RBS NATIONAL LEAGUE
FIONA SCOTT reports from Mansfield Park
BEFORE this National League game at Mansfield Park kicked off, Watsonians stand-off Mike Ker, a former Kelso regular, said he hoped, despite the tricky underfoot conditions, that both teams would make an attempt to “play the ball out” and “make the game festive.”
Perhaps it had something to do with the pre-match Christmas tunes being played through the tannoy system, but the hosts certainly did their best to comply with his wishes, picking up a well earned Christmas bonus point into the bargain. Unfortunately, the same could not be said for Ker’s men as the league leaders struggled to find the try line until the latter stages of the game.
And the Mansfield faithful who braved the dreich conditions were certainly full of festive cheer when they left the ground.
Penalties were swapped between Neil Renwick and Watsonians’ Brian Walls in the opening 10 minutes before the hosts took full control. John Coutts and Gary Johnstone went over in alternate corners to force a gap, while Renwick was unlucky to have both conversion attempts ricochet back off the posts.
With just minutes to go until the break, the hosts lost Renwick to injury, replaced by Neil McColm, and the flow of the game was disrupted momentarily.
Walls notched a second penalty bang on the whistle to leave a half-time score of 13-6 in Hawick’s favour.
That lull continued for two or three minutes after the restart, during which time Watsonians missed a penalty, but once again the Greens stepped up to the plate with a well-worked move up the touchline, allowing John Coutts to swerve inside and score at the posts. Lee Armstrong made the conversion.
Watsonians came back with a successful penalty goal which Hawick cancelled out with a similar effort from Armstrong just minutes later.
As the game moved into the final quarter, the home crowd in the stand were once again on their feet when Keith Davies looked like he had won the race to a long chip and chase, but the referee ruled that the ball hadn’t been grounded before it bounced out of play.
Desperate to consolidate their healthy lead at the top of the table Watsonians were stung into action and, following some courageous defending by the home side, skipper Mark Rennie went over, with Walls slotting the conversion.
When Watsonians hooker Dylan Rutherford was sent to the sin bin for an off-the-ball offence, however, Hawick needed no second invite to deal out some punishment of their own.
Captain Greg Cottrell performed the honours that gained his team a well-deserved bonus point when diving over in the stand side corner, receiving a standing ovation for his efforts.
Hawick: N. Renwick; J. Coutts, L. Armstrong, G. Johnstone, S. Anderson; R. Hutton, G. Cottrell; S. Muir, L. Gibson, L. Launders, C. Smith, K. Willison, S. Graham, K. Davies, N. Mactaggart. Subs: M. Landels, H. Scammell, D. Lowrie, N. McColm, G. Hogg.