Vital clash may signal top-flight safety or drop zone play-off

Hawick's talismanic skipper, Bruce McNeil (picture by Bill McBurnie).
Hawick's talismanic skipper, Bruce McNeil (picture by Bill McBurnie).

Win and your BT Premiership status is all but secure. It’s that simple, as Hawick and Boroughmuir prepare to square off in a de facto relegation play-off showdown.

If this were any other season, Hawick might already be done for.

The Robbie Dyes looked dead in the water two months ago, sitting bottom of the Premiership table without a win and were shipping 60 points to relegation rivals.

Given that no team in Premiership history who had lost more than 11 games in succession had avoided relegation, captain Bruce McNeil called their situation “dire and not looking that great” at the time.

But this isn’t any other season – not with so many upsets and a continual swapping of teams in relegation trouble.

Four straight victories, following 10 successive defeats, have Hawick closing in on the mid-table pack, setting the stage for Saturday’s decisive showdown at Mansfield Park.

The winner will take one step closer to relegation survival while the loser will face the stark reality of a probable relegation play-off place against the BT National divisional runner-up to save their Premiership status.

“It’s a ten-pointer for sure this weekend. It’s a massive game,” said McNeil. “Hawick have been no stranger to games like these in recent years. With the relegation play-off last season and a number of games over the years where we’ve had our backs against the wall and needing to win. Generally, we have faced those games well and come out on top, and the hope is we can do the same on Saturday.”

In the previous meeting between the sides, Hawick shipped 60 points in a demoralising defeat, leading to the exit of then head coach Darren Cunningham and concession from many at Mansfield Park that the Greens were in relegation trouble. McNeil is calling on his side to remember that feeling and channel it into this weekend’s match-up.

The area’s other BT Premiership team, Melrose, travel to Marr, hoping to halt a run of two straight defeats and get their first win of 2018.