There was a certain sense of relief among the home fans at Mansfield Park as Hawick held off a late surge by Stirling to take the honours.
But while there was satisfaction in securing a four-try bonus point win, Hawick will question why they let Stirling come back from 19-3 down after 20 minutes to score 15 unanswered points.
Hawick perhaps tried to play too much rugby in their own half but the main weakness was their kicking game. “We were a bit loose with our kicking – it was straight down the throats of their back three,” said coach Nikki Walker. “The opportunities were there for us to score more tries and we could have been out of sight.”
Yet Hawick should not be castigated for attempting to play off-the-cuff rugby. It did produce three impressive first-half tries, all engineered by Rory Hutton, and finished by Lee Armstrong, John Coutts and Darcy Graham.
County responded with a driving maul try for Colin Hutton and a well-constructed second-half touchdown by Matt Lamb bringing the scores to 19-18. Armstrong then kicked a penalty and converted his own try to put Hawick in a winning position again only for Stirling to stage a late revival that resulted in a close-range try for No 8 Vaka Manu.
Scorers: Hawick – Tries: Armstrong (2), D Graham, Coutts. Cons: Armstrong (3). Pen: Armstrong. Stirling County – Tries: Hutton, Lamb, Manu. Cons: Hope (2). Pens: Hope (2).
Hawick: A Weir; D Graham, J Coutts, R Hutton, C Russell; L Armstrong, G Cottrell; S Muir, R Graham, N Little, F Simpson, C Charters, S Graham, R Scott, K Davies. Substitutes: L Graham, B McNeil, S Goodfellow, S Anderson.
Stirling County: J Hope; M Lamb, D Gilmour, N Grigg, D Tailkato-Simpson; S Treweek, A Black; C Hutton, R Kennedy, G Mountford, C Hunter-Hill, R Leishman, L Wynne, S MacDonald, V Manu. Substitutes: B Dineen, S Robertson, M Dewar, C Turnbull.
Referee: M Adamson.