Phil Leck’s battling Hawick side ended their season on Saturday with a highly-respectable scoreline against high-flying Ayr.
The Teri pack dominated early exchanges, allowing their speedy backs some freedom, and it was no surprise when Edinburgh pro Nikki Walker went over to give his home club the lead.
By this time, those in the sizeable Mansfield Park crowd who had come to see how fast American sevens star Carlin Isles was were realising that speed is no substitute for rugby nous. Isles was guesting for Ayr after signing for Glasgow Warriors and may make another appearance in the Borders next week when Gregor Townsend’s pro team take part in the Melrose Sevens.
Throughout the first half, Ayr had only the very rare chance to score and when the half-time whistle blew, the home support showed their delight at the 5-0 scoreline.
The good work continued following the restart.
After only six minutes, Liam Launders charged down an Ayr clearance, allowing Keith Davies to crash over for a try. Lee Armstrong slotted the conversion to take Hawick 12 points clear.
Having now found the lay of the land, Isles got in on the action when whizzing past several would-be Hawick tacklers to cross the line. It was not to be his day, however, as the sevens supremo appeared to drop the ball when trying to ground it.
The video evidence afterwards was not exactly conclusive, but there was sufficient scope for doubt to justify referee Gary Gordon chalking the try off.
Inevitably, the visitors came back into the game and a spell of pressure on the Hawick line saw Steve Fenwick rumble over for the first of two converted tries from the Ayr prop.
But Hawick continued to pile on the pressure, with Armstrong notching a penalty to give the scoreboard a highly-popular 15-14 slant with 15 minutes remaining.
The hosts never gave up and tried hard to give their supporters something to cheer about on the final day of the campaign.
But it was Ayr who stole the show, Craig Gossman scoring from an interception back in his own 22, to take the win.
After the game Isles, who still maintained he had grounded the ball, told awaiting media exactly what he thought of his first foray into XV-a-side rugby.
“Oh man, it was long. But it was fun,” he said.