1st XV vs Hawick: Match Report
As I hung around the pitch end of the tunnel at Mansfield Park after the game on Saturday, waiting for the bus to head back to Edinburgh for the Ball, there unfolded a wee vignette that summed our day up nicely.
A Hawick player in civvies emerged from the tunnel and struck up a conversation with an older man standing nearby. I’ll not attempt the accents, but their conversation began something like this:
Older man: ‘That was a quick shower – you’ve only been away ten minutes!’
Player: ‘Aye, but it’s not like I got very dirty.’
Now the player might have been a sub, only on for the last few minutes of the game, but you suspect that few of the Hawick boys had to spend long in the shower after the game – unless they’d got their knees muddy dotting down one of those nine tries.
We just didn’t front up enough to make it a properly ‘dirty’ game for them, in terms of getting them down in the Mansfield Park glaur and getting the ball off them.
Throughout the game, missed or half-hearted tackles led to Hawick players making 5 yards when they should only have made 1 at best. And, after making those 5 yards, they would invariably offload to one of several supporting team mates, and the whole process would be repeated.
I’ll not go into the details of the nine Hawick tries, mainly because I lack Gav Calder’s photographic memory and encyclopaedic knowledge of the Borders rugby scene – the masochistic among you can read all about them on the Hawick website here.
Suffice it to say that most of the Hawick tries were good ones, scored through crisp handling, rapid decision making and incisive running angles. The sort of tries you’d see at the average Sevens tournament, in fact – not a lot of contact involved.
Our single try of the first half, scored on 23 minutes, was more of a functional affair, the pack bundling Chris Damsteegt over by the corner flag at the far end of the stand. Mike Hanning converted well from wide out to make the score 12-7. ‘A nice try through the forrits’, as a local OAP put it while trying to console me later in the game.
Hawick ran in two further tries before the interval, one up the left hand touchline with a hint of offside about it and another up the right hand side that may have involved a forward pass. You couldn’t, in any case, really grudge them their 24-7 lead at the interval.
After what can only be described as a Brucie Bollocking at half time, we appeared to have a bit more purpose about us, and were thrown something of a lifeline when diminutive Hawick centre Gary Johnstone was yellow carded for a deliberate knock on 7 minutes into the half.
Marsh duly made the most of the space in front of him by running in two fine tries in the next 10 minutes, waltzing in under the posts on both occasions with barely a finger laid upon him. Mike Hanning converted both to take the score to 31-21 – was yet another Great Escape on the cards for the men in red, black and gold?
Er, no! The next Hawick try, scored from close range by one of their forwards, seemed to involve a fairly blatant knock on, but, just to stop us trotting out the ‘We wuz robbed!’ line, the Green Machine ran in another three perfectly fine tries thereafter. It was 55-21 at the final whistle, which most of the tour party were very relieved to hear.
Bruce trotted on to advise the players that they’d all be getting a copy of the match video to show them the error of their ways, Colin dressed up like a Hawick Ultra (don’t ask) and we headed to the bar for a very sheepish pint.
No complaints, then – we tackled badly, passed and handled like we had frostbite and (worst of all) seemed incapable of retaining the ball at the breakdown. That wasn’t due to the Hawick boys practising the usual Borders dark arts when the ball is on the deck, either – the ball just seemed to squirt out every time we were tackled and a ruck formed!
There were still positives, though. Marsh took his tries well, and stuck well to the ‘don’t kick the ball out’ directive that he had, apparently, been asked to follow. Dave Hampton carried the ball well and was his usual chatty self when it came to organising the defenders in front of him – though even he seemed to tire of pointing out the massive gaps through which pacy Hawick backs were about to explode.
In the pack, Chris Damsteegt continues to look like a man who knows his ‘footy’, rampaging about the park and generally making a nuisance of himself. Niall Shannon made more telling runs on Saturday, and the lineout (though scrappy) functioned reasonably well. Blair Tweedie, making a rare appearance in the second row after MoMo called off due to a family bereavement, did his best to steady the troops in the absence of the iconic Captain Brewster. Sangy was a nuisance, as ever, while Phil Cringle continues to display the passing abilities of a 10 – watch your back, Mike!
Rory Cook also came on for a cameo role in the last ten minutes of the game, and did nothing wrong in that time – definitely one for the future, and another welcome option at 9.
We’re off to Hughenden this Saturday to play a Hillhead Jordanhill side that sit just 4 points above us in the league. We’re also due them some payback after sleepwalking our way to that 36-14 defeat at Inverleith on the second Saturday of the season. I’m sure that the players will spend the week training hard and poring over those copies of the match video – we’ll find out on Saturday whether the many, many learning points to be taken from our Hawick Horrorshow have had the desired effect.
Lyndon Davies (South Wales U13 Boy Soprano Champion)
‘Only the good work of Chris Damsteegt saved us from utter humiliation. Their 9 and 10 oblit-er-ated our defence’.