This Booker Border League match was the first of three meetings over six Saturdays between these two great rivals and the game turned out to be a typically entertaining Borders battle. The back story, of course, is that relegation threatens for one or both clubs and the outcome of the third encounter will be critical. That said, both teams approached this match with confidence.
The early exchanges were even with Gala’s Mein and Hawick’s Renwick exchanging penalties. Gala then went ahead after a wayward pass in the Hawick centre gave Combe a gift of a pick up and run in for a converted try. However, the visitors responded quickly with good pressure close to the line giving McIntosh the chance to drive over, with Renwick adding the extras.
Gala seemed to move up a gear at this point, as with the help of a second dropped pass, Combe repeated his earlier score and then, by the half-hour mark, Mein added another two penalties to put the home side 23-10 ahead. Gala looked much the better side at this point in the game, playing faster, more accurate rugby and it was against the run of play that Hawick managed a simple score in the corner from Ford after good running from the Greens backs. 23-15 at the interval was probably a fair reflection of the half!
Not for the first time this season, the interval seemed to galvanise the Greens with a penalty from Renwick, followed by a penalty scrum after good Hawick scrummaging, and a second excellent try in the corner from Ford saw the visitors in front 23-30 after only 7 minutes. In addition, the Gala flanker, Hunter, was yellow carded for a high tackle, leaving the Maroons looking much weaker than before the interval.
Gala’s woes continued as McNeil, who was in rampant form, scored near the posts after a succession of 5 metre scrums. Weir easily converted for a 23-37 lead. The tide turned a little when Greens winger Ford was sent to the sin-bin for a ruck offence and shortly afterwards the Gala pack drove to the line, where the referee confirmed the try converted by Mein. The ding-dong nature of the game continued as the Greens backs ran good lines with the ball reaching Darcy Graham on the wing who ran in easily for a converted try.
Once again, the home team responded with spirit, winning a turnover ball in mid-field, giving space for the Gala winger to score in the corner. This time Mein was unable to add the points, leaving Gala 35-44 adrift with 5 minutes on the clock. Despite the home sides best efforts to close the gap, it was Hawick who settled the result with a sparkling run past several defenders from Kyle Brunton for the last try, The reliable Weir made no mistake and the final whistle came with a welcome 35-51 win for the Greens.
Despite this encouraging result, the next two encounters, in the Cup and Premier League will be as tough as they come and the Greens will need as much support as possible at both games.