Hawick 21 Gala 22
GALA moved to the head of the Premiership title race after edging out Hawick by the narrowest of margins in a match that provided thrilling viewing despite the difficulties of a muddy Mansfield Park surface ravaged by winter storms.
There might have been only one point between the teams at the end of a match that in many ways was all about traditional Border rivalry and the win sets up Gala for a genuine charge at the title. But Gala skipper George Graham cautioned against making rash assumptions.
“As much as we’re in the driving seat we’ve got two tough games,” he told TheSouthern.
“We’ve got Stirling Country away and their pitch is not going to be much better than today. And then we’ve got a massive game at home to Ayr. Today’s result take a little bit of pressure off but we need to keep looking for the wins.”
Graham, believes that Gala will have a stronger squad for the last two matches.
“Chris Weir coming back is a good bonus plus we have second 15 lads stepping up and that keeps up the competition for places,” added the Gala scrum half.
For Hawick defeat by such a narrow margin hurt but in the cold light of day the Greens can reflect on a display the was combative, courageous and skilful that allowed Hawick to take the lead twice in the match.
“In the 25 minutes bridging the two halves we played better rugby than we’ve played all season and the comeback we staged and the two tries were all down to trying to play rugby,” said Hawick coach Phil Leck.
“And then you get a second half when one side just wants to be totally negative. But fair play to them they’ve got a good set piece and that’s the key to a lot of things.”
Gala, aiming for a league and cup double this season, were massive favourites coming into the Mansfield clash and seem to confirm the pundits’ view in the opening quarter when their dominant play propelled the Maroons into a 12-0 lead with a Grant Somerville try and then a penalty try converted by Ewan Scott.
Hawick, however, found a desire to hit back and were rewarded with a try in the corner by Lee Armstrong from a tapped penalty move. Just before half time Blacklock took a reverse pass from Greg Cottrell to plunge over for his side’s second try, Neil Renwick’s conversion levelling the scores at 12-12.
Two minutes into the second half Renwick gave Hawick the lead with a penalty goal but Gala replied with a close range try from Gary Graham converted by Scott. The second of two penalties by Renwick restored Hawick’s lead only for the Greens to be hit with a ‘lazy runner’ penalty that allowed Scott to kick for victory.
Hawick: L Armstrong; N Walker, J Johnstone, G Johnstone, N Renwick; R Hutton, G Cottrell; S Muir, R Graham, W Blacklock, R McAlpine, B McNeil, S Graham, R Scott, K Davies. Subs used: L Graham, L Launders, N McLeod.
Gala: A McLean; G Sibanda, C Auld, E Scott, G Somerville; D O’Hagan, George Graham; R Sutherland, C MacIntosh, E Johnstone, C Borthwick, O Palepoi, Gary Graham, S Cairns, E Dods. Subs used: C Hogg, C Weir, G Speirs, G Mein.
Referee J Matthew