If THERE has been a post-referendum excitement vacuum then Gala did their best to fill the void by snatching victory from Hawick with a drop goal by full-back Craig Dods in the sixth minute of injury time that keeps the Maroons top of the BT Premiership table.
Gala appeared to be cruising to a comfortable win when they led 17-3 after 25 minutes but thereafter their performance unravelled inexplicably leaving the terrier-like Teries catching the scent of victory and the visitors’ coach, George Graham, decidedly unamused.
“I’m absolutely bubbling over with anger,” Graham said. “That is the worst performance I’ve ever had. We got out of jail here. The way we played in the first 20 to 30 minutes we were 40 points better. But we just shut down, stopped playing and did everything I asked the players not to do.
“Hawick are a massively improved team and at the end we were lucky to get away with it. We need to be a lot better and we need to be a lot more disciplined. I feel we could have put a barrel-load of points past Hawick today but we just stopped playing in the second half. It will go down in the history books as a win but for me, I’m bitterly, bitterly disappointed.”
The Greens at least took a bonus point from the game but they will reflect on a passionate performance that came so close to producing a win. It was a performance characterised by committed tackling and at times the ability to play off-the-cuff rugby. Where Hawick suffered was in the set piece against a Gala pack that will be wondering why they did not make more of their superiority.
Hawick’s other Achilles’ heel yesterday was their kicking from hand that at times failed in its intention of territorial gains and merely resulted in handing Gala the ball. And with Gala’s ability to keep the ball for extended periods, the game became ever more difficult for Hawick.
Gala’s powerful start brought an immediate reward with a try by No.8 Euan Dods from a pass out of the tackle by Alan Emond. Cousin Craig Dods added the conversion points, but Hawick hit back with a Matthew Douglas penalty goal.
Then with a try in the corner by Craig Dods from excellent handling followed closely by a lineout drive by the Maroons’ heavy brigade that gave prop Luke Pettie the honours, Gala, at 17-3 ahead, were looking runaway winners. Perception is not always reality as Hawick confirmed with a try from short range by hooker Lindsay Gibson and then a second penalty goal by Douglas to trail by just six points at half time.
A penalty by Craig Dods just after the break eased the pressure on Gala but then Hawick, using the touchline to gain territory and beginning to express their talents, scored a gem of a try from skilful handling and huge cut-out pass by lock Mikey McKee that gave winger Scott McLeod just enough room to slide in at the corner to take the score to 16-20.
Game on, as they say. Hawick by now were growing in confidence and after Lee Armstrong and McLeod had combined on the left flank the ball was moved right for scrum-half Greg Cottrell to pick his way through a chink in Gala’s defence for the score that put the Greens into the lead for the first time in the game.
The Hawick fans then had to endure an agonising final five minutes as Gala regrouped and opted for a better together approach in the forwards that allowed them to keep the ball, advance slowly upfield and finally deliver the winning drop goal to bring a loud “Yes” from the visitors’ camp.
Scorers: Hawick: Tries: Graham, McLeod, Cottrell. Pens: Douglas 2. Gala: Tries: E Dods, C Dods, Pettie. Cons: C Dods. Pens: C Dods. Drop goal: C Dods.
Hawick: L Armstrong; S Peffers, N Walker, G Johnstone, S McLeod; M Douglas, G Cottrell; S Muir, L Gibson, M Landels, M McKee, F Simpson, B McNeil, R Scott, K Davies Subs: R Graham, N McLennan, S Graham, S Goodfellow.
Gala: C Dods; G Somerville, E Scott, A Emond, G Young; D O’Hagan, George Graham; L Pettie, R Anderson, C Mackintosh, C Weir, O Palepoi, G Graham, S Cairns, E Dods. Subs: G Robertson, J Irvine, T Weir, R Jeffries, K Young.
Referee: G Wells.