McNeil expecting stern test at Poynder Park

Hawick vice-captain Bruce McNeil is taking nothing for granted
Hawick vice-captain Bruce McNeil is taking nothing for granted

Bruce McNeil is too honest to try to avoid suggestions that Hawick face a potential season-defining fixture at Poynder Park on Saturday but admits it is their sternest BT Cup test yet.

“You can’t downplay Saturday’s fixture and say it is just another game,” said the Hawick vice-captain as he and his team prepare to meet National Division One side Kelso in the Quarter-Finals of the BT Cup.

“We’re playing one of our Border rivals and no matter what position they might be in the league, we are still expecting a very hard, physically tough game, like all Border battles are.”

Hawick are the form team heading into Saturday’s tie. Should they secure victory at Poynder Park, the Robbie Dyes would have an outside chance at a possible treble titling winning season with the Border League and BT Premiership also still within reach.

McNeil, however, preferred not to look too far ahead to a possible Cup final, Premiership play-off race and Border League crown, rather focusing on Kelso who he suggested could cause Hawick serious problems.

“When you are playing at this stage of the Cup there are always a few thoughts running through your head that you are only a couple of wins away from playing at Murrayfield but the boys are switched on and focused on what’s at stake.

“We have surprised a few people this season after bringing in four new coaches and playing in a very different style from last year.

“To have a good chance in three competitions is great and a bit of a surprise but we are not looking beyond Kelso. They have a strong forward pack with a number of fiery backs who will punish us if we let them.”

“We know if we stick to our principles in attack and defence then we should have enough to secure victory and move one step closer to the big prize.”

If the deep rooted Border rivalries represent the most significant obstacle for Hawick in reaching a Cup Final for the first time since they were victorious 2002, McNeil also admits there’s pressure to reward the club’s patient supporters who have stuck by the team during some dreadful years.

“Our supporters have followed us through thick and thin, so to be as close as we are to possible silverware, we are really determined to give them something more to cheer about,” he added.

“It has been a while since we were last in this position and really want to make sure we finish what we started and show we are not a nearly-team but rather a side who can go all the way.”