Hawick eased themselves further into the safety zone of the BT Premiership after achieving their third successive championship win this year with a characterful victory over fellow relegation-threatened side Boroughmuir.
The match was billed as the relegation battle and in some minds the relegation decider. In the event Hawick took five points out of the match to underscore their fighting form, but whether it is enough to retain membership of the Premiership next season will depend on the results of the remaining games.
“I don’t think we’re going to get relegated. We have to keep jogging away and keep getting the odd point. We’ve done all we can do,” said the Hawick coach, George Graham, adding: “It’s been an absolute delight coaching these lads. When they work hard they get the results.”
Hawick had reason to feel confident with Edinburgh and Scotland flanker John Hardie in their ranks, making his return from a three-month suspension for “gross misconduct”. But in the event Hardie lasted only 13 minutes, a deep gash to his upper lip forcing him to retire and make an immediate journey north to West Lothian for what is understood to be plastic surgery.
In the end the loss of Hardie did not affect Hawick’s determination to achieve the win. The Greens’ ability to retain possession in the second half and the power of their scrum prior to half-time did the damage to a Boroughmuir side that had looked dangerous in the first half.
Hawick made a statement of intent from the kick-off with dogged forward play that earned a penalty and three points from the boot of Lee Armstrong. But Boroughmuir, playing off quick recycled ball, began to threaten and got their reward with a try under the posts from their mobile loosehead Dale Robertson. Bizarrely the conversion attempt by Chris Laidlaw was charged down by Hawick’s Dom Buckley.
Laidlaw quickly atoned with a penalty goal for an 8-3 advantage but in the final ten minutes of the first half Hawick’s powerful pack turned the screw to earn two penalty tries for a 17-8 half-time lead.
Boroughmuir, playing with the stiff breeze in the second half, ate into Hawick’s lead early in the second half with a try from a driven line-out by prop Tom Gracie, only for Hawick to reply in identical manner as McNeil forced himself over.
Then, after the game had gone to uncontested scrums, replacement hooker Fraser Renwick bundled over for the bonus point try but in the sixth minute of stoppage time lock Rob Ure scored for Boroughmuir, Kieran Whyte’s conversion earning the bonus point.