Sunday, 13 March 2016
Hawick 10 Ayr 26
It is a truth universally acknowledged that should the Borders ever be plunged into a drought of Saharan conditions, the pitch at Mansfield Park would still be soggy.
Even with a few weeks' break whilst Hawick decamped to Netherdale it was still muddy on Saturday for the greens' last game of the season against Ayr.
Both sides attempted running rugby in the initial stages, with Ayr winger Haddon McPherson, flanker Blair Macpherson and Hawick stand-off Rory Hutton giving it a go.
A couple of penalties and a few fumbles by both sides - the first of many - followed before Ayr worked their way into Hawick's half. A steady line-out thanks to hooker David Young and second row Rob McAlpine, both of whom were on reliable form all day, launched a textbook drive and flanker Will Bordill crashed over for a try. Centre and captain Ross Curle converted. 0-7.
It was a busy afternoon for Bordill as he was as sturdy in defence as attack, as was winger Craig Gossman and scrum-half Ali Price.
Hawick got on the score board thanks to a Lee Armstrong penalty. 3-7.
It was a bad tempered match at times and a beautiful take in the air by full-back Grant Anderson came to nothing as proceedings were halted when a scuffle broke out.
Anderson had another go shortly after when a lovely flick pass by stand-off David Armstrong to Curle got Ayr into Hawick's twenty-two. The move was carried on by prop George Hunter before some poaching at the line-out by McAlpine and deft touches in attack by centre Archie Russell.
But these were fleeting moments of excitement as play got messy and there was an interminably dull period of pointless kicks.
More indiscipline marred things, with flanker Macpherson and second row Andrew Dunlop targeted off the ball and winger McPherson penalised for back chat.
Hawick took the initiative and their number eight Stuart Graham was off as fast as he could go in the increasingly churned up turf. The soft ground was no problem for stand-off Rory Hutton as he sprinted away for a try under the posts, converted by Armstrong. 10-7.
The home team were almost away again but some hefty tackles by Ayr's Armstrong and prop Javan Sebastian stopped them.
More frantic, loose play followed, with breaks by Russell and Price, a chip by Macpherson and an interception by Dunlop but there were as many errors.
It looked like Ayr would never get into gear properly until Curle flew under the posts for a try that he converted himself just on half-time. 10-14.
There were personnel changes for the visitors at the resumption, as Lee Scott and D'arcy Rae replaced the injured Dunlop and Sebastian respectively.
Hawick were getting close to scoring but there was stellar defensive work by Gossman, Armstrong, Curle and Anderson.
They were called upon again when Hawick's Armstrong, second row and captain Bruce McNeil and full-back Kirk Ford pressed for the line.
Ayr managed to turn defence into attack and a great break by Armstrong preceded another lovely pass to Russell. He couldn't get to the whitewash but Ayr did get a penalty. As they were going for the score, Hawick replacement Terry Skeet committed a professional foul and found himself in the sin bin.
Moments later and Ayr's number eight Pete McCallum scored from the back of a scrum. It was a conversion attempt from a wide angle and Curle did extremely well to get it, especially after some heckling by a gentleman in the crowd during his run-up. 10-21.
Scott, Bordill and Craig Stevenson (on for Macpherson) displayed good handling but it all descended into needless antagonism. This time there was no ticking off by the referee but a red card for McPherson.
Ayr got their heads down and worked hard to get out of their own half. But shirt pulling and silly shoving ensued, again in the same part of the pitch as the other incidents, like the Bermuda Triangle of Mansfield Park.
Despite the man advantage, with Skeet back on, Hawick couldn't get anywhere. There were knocks-on galore by both sides.
Brian Kelly made his debut for Ayr, replacing Bordill, getting straight into action at the line-out, with the visitors poaching again. McCallum barged his way through defenders and McAlpine showed some gas.
Another line-out followed after a high tackle by Hawick and Price scooted over for a try. Curle couldn't convert. 10-26.
Hawick had one last go at a score, with replacement Mathew Douglas firing into the defence but Gossman, Russell and Scott were on hand to close him down and Ayr turned over to bring the last messy, muddy BT Premiership match of the season to an end and cement their place at the top of the table for 2015/16.
The BT Premiership play-off semi-finals take place on Saturday 2nd April, with Ayr facing Melrose at home, and Currie taking on Heriot's.
Final score: Hawick 10 Ayr 26.
- Elena Hogarth.