Hawick got their show back on the road after taking the honours against the defending BT Premiership champions Melrose in a fiercely competitive match at Mansfield Park.
What was remarkable about Hawick’s win was that it came on the back of a heavy defeat to Glasgow Hawks a week earlier in a tepid display by the Greens.
Hawick skipper Rory Hutton told us: “We dug deep to get the win today and after last week against Hawks it was a testament to the boys that we were able to bounce back.
“There was a big emphasis on getting the passion back into our game. Everyone was hurting after that big defeat. We were disappointed about not being fully there. When we get that passion back we’re hard to beat.
“If we match up to teams both physically and mentally, we’ve got the players who can play rugby. We know ourselves that the performance wasn’t totally there today, but if we can give ourselves the chance in games, we’ve got the guys who can take it.”
With Hutton and his opposite number at stand-off, Austin Lockington, two fly halves who prefer an open style of rugby, the game was guaranteed to be a crowd pleaser.
In the event, spectators at Mansfield Park were certainly not short-changed for excitement. For this was a match that went to the wire. It was a match, too, which confirmed the BT Premiership as a quality product.
In the end, Hawick scraped through by a single point, but overall they were worth their win after showing massive commitment in defence, smart off-the-cuff attacking rugby, and an ability to snap up chances.
Hawick’s forwards, and particularly, their back row, deserve plaudits, while behind the scrum there were exciting performances from full back Lee Armstrong, winger Scott McLeod and scrum half Shaun Goodfellow.
So what went wrong for Melrose, who, after all, finished the match 3-2 ahead in the try count?
The answer quite simply was goal kicking. Whereas Armstrong kicked three penalty goals and one conversion, Lockington could muster only one conversion and one penalty goal.
Melrose took a gamble on leaving out Richard Mill from their starting XV, preferring the attacking skills of Lockington for the 10 position. As a result, Mill had to watch a number of failed goal kicks from the bench until he was brought on for the last one.
Melrose also came off second best in the battle of the back rows, the champions clearly missing the poaching skills of Grant Runciman, currently enjoying playing rugby in New Zealand.
Even so, Melrose had enough power in the scrum to win the game and were perhaps disappointed to not be awarded a penalty try when they had Hawick under intense pressure near the try line. Behind the scrum, Melrose looked sharp at times with good breaks from scrum half Murdo McAndrew and Lockingto,n but all too often uncharacteristic handling errors proved costly. Two penalties by Armstrong to one by Lockington gave Hawick a 6-3 advantage after 22 minutes, but on the stroke of half time Hawick made their breakthrough with a try by winger Scott McLeod from good approach work and a clever chip ahead by Armstrong.
An Armstong penalty kept Hawick’s scoreboard ticking over, but tries by Graham Dodds and McQuillan and a conversion by Lockington put Melrose ahead by 15-14 only for the Greens to regain the lead with a touchdown by centre Joaquin Dominguez, converted by Armstrong.
Then in a frantic finale, Melrose scored through Tito Mua, but to the relief of the Mansfield Park faithful, Mill’s touchline conversion attempt drifted wide, leaving Hawick winners.