HAWICK shocked their derby opponents with an invigorating performance at Netherdale to end a run of ten successive defeats to Gala, who were left to suffer their sixth successive and dispiriting Premiership loss.
Gala 12-26 Hawick
Scorers: Gala – Tries: Palepoi, Howarth. Con: O’Hagan. Hawick – Tries: Walker (2), McLeod, Mactaggart. Pens: Douglas, Peffers.
The dynamic play of the Hawick pack and their aggressive and powerful back division enabled the visitors to add to their win over Ayr.
Victory saw Hawick close the gap on Gala in the challenge for a top-four place to one point, and new coach Nikki Walker and the players will possibly wish that there was not a break in the programme now – their next league clash is not until 10 January against Glasgow Hawks.
Former internationalist Walker and the players have instilled new hope in the Hawick side, which collected a bonus point just after the interval and ensured there was no late fight-back from Gala with a couple of crucial penalties.
Gala had struggled over the line with a last-kick win earlier in the season at Mansfield Park, but the Hawick recovery has seen the side play with exuberance, skill and confidence.
Walker scored two of the four Hawick tries, and they led 20-0 at the break. “It is nice to get on the scoreboard, but you always have a chance when the team is playing well,” Walker said. “The win has been a long time coming and we have been close all season.”
“We are working harder in games and grinding out results. 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. There were always going to be teething problems at the start, but the work ethic of the boys has been phenomenal. We had not beaten Gala for ten games, but we managed to turn that around.”
Gala 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. We have a lot of stuff in our armoury, but we did not use it.” Graham also revealed injuries to scrum half George Graham (ribs) and Gregor Mein (ankle).
Hawick missed all four conversion attempts, which could have made the final score even more embarrassing for Graham’s side, and Gala suffered more when captain Graham was sin-binned and the visitors added their third try.
Ruairi Howarth missed an early penalty before a crossfield move led to Scott McLeod scoring in the left-hand corner and, when Rory Hutton chipped into space, Walker was first to respond for his side’s second try.
With Graham yellow-carded, Hawick made the extra man count for Walker to power over the line.
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.
Gala battled hard to close the gap, but the Hawick defence, which was outstanding during the afternoon, weathered the storm until Opeta Palepoi scored 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 fight-back with ease, and they sealed victory with a Scott Peffers penalty to make the festive season even more enjoyable for their support.
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.