Victory keeps Teries’ play-off hopes alive

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Stirling County15

Hawick22

It was not convincing by any stretch, but Hawick ultimately found a way of overcoming Stirling County at Bridgehaugh to keep their play-off hopes alive.

The Greens’ mission in the shadow of the Wallace Monument was to win and rack up as many tries, or more specifically points, as possible to maintain their improbable rise from relegation-threatened to title contenders.

Hawick, in the end, outplayed the home team, who demonstrated the increasingly unforgiving landscape of BT Premiership competition.

The Greens now sit fifth, just nine points adrift of fourth-placed Gala, with three games remaining until the post-season is decided. Had Hawick not had consistent dominance in the scrums and driving mauls, which yielded two tries, the home side could have easily snatched victory in the second period. Their positivity in the backs was complemented by the huge efforts from second-rows Ruaridh Leishman and Edward Howgate.

Given Howgate was playing in his first game since joining the club at the beginning of the month and Stirling were missing a number of first-choice stalwarts, there was considerable spirit in adversity from the home side, who kept the contest on a knife-edge until the final whistle.

In all, it was a claustrophobic affair, ruled by defensive lines and basic handling errors. The officiating did the contest no favours either, a total of 26 penalties doled out, and it did occasionally seem there was a lot of guesswork involved in the refereeing decisions, but there was nothing undeserved about Hawick’s win.

Two first half tries from John Coutts and Ross Graham – who showed a turn of pace not seen by a Greens hooker in a number of years – handed them a 12-8 half-time lead, before a stubborn Stirling rallied early in the second period.

The home side nudged in front 15-12 when scrum half Alex Black jinked his way through a slew of Teri defenders with a try inside the opening minute of the restart.

But defiant to the end, back came Hawick six minutes later, with a penalty from Renwick.

Then, the Greens’ powerful line-out and driving maul turned the screw again. Wullie Blacklock picked up loose ball and, using his considerable frame, crashed over from close range. Renwick’s conversion made it 22-15.

The remainder of the half became an exercise in tackle practice for Hawick as Stirling kept their foot on the throttle, but the Greens craftily manipulated the regulations to suit the game situation, draining the clock with pick-and-drives and slow ball movement to seal victory.