Hawick return to the top flight

Hawick 39 Dundee HSFP 38
What a difference a year makes.  In April 2012, Dundee were interested bystanders for a match at Meggetland which, if the result had gone their way, could have helped them take the RBS Premier 1 silverware.

Wind the clock forward to today and the script at the same ground had it that they were fighting for their lives among the elite in the RBS Premier/National League play-off against the runners-up in the National League, Hawick.

Eleven tries, three of the penalty variety, and two yellow cards later, it was the Borderers who were jubilant and who will be back in the top flight next year.

Quite how a team who were one of Scotland’s representatives in this season’s British & Irish Cup found themselves in the play-off is an interesting question, but there could be little debate that Hawick so thoroughly deserved their success today.

Hawick desire and ambition

From the off, their body language was positive and there was a tangible venom (and no shortage of ambition) in the way they went about their work.

If this game had simply been about technique you would have fancied Dundee to have taken the honours but it was about emotion, too, and Hawick had that in spades.

Orchestrating so much that was good about their play was their 25-year-old stand-off Rory Hutton, even weighing in with a try-saving tackle on Dundee back-row forward Richie McIver in the closing stages to add to the more expansive, attacking contributions he made.

“Every single one of the boys is lost for words right now,” he said as Greens supporters thronged the pitch at no-side.  “You see what it means to the club as a whole, the history, the support that comes to watch us. We’ve repaid their faith and we’re back in the Premier Division!”

Hawick had set the ball rolling with Hutton providing the scoring pass for winger Scott McLeod all after Keith Davies had latched on to a Hutton chip-ahead.

Strong Dundee scrum

Dundee levelled immediately, McIver rounding off sustained pressure by crashing over in the inside backs’ channel and, soon, scrum pressure from the Taysiders, which was to be a major feature of the game, saw Hawick concede a heel, McIver pick-up and Andy Dymock cross for a try which Jack Steele converted for a 12-5 lead after 19 minutes.

Back surged Hawick, opting for touchline rather than a penalty at goal and Hutton’s sweet miss-one pass saw Graham Hogg, older brother of Scotland’s Stuart, bulldoze in for a try on the 25th minute, which Ali Weir converted (12-12).

Hawick reaped the reward from another penalty to touch rather than goal as the recently introduced substitute Matt Landels, waded through the middle of a ruck for their third try, Weir again gaoling.

It was all Hawick at this juncture with Stuart Graham held up over the line by Harry Duthie but those defensive heroics only delayed Hawick’s fourth try as Hutton weaved his way home.  Weir’s conversion made it 26-12 to Hawick at the break.

Dundee’s scrum was the route to an initial salvage job and when Landels conceded a penalty in Hawick’s 22, scrum was the option and a penalty try to Dundee was the net result, Steele converting.

A grand break by McIver, Hawick slowing up ball at the breakdown to see McLeod yellow-carded, set up the position for penalty try number two – again from an advancing Dundee scrum that was thwarted illegally – and Steele’s conversion had matters all square, 26-all after 56 minutes.

Not for long though, as Hutton, ever-alert, capitalised on an intercept and released Davies for another Hawick try, Weir again converting. To a cry of “get ower” Hutton then notched a penalty from the Dundee 10-metre line to give Hawick a ten point cushion with 15 minutes remaining.

Dramatic finale

Game over?  Not a bit of it as Rory Scott was yellow-carded at a breakdown in the Hawick danger zone and that was the cue for Alan Brown to thunder in for Dundee’s fifth try, which was unconverted.

Full-back Weir, unheralded but landing kicks that were far from straight-forward, nudged Hawick further ahead with a 73rd minute penalty but Dundee roused themselves anew.  Hutton got under McIver’s surge for the try line but an attacking scrum for Dundee was once again derailed and Peter Allan signalled Dundee’s third penalty try, Steele converting for 38-39.

Hawick’s discipline was assured in the final acts and Dundee could not gain the territory to bring their setpiece into play.
It was a sad end for Ian Rankin, Dundee’s retiring director of rugby.  His successor, Colin Robertson, will now have to plot a recovery from the RBS National League.

Hawick: Ali Weir; Scott McLeod, John Coutts, Graham Hogg, Neil McColm; Rory Hutton, Greg Cottrell captain, Shawn Muir, Lindsey Gibson, Liam Launders, Nick Mactaggart, Kieran Willison, Stuart Graham, Rory Scott and Keith Davies.  Subs: Matt Landels, Hue Scammell, Barry Keown, Rory Smith, Bruce Campbell, Graeme Anderson and Danny Landels.

Dundee HSFP: Jamie Urquhart; Andy McLean, Harry Duthie, Robbie Lavery, Callum Bowie; Jack Steele, Andy Dymock; Neil Dymock captain, Darrel Russell, Alan Brown, Andy Redmayne, Chris Cumming, Danny Levison, Iain Wilson and Richie McIver.  Subs: Steve Longwell, Gav Robertson, Andy Linton, Hamish Livingstone, Ross Lemon and Owen Dyer.

Referee: Peter Allan  (Watsonians)