong chipped a penalty and they showed plenty of spirit as they tried to make headway but Archibald had the final word in nudging over the winning score with quarter of the game remaining.