Hawick defy the odds with demolition job on Melrose

Hawick delivered on a day when nothing else would do against the would-be Premiership champions (picture by Alwyn Johnston).
Hawick delivered on a day when nothing else would do against the would-be Premiership champions (picture by Alwyn Johnston).

Hawick 38, Melrose 3

Hawick complete the great escape, avoiding relegation from the BT Premiership with a dominating performance over Melrose at Mansfield Park Saturday.

After weeks of talk on what Hawick needed to do to avoid automatic relegation, and a second consecutive trip to the relegation playoffs, the Greens grasped hold of their Premiership lives in blizzard-like conditions on Saturday and put in a performance worthy of a place in Mansfield Park lore.

“A big relief. Once we got that fourth bonus point, we knew we were safe and started to enjoy ourselves,” a delighted Hawick club captain, Bruce McNeil said post-match.

If the early portion of Hawick’s 2018 Premiership season is seen as a complete catastrophe, illustrating all that was wrong with the club, their reinvention under head coach George Graham is one of perfection.

The Robbie Dyes managed to turn around a 10-game winless run with a cup-style of play – while Melrose registered 10 straight bonus-poitn victories – conjuring up one-off performances of the calibre that made people wonder why they could not do this more often.

In the season finale Saturday, Hawick hosted a Melrose side depleted by the club XV international and players on Six Nations duty with Scotland under 20s, but head coach Rob Chrystie still managed to field an experienced squad. Melrsoe lost their opeing two games in the second half of the season, at the turn of 2018, but had recently recpatured the sort of consistent winning form that had shot them to the league summit.

There was little surprise neither side managed to sustain much in the way of attacking rugby during the opening half. Neither mastered the wind nor the intermittent snowfall.

Jason Baggott did eventually infuse the game with some points, converting a penalty to hand Melrose 3-0 lead after 10 minutes.

Falling behind early seemed to be the spark that ignited the Greens into action. Knowing a bonus-point victory would guarantee Premiership safety, Hawick scored the next 38-points to put to rest any thoughts of possible relegation into BT National Division One.

Edinburgh professional Allan Dell started the six-try scoring run four minutes before the half time interval, handing Hawick a 5-3 midway advantage.

Tries from Greg Cottrell, Nickly Little, a second from Dell, McNeil and ex-Kelso captain Dom Buckley, with Lee Armstrong adding three conversions and retiring Matt Landles with another, completed the rout after the break, ensuring the Borders would have two representatives in the Premiership next season.

“There was a lot of celebrating post-match – not that we should be celebrating avoiding relegation, as we should be annoyed we were in this position in the first place,” continued McNeil.

““Where we were before Christmas, there wasn’t much hope for us. So to get to where we are now, it’s impressive and says just so much about how hard the coaches, the club and the players have worked.

“We knew Melrose were coming with a bit of a short-handed squad, given they lost so many players to the Club XX international and Scotland U20s. But they were still Melrose and had plenty of guys more than capable of stepping up.”

Melrose are now focusing on a crucial home semi-final in their quest to sew up the BT Premiership title, having toppeed the table for the whole season.

Watsonians are the visitors to the Greenyards this Saturday, while Currie Chieftains play Ayr in the other semi.

Hawick: D. Graham; G. Munro, K. Davies, D. Buckley, R. Combe; L. Armstrong, G. Cottrell; A. Dell,M. Carryer, N. Little, C. Hamilton, D. Redpath, R. Gibson, S. Graham, B. McNeil. Substitutes: F. Renwick, M. Landels, S. Muir, S. Fairbairn, A. Weir.

Melrose: A. Lockington; T. Klein, P. Anderson, G. Wood, R. McCann; J. Baggott, B. Colvine; D. Elkington, R. Ferguson, R. McLeod, A. Welsh, A. Runciman, A. Grieve, R. Knott, R. Campbell. Substitutes: B. McLean, J. Dobbie, T. Brown, S. Hutchison, A. Hall.

Scorers – Hawick: Tries: Dell (2), McNeil, Little, Cottrell, Buckley. Cons: Armstrong (3), Landels.

Melrose: Pen: Baggott.