Outnumbered Hawick hold out to do double against Kelso in rugby’s Scottish Premiership
It was a far cry from the Greens’ 61-7 demolition of the Poynder Park side at home at Mansfield Park in mid-September but their Borders rivals have found their feet in the top flight since then following their promotion as Scottish National League Division 1 at the end of last season.
It also didn’t help the visitors’ cause that they left themselves short-handed while defending a six-point lead after scrum-half Gareth Welsh was sin-binned by referee Calum Worsley on 54 minutes and hooker Ross Graham was red-carded four minutes later.
Head coach Matty Douglas’s Greens didn’t have a monopoly on indiscipline, however, as home player-coach, and former Hawick captain, Bruce McNeil was yellow-carded for a high tackle with just minutes on the clock and his skipper Frankie Robson also took an enforced ten-minute time-out as the final whistle neared.
It’s the numbers on the scoreboard, rather than on the pitch, that count, though, and they went the defending champions’ way as they notched up their 11th win in 12 fixtures this season, by 28-20.
That keeps them at the top of the table, now on 51 points, four clear of second-placed Marr, ahead of a visit from fourth-placed Edinburgh Academical this coming Saturday, with kick-off at 3pm.
Kelso are seventh, with 30 points from a dozen fixtures, prior to a trip to Glasgow Hawks this Saturday for a game kicking off at 2pm.
Both sets of Borderers won the reverse fixtures in September, Hawick by 20-15 in the capital and Kelso by 29-14 at Poynder Park.
Hawick captain Shawn Muir scored two of their tries at the weekend, with centre Andrew Mitchell also touching down at the double and Kirk Ford converting all four.
Terry Logan, Grant Shiells and Euan Knox scored the hosts’ tries, with Dwain Patterson adding a conversion and a penalty.
Muir was delighted to pick up five poits at Kelso, telling Borders Rugby TV: “It’s a tough place, Poynder. I’d not played here for a few years but from what I remember, it’s just the same – the crowd are on top of you and they’re a stuffy side. It’s a brilliant five points for us.
“If I’m honest, Kelso have probably learned a bit about the premiership since we last played them and they’ve got experienced boys in there like Bruce McNeil and Grant Shiells, so they made it tough for us.
“I can’t fault our boys. We were down to 13 men at one stage and played the last quarter with 14, and the boys were outstanding.
“Our defence and the way we shut the game out was perfect.”
McNeil wasn’t the only ex-Green going up against his old club, tighthead prop Logan being another, and he told the Offside Line: “At Mansfield earlier in the season, the boys were a bit shell-shocked and scared to try things against the reigning champions and we played within our shells there, but today we came out and played and fronted up very well in defence.
“Our downside was letting them have easy outs with too many penalties, especially in their 22, but credit to Hawick, they dug in and played in the right areas.
“We can’t fault our boys because that was a big performance and we put everything in, and we could have won it, but it shows how much we’re improving when we’re gutted not to beat the champions and we finish within eight points.
“We just need to take confidence from this and push on next week now.”