Hawick YM 29
RBS CHAMPIONSHIP LEAGUE B
STUART CAMERON reports from The Gytes
THIS eagerly-awaited match-up exploded into action after a lukewarm start, treating spectators to nine tries and 61 points.
The teams last met in 1979 in the District Union competition – and 33 years later they had the opportunity to face each other again. The ingredients were all in place – YM had been promoted last year from the old National League and Peebles were relegated from the premier. Just over a decade ago, the two clubs were leagues apart, but this season they faced each other.
YM had overtaken Duns, Berwick and Langholm in the pecking order of Borders rugby and Peebles were in their sights.
The first half hour belonged to the homesters, however.
They deserved their 14-0 lead as they dominated proceedings early on. It was an uncharacteristic display from the Redskins and Peebles scored tries from Kenny Clyde and Martin Cruickshank, both converted by young fly half Greg Raeburn.
The first score came from one of many breaks by James Hemara, who gave the best defence in the Borders a severe test. It was a joy to watch the Kiwi in action. He is a class act – but so is Hawick YM’s John Coutts. To see two centres of Premiership quality playing in the Championship league was a treat.
Cruickshank is a lad who impressed me last season for his fearless attacking style of rugby and I predict he will soon be moving up through the ranks. His confidence has grown and his exciting play was rewarded with a try on 28 minutes. It was all going well for Peebles, but the one black moment for them was the loss of skipper Dale Clancy with a bad leg injury.
On the half-hour mark, YM finally got points on the board – and they sprung into action thanks to a penalty kick to touch.
They won the line-out, the ball was tapped down to Wullie Blacklock, who took several defenders over the line with him as he touched down. Coutts converted expertly.
Hemara caused more havoc before the break. He paved the way for Warren Kearney to dot the ball down, with Raeburn goaling the extras and then kicking a penalty to give Peebles a healthy 24-7 advantage at the turn.
The Redskins didn’t need a tongue-lashing from the coaches at the interval – they knew they had under-performed – but they got one anyway.
And it was a different team that ran out for the second half. The inspiration came from Coutts, who ran in a second-half hat-trick, including two in the space of four minutes before the hour, one of which was converted by Ali Weir.
The comeback was on, but Hemara stemmed the tide with a remarkable solo try from inside his own half, wrong-footing Billy Lilly and Weir before touching down for one of the scores of the season. Another Raeburn penalty made it 32-19 and the game looked won, but late tries from Garry Douglas and Coutts – to complete a remarkable hat-trick – got the visitors to within three points and ensured they went away with two bonus points.
Peebles were by far the more disciplined of the two sides, and if Raeburn had kicked all his penalties we could have seen a rout.
Despite winning the try count 5-4, YM boss Jammy McFarlane said afterwards: “Peebles deserved to win. Our lack of discipline let us down badly and ultimately that was our undoing.”
Peebles hooker Ryan McConnell praised his team’s defensive display: “We couldn’t ask much more from the boys. Our backs have a lot of pace out wide and as long as we can keep our set-piece going well we can stretch teams.”
z Match highlights are on Borders Rugby TV at www.BordersRugby.net
Peebles: M. Cruickshank; N. Hogarth, J. Hemara, C. Scott, D. Anderson; G. Raeburn, D. Clancy; A. Brown, R. McConnell, R. Milne, S. Irvine, K. Clyde, McCann, A. Warnock, W. Kearney. Subs: P. Stewart, M. Carryer, G. Hogarth, D. Wills.
Hawick YM: A. Weir; M Graham, J Coutts, G Kellington, G Wylie; D McCracken, B Campbell; B Lilly, G Douglas, A Turnbull, S Mabon, R McLeod, D Lowrie, S Hill, R Hogg. Subs: W Blacklock, B Thomson, J Farmer, S Potts.