Hawick on top of rugby’s Scottish Premiership table after derby win against Selkirk
It was a combination of the Greens’ 36-8 derby win at home to Selkirk on Saturday and a 36-28 upset for previous table-toppers Marr at home to Musselburgh at the same time that saw the defending champions reclaim pole position and Douglas is hoping his side can now kick on from that surprise rise to the top nine games into the current campaign.
“It was a surprise, I’ll be honest, but I think it shows that everybody can beat everybody else in this league this season,” he said. “We’re only halfway into the season but to be sitting top is a nice feeling.
“After our disappointment at Marr, a lot of folk thought we’d be nowhere near that end of the table this year but we’ve worked hard and our win against Musselburgh when we had a lot of players missing looks like a good result now.
“We now just have to focus on ourselves and we’ve still got six games before Christmas and the ideal thing would be to just keep winning and keep up pressure on the top of the table.”
Selkirk are at the opposite end of the table, second from bottom, on 13 points, but for much of Saturday’s match at Mansfield Park there wasn’t much separating the two sides and the Souters even edged 8-7 in front at one point.
Yellow cards for Selkirk’s James Bett and Ben Pickles turned the tide in the hosts’ favour, however, and, assisted by the arrivals of Lee Armstrong and Dalton Redpath from the replacements’ bench, they went on to notch up a bonus-point win with a try to spare.
Morgan Tait at the double, Connor Sutherland, Kirk Ford and Andrew Mitchell scored tries for the hosts, with Ford adding a conversion and three penalties.
Andrew Grant-Suttie touched down Selkirk’s only try and Hugo Alderson kicked a penalty.
Looking back over Saturday’s win, Douglas said: “We started well and got a quick score but it probably turned into a typical Border derby for the next 50 minutes.
“Selkirk frustrated us and stuck in the game well and probably individual errors stopped us getting over the line more, but we had a lot of possession and once we got into our stride, we played some exceptional rugby in the last 12 minutes or so.
“The first yellow card they got was for a high shot on the touchline and there was bit of push and shove and that probably sparked us into life as we knuckled down after that. Obviously the yellow cards meant there was more space as well.
“Our bench made an impact too, the experience we brought on, and the boys dug in for the last 12 minutes.
“To score four tries in that time was really good but I want that over 60 or 70 minutes, not just 12 at the end.”
Douglas’s opposite number, Gordon Henderson, agreed that his side’s two yellows in the space of eight minutes were a turning point after keeping the Greens at bay up to then.
“For an hour, what we were trying to achieve was going to plan,” he said.
“We knew we were going to be under pressure against Hawick because they’re a good side. However, I thought we’d frustrated them and we’d kept possession intelligently, even if we rode our luck on a couple of occasions, and we went in 7-3 down at half-time and then scored a try not long after.
“We just needed to stick to the game-plan, which we did for another ten or 15 minutes, but then Hawick scored a really good try and then we got one yellow and then another yellow.
“That didn’t help us. The yellows had a big impact on the game. It’s hard enough to defend against Hawick with 15 players, never mind 13.
“They were two yellows that could have been avoided and they put us under a wee bit of pressure, but that’s rugby.
“On another day, it could have been a lot closer if things had gone our way.
“I can’t fault the guys’ work-rate and effort over the piece and I hope that they’ve learned that they can compete with the top sides for 80 minutes if they stick to the game-plan and we keep 15 players on the park.”
Hawick and Selkirk are both on the road this coming Saturday for games kicking off at 2pm.
New table-toppers Hawick are at seventh-placed Glasgow Hawks and second-from-bottom Selkirk are at Edinburgh’s Currie Chieftains.
The reverse fixtures were the Borderers’ first games of the season at the start of September, with the Greens beating the Glaswegians 27-12 at Mansfield Park but the Souters losing to fifth-placed Currie by 47-17.
Looking ahead to the weekend, Hawick head coach Matty Douglas said: “This Saturday will be tough.
“I think it’ll be one of our hardest games of the season.
“It’s going to be a massive battle at Balgray. It’s a tough place to go and win, and Hawks are in a better place now than they were at the start of the season.
“They’ve won their last few games and they’ll be looking to get one over us.
“We started well against Hawks at home but fell away in the last 15 minutes and didn’t get the bonus point.”
Selkirk head coach Gordon Henderson is also hoping to pick up points on the road, saying: “We can’t give them easy ins and allow them to attack us. We need to take our opportunities and stay in the game.
“We’re looking forward to it, and we’ve trained well.
“It’s another opportunity for us to keep building and we’re confident we can get something out of the game.
“The players are really keen to get back out there and not disheartened at all by losing at Hawick on Saturday.
“We’ve looked at that game, analysed it and now we’ve put a line under it and we move on. If you can’t do that, then you’re not going to go forward.”