Despite the snow and ice, the pitch at Mansfield Park was in excellent condition for this BT Premiership game against Glasgow Hawks, thanks to the huge efforts of groundsman, Davy Cranston, on a weekend when many other games were postponed. Both sides needed a win today, Hawick to move off the bottom of the league, the visitors to cement their place in the top four play-off places.
The Greens were mindful of the beating they endured from Hawks earlier in the season, but recent form suggested that this was a different Hawick side. The home team were quickest into their stride with only 5 mins gone when Hutton put up an inch perfect kick to Darcy Graham on the wing who caught the ball on the full, pushed away the last defender and ran in the try, which Weir converted. Hawks were quick to respond and within 5 mins had evened the score from their captain, Spinks from a driving maul following a penalty and line-out. Horne added the extras.
The game settled into a tight contest with the bigger Hawks pack dominating the set pieces but the Hawick backs showing their pace and handling when they got a chance. Horne hit the post with a penalty attempt from the 22 metre line and, after a long spell of Hawks pressure, they scored their second try from another driving maul in the corner. Horne was unable to convert and the interval came with the visitors in front at 7-12, with the home support feeling that it could well have been worse.
The second half started with Hawks playing fluently as they drove upfield strongly making space for McGroarty to score an excellent try in the right corner, but again Horne could not add the points. To make matters worse, Hawick captain McNeil was yellow-card for an offence as the try was scored. However, Hawks seemed to let the home side back into the game, as the 14 men stopped the rot and gave nothing away while McNeill was off the field. Equality was restored when the touch judge drew the referees attention to an offence leading to the sin-binning of Hawks No 18, Flockhart, and the resultant penalty gave Weir the chance to narrow the deficient to 10-17, although he was just short with another long attempt 2 mins later.
The home side now produced one of their best spells of the season with 20 mins of sustained possession and pressure, encamped in the Hawks 22. The pressure eventually told when MOTM Darcy Graham produced a kick and chase that outpaced the defenders and brought the crowd to their feet as he touched the ball down inches from the dead-ball line for his second try. Ali Weir made no mistake and tied the score at 17 all, with less than 10 mins remaining. Although the visitors tried hard to get their forwards dominance going again, the Hawick pack worked wonders to produce a series of rucks on the Hawks line which eventually gave Shawn Muir a gap to go over for the third try. Ali Weir finished a crucial kicking display with another conversion and Hawick found themselves 24-17 in front.
Now it was the Greens turn to defend desperately as Hawks came at them continuously and Hawick captain McNeil fell foul of the new tackle laws as he was given a second yellow, and red card seconds from the end of the game. It was only after several plays in added time that the referee brought the Mansfield crowd to their feet when he blew for a critical Hawick victory at 24-17 and four precious league points.