Hawick 28, Ayr 43
It’s been an agonising start to the season for Hawick but, on Saturday, against an unbeaten Ayr side – made even stronger by the inclusion of Scotland stand-off Finn Russell – the Greens’ first championship point from a four-try tally suggested a nascent recovery.
A week earlier, Hawick had suffered a heavy and damaging defeat to Heriot’s at Goldenacre but their performance seven days later offered hope to the Mansfield Park fans that the season is not yet dead.
“I’d like to think we’ve turned a corner,” said skipper Bruce McNeil. “It wasn’t a win but we got a bonus point. We were looking to get a victory. We believe we’ve got the boys in this team to out there and get wins.”
He added: “It’s a stepping stone from where we were last week. That was a low for this club.
“The boys though have reacted well. Scoring four tries against Ayr is not too bad. We’ve got a lot of youngsters in the team.
“They’ve had to become senior players really quickly. We’ve not been able to use them off the bench as we would have liked. They’ve been chucked in at the deep end and, to be fair, it was either sink or swim and a lot of them are swimmers.”
Outstanding for Hawick was veteran prop Matt Landels, skipper McNeil, who played in three different positions on Saturday, and flanker Stuart Graham, whose tackle count was impressively high.
Finn Russell showed why he is an international stand-off in a fitness-confirming 60-minute stint of skilful passing and calcualted kicking, while Ayr’s physical forward pack dominated possession. However, Hawick defied the odds stacked against them to achieve some great scores.
A try and conversion by Neil Renwick after Darcy Graham and Lee Armstrong had opened up the Ayr defence set the tone and then a second try, this time by McNeil, and the conversion by Renwick, sent Hawick into half time level with the Millbrae men at 14-14. Ayr had scored through flanker Gregor Henry and Russell’s younger brother, Archie.
Hawick then conceded a soft try, a missed tackle giving Ross Curle the touchdown, and then it was the turn of Finn Russell to write his name on the scoresheet. The stand-off looped round Curle for a fine try, before kicking the extras.
Matters looked darker for Hawick as number eight Blair MacPherson profited from a well-directed Finn Russell kick, taking the score to 31-14 in favour of Ayr.
Hawick, however hit back as McNeil barged over from close range, with youngster Kirk Ford making the score a seven pointer.
But Ayr pulled away again, as Archie Russell and MacPherson completed their doubles.
A losing bonus point seemed out of the question for Hawick but a try bonus remained a possibility.
It became a reality when Hawick pressure produced a break by the admirable Keith Davies, whose pass to Wesley Hamilton gave the wing a run to the line for Hawick’s fourth and bonus point try, again converted by Ford, and nothing less than the Greens deserved for their competitive effort against an Ayr side surely destined to be in the end-of-season play-offs.
Hawick: N. Renwick, D. Graham, G. Johnstone, G. Huggan, W. Hamilton, L. Armstrong, B. Campbell, M. Landels, F. Renwick, C. Mackintosh, D. Harlen, M. Robertson, B. McNeil, S. Graham, K. Davies. Subs: T. Skeet, R. Gibson, N. McColm, D. Redpath, K. Ford.