Report: George Thomson at Philiphaugh
AFTER eight long weeks of enforced inactivity,
rugby eventually returned to a wild, wet and windy Philiphaugh on Saturday. Hawick were the "first footers"
of 2011 in the rearranged Premier Cup fixture and despite the atrocious conditions both teams were relieved just
to get back to playing competitive rugby once again.
The game started at a frantic pace with Hawick enjoying the elements in their favour for the first half. Selkirk
were a bit rusty and early periods of possession were squandered with handling errors.
A neat touch kick into the Selkirk 22 by fly half Rory Hutton spurred the visitors into action and after five minutes
a series of drives by the Hawick pack ended with ex-professional and wily campaigner Bruce McNeil using his strength
to barge over for a try from short range. Hutton converted from nearly in front of the posts with the rain driving
down. Hawick were definitely in the ascendancy and Selkirk appeared to be lacklustre during the first quarter.
However, Simon Willett was making his presence felt for the Souters with some useful work at the lineouts and skipper
Fraser Harkness, operating at centre, looked hungry for action. Indiscipline resulted in a penalty to Hawick and
Hutton chose to kick to the corner to set up another dangerous attacking position. Selkirk defended well from the
ensuing lineout, but the Greens were about to pounce in the shape of that man Hutton, the talented No.10, surprisingly
released by Edinburgh at the end of last season. From a seemingly innocuous position, Hutton set off on a curving
run round the back of the Selkirk pack before spotting enough of a gap to scythe through for a fine solo try. The
conversion was missed but Hawick had opened up a useful 12 points lead at the end of the first quarter. Under the
difficult circumstances the game was turning into a battle of the forwards and Hawick were making more of their
possession. On the half hour mark Selkirk almost scored after an exciting attacking move down the left flank. However,
Hawick defended well and when Selkirk were penalised for an offside offence, the danger was snuffed out with a
clearing kick to touch. In the 33rd minute the defining moment of the game came in the shape of a penalty try awarded
to the visitors. Selkirk had been penalised for an infringement in front of the posts and the referee controversially
moved the penalty forward by 10 metres and signalled a penalty try following the resultant scrum. When Hutton easily
converted, the deficit had suddenly become 19 points and Hawick had a more comfortable lead as half-time arrived.
Early second half pressure from Selkirk was rewarded by a successful penalty from the boot of Scott Hendrie and
the same player came agonisingly close with another opportunity a few minutes later. Although the Souters were
creating numerous chances and playing with much more determination, handling errors and sound Hawick defensive
work meant that the lead was too much to overcome Hendrie narrowed the gap to 6-19 with another penalty kick and
the Selkirk forwards came close on several occasions. Hawick also had their moments where the Souters had to dig
deep with defensive chores. The last 10 minutes were played in gathering gloom with a flurry of yellow cards being
dished out. McNeil and David Lowrie were sin-binned for the visitors and prop Matt Weller for Selkirk. Hawick were
deserved winners but Selkirk can take consolation in a positive second-half performance. Both teams served up a
barrow load of effort despite the dreadful weather.
Hawick are now firm favourites to progress to the Cup quarter final stages and it is much too early to write off
Selkirk's chances of survival in the top flight. That crucial ingredient called "confidence" would make
all the difference!