Hawick’s season became a whole lot better last Saturday after the Greens torpedoed Heriot’s hopes of double honours with a gutsy win over the Goldenacre side to book their place in the final of the BT Cup.
As a consequence the Greens have been forced to change the date of the annual sevens tournament, now rescheduled for Sunday, May 10, making the Mansfield Park event the penultimate round in the Kings of the Sevens series.
Hawick’s win last Saturday means that they return to Murrayfield for the cup final after a gap of 13 years.
“There’s guys in that changing room that have never won a jot in the last 10 years,” stated Hawick’s player/coach Nikki Walker.
“We need to take that opportunity.”
While the end result will have pleased the Mansfield faithful, the game itself was a turgid display of limited rugby, dominated for vast periods by a heavier Heriot’s side that used their powerful forward pack as human bulldozers, but which in the end failed to dent what was a resolute defence.
Heriot’s will argue that the result was down to a decision seconds before full-time when at the end of a 10 minute siege on the Hawick line, centre Max Learmonth took the ball at pace and in the view of coach Phil Smith appeared to have grounded the ball.
Referee Graeme Wells was unsighted and, sadly for Heriot’s, so was his assistant, Stephen Ward, and with neither official unable to confirm proper grounding of the ball, the score was not awarded.
In other respects, too, television would have exposed some of the absurdities of the current laws. Take scrums for instance. The universal view is that scrums are now a means of winning penalties, not the ball. On Saturday, Heriot’s confirmed that nostrum with powerful scrummaging and a consequential string of sanctions against Hawick. But should scrum dominance result in a penalty or indeed, as happened, a yellow card?
The other aspect that is ruining rugby is the endless pick-and-go tactic as big forwards try to force their way over the line.
Those at Mansfield Park were tortured by an extreme display of this contemporary feature of the game, by Heriot’s, who for the final 10 minutes, played one-pass rugby ad nauseam. It was like watching Rugby League on black and white television 50 years ago. All it needed was for Eddie Waring to talk about an ‘early bath’.
Rugby League, however, had the good sense to change their laws and bring in the sixth tackle rule, which forced the whole game to be more creative. Union should perhaps take note.
If Heriot’s felt that fate was not on their side then that had already been suggested earlier in the game, first with a red card shown to stand-off Stuart Edwards for his ‘spear’ tackle on Rory Hutton, and then the loss of influential lock Russell Nimmo with an ankle injury.
Notwithstanding Heriot’s woes, Hawick were worth their win. Their defence in the face of Heriot’s forward bulk was nothing short of heroic and it was the Greens who produced the only real break of the match with Hutton’s trademark run.
But on a day when the wind, rain and a heavy pitch mitigated against running rugby, it was hardly surprising that the game was settled by penalty goals, two by Lee Armstrong for Hawick to Graham Wilson’s one for Heriot’s.
But in cup rugby, it’s about scoring more points than the opposition. The Greens did just that and are now set for a showdown with Boroughmuir on what will be a day out, but hopefully one not wasted, for Hawick fans at BT Murrayfield next month.