Brisk start propels Gala to success in BT Cup tie derby

Gala's George Lott weaves his way through (picture by Alwyn Johnston)
Gala's George Lott weaves his way through (picture by Alwyn Johnston)

Gala 23

Hawick 15

Gala won the psychological skirmish ahead of next weekend’s crucial relegation battle with Hawick by dumping the Robbie Dyes out of the BT Cup competition on Saturday.

It was the second stage of what is effectively a three-round match-up spanning six weeks between these two close neighbours.

Hawick claimed the first in the Border League, with the Maroons levelling things at the weekend in the cup.

The final round comes on February 11 at Mansfield Park, where the two will have 80 minutes to save their respective BT Premiership seasons.

The match was full-blooded and frantic, amid sub-zero temperatures, but it was not the kind of contest to inspire much poetry.

Fielding a slightly more senior side than Hawick, Gala, in the end, were deserving of victory and a place in the fourth round of the cup.

George Hunter led the way for the hosts with two first-half penalties and a conversion of Matt Carryer’s 15th minute try.

A Grant Huggan touchdown and a penalty and conversion from Ali Weir kept the Greens within touching distance but, for a team lauded in the past eight weeks for its stout defence and thrilling attacking play, Hawick struggled mightily.

Trailing 13-10 at the interval, Hawick’s Achilles heel for much of the season was their slow starts and it again came back to bite them when winger Dwayne Burrows touched down with barely a minute on the clock.

Hunter’s conversion and penalty 10 minutes from time, following Kirk Ford’s yellow card for a deliberate knock-on, essentially wrapped up the victory for the hosts.

Hawick did attempt a brief fightback through a late Lee Armstrong try but Gala closed ranks and held firm to close out for the 23-15 win.

Looking ahead to the BT Premiership’s conclusion, Gala skipper Graham Speirs said: “We have to go into these games confident because they are against teams in a similar position to ourselves, so they are effectively eight-point games. Hawick at home is always a daunting prospect. We’re under no illusions – these are huge games with big repercussions when it comes to league positions, but the boys are focused and confident.”

Greens captain Bruce McNeil, who watched from the sidelines as he concluded a two-game ban, said: “We are out of the cup and it’s pretty depressing, as everyone loves a great cup round. We were just second best to a lot of things on the day.” While there were postiives, inaccuracies had proved costly and McNeil suspected the players’ minds had been elsewhere. “I think a lot of the boys were looking to the game next week rather than this one,” he said.