This was the match that two of the oldest rivals in Scottish rugby had been dreading, the match to decide Premiership relegation and at the end of a dour struggle in unappetising muddy conditions it was Gala who got the thumbs down from fate.
In theory Gala, who still have to play Boroughmuir, still have a chance of surviving automatic relegation but they would have to beat the Meggetland men with a bonus point and by a massive margin of points, and the chances of this happening would be of Lottery-winning proportions. And all of that would be predicated on Boroughmuir losing to Currie without gaining a bonus point. (Yesterday’s Boroughmuir-Currie fixture was rained off).
“That’s curtains now,” conceded Gala’s president Graham Low. “It wasn’t just today but more about what happened earlier in the season. We now have to be thinking about next season.”
Gala at least went out having put up a fight against Hawick. In fact, there was very little between the teams and only a moment of bad judgment cost the Maroons a bonus point.
For Hawick, of course, there was a mix of relief and elation, albeit that the Greens may have to face a relegation play-off against the second top finisher in the National League One. But yesterday their focus was on scoring more points than their opponents, their objective achieved by a performance of non-stop tackling laced with moments of inspiration with ball in hand.
“I though our defence was magnificent in our own 22 metre area. We didn’t allow them to play. We dug in when we were down to thirteen men at one point,” said Hawick’s assistant coach, Scott McLeod. “There was really nothing between the two teams.”
In fact Hawick had to survive three yellow cards shown to scrum half Bruce Campbell, skipper Bruce McNeil, pictured, and flanker Stuart Graham, the latter after a collision with Gala’s Gregor Hunter that forced the Maroons’ stand-off to retire at the end of the third quarter.
In a monumental struggle on an alien surface, it was little surprise that all the first-half points came from penalty goals, three for Hawick by Ali Weir and two for Gala by Hunter.
It looked as though the game might have ended without further scoring until Hawick bagged the only try of the match after Gala spilled a pass while trying to move the ball wide, allowing replacement Kyle Brunton to scoop up the ball and dive over for the score.
Full-back Lee Armstrong kicked the conversion to give Hawick a ten-point lead. Gala tried desperately to score in the final ten minutes but fate already had their destiny determined.