HAWICK ended a run of successive defeats at the hands of Gala with a convincing win at Netherdale and collected a bonus point as well on a cold afternoon which produced a lot of good rugby from the visitors.
Gala had struggled over the line with a last-kick win earlier in the season at Mansfield Park, but the Hawick recovery, under new coach Nikki Walker, has been remarkable and now they sit only one point behind their local rivals as they challenge for a top-four place.
Walker scored two of the four Hawick tries, and although they had to be content with only two penalties after the break, when they led 20-0, Gala never looked like catching their opponents and penalties from Matty Douglas and Scott Peffers kept the winners out of reach.
“The win has been a long time coming and we have been close all season,” said Walker. “We are working harder in games and doing the simple things well. The players have come on in the last six months and two wins [over Ayr and Gala] were massive for us.
“It shows that we can compete with the big boys, but we are very competitive and [have] begun to show a bit of consistency.”
Gala, who have now lost six league games in a row, admitted that Hawick were the better team. “We are massively disappointed with the manner of the defeat. We were well beaten,” said coach George Graham.
“We did nothing that caused Hawick any problems. We have plenty in our locker, but we are not bringing it out.”
The Hawick pack dominated, disrupting the Gala forwards, and forcing the two penalties which ensured there was no way back for the home side. They played with grit and fire and restricted Gala to two second-half tries as the game ebbed away from them.
Hawick missed all four conversion attempts, which would have made the final score even more embarrassing for Graham’s side, and Gala suffered even more when captain George Graham was sin-binned and the visitors added their third try.
Ruairi Howarth was wide with a penalty for Gala, but the Maroons were soon on the back foot as Hawick led the charge with Walker and Bruce McNeil – voted man of the match – dominant, and a swift move in the midfield led to Scott McLeod scoring in the left-hand corner.
Hawick had set the pace and when Rory Hutton chipped into space, Walker was first to respond for his side’s second try as he beat the defence to score in the opposite corner. Gala were soon in more trouble when Graham was yellow-carded and Hawick made the extra man count for Walker to power over the line, but again Hutton missed the conversion.
Howarth pulled a second penalty wide as the home side hit back, and Gala came closest to scoring in injury time, but were held up over the line under the posts.
Hawick were back in the driving seat after half time when Nick Mactaggart dived over the line for the bonus-point try and Hutton’s conversion hit the post.
Gala battled hard to close the gap, but the Hawick defence, which was outstanding during the afternoon, stood firm and weathered the storm until, with 20 minutes left, Opeta Palepoi scored to break Gala’s duck and David O’Hagan converted. Matty Douglas stretched the lead with a penalty before Howarth scored a try to give Gala only an outside chance.
Hawick, however, were in control, stalling any Gala fightback with ease, and sealed victory with a Scott Peffers penalty with Hutton off the field.
There were to be no Christmas celebrations for the home side as the clubs go into the festive break. “It was all about getting into that winning mentality. We have started to come together and get over the line and that give us the confidence to go on and win matches,” said Walker.
Scorers: Gala: Tries: Palepoi, Howarth. Con: O’Hagan. Hawick: Tries: Walker (2), McLeod, Mactaggart. Pens: Douglas, Peffers.
Gala: R Howarth; K Young, G Mein, A Emond, L Young; D. O’Hagan, George Graham; L Bertram, R Anderson, C Mackintosh, C Weir, O Palepoi, E Dods, T Weir, S Wilkinson. Subs: G Robertson, E Johnstone, K Mein, G Speirs, G Somerville.
Hawick: S Peffers; N Walker, J Coutts, J Dominguez, S McLeod; R Hutton, G Cottrell; S Muir, R Graham, M Landels, M McKee, B McNeil, N Mactaggart, M Robertson, R Gibson. Subs: L Gibson, W Blacklock, K Davies, S Goodfellow, M Douglas.
Referee: G Wells.