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Home > News > Alex Gordon reports from Mansfield Park
Your News Alex Gordon reports from Mansfield Park

So, in a way, this tie had been on the cards since the fixtures were anounced, last summer. Both sides had aspired to be there or thereabouts going into the penultimate weekend of the National League and so 2nd placed Hawks travelled to Mansfield Park and league leaders Hawick. A lot of hard work had set up this match and the teams results have been fairly matched all season, including a 16-all tie at Old Anniesland. Apart from the small detail that the weather gods have been unkind to Hawks and they have a backlog of 3 fixtures to get through.

Mansfield Park was cold, grey and unwelcoming as Hawks kicked off and whilst there was a large crowd it appeared that the home supports nervousness had blunted their fiersome hostility. Hawks started brightly although individual errors appeared to reflect the importance of the occassion. Andy White putting the ball out of the in goal for a home scrum in 7 minutes typified a jittery start. Hawick in contrast, had an urgency which suggested they thought that they needed a try bonus if they were to have a good shot at the league title. The Hawks defence was tested as Hawick tried to play an expansive game. In 9 minutes the home support roared as it appeared that Graham Hogg had made the breakthrough but their hopes were dashed as they were called back for an obvious forward pass. Another, attempt to spin the ball wide failed as the home side, in their eagerness, found passes going to runners who were setting out ahead of the ball. With all this pressuire it came as no surprise when Hawks conceded a penalty for not releasing the tackled player. So it was that Neil Renwick opened the home sides account in 12 minutes. (3-0)

Within a couple of minutes, Hawks full back Mike Adamson, had the opportunity to tie the scores but unusually he missed going wide to the right of the posts. It was still nip and tuck, but the home pressure was considerable, forcing Hawks to concede 3 penalties in quick succession, which took the Greens from deep in their own 22 up to kickable range. With Renwick scoring a second penalty the advantage stayed with the hosts. (6-0)

On the half hour Renwick missed a penalty and Hawks put some decent passages of play together. It was now down to the home side to decend which they did around the ringes. But another miss apiece for both sides in therun up to half time allowed the scoreboard keeper a break.

The second half saw Hawks come on wearing a change of strip, as they wore their familiar red jerseys and this seemed to precede a change of fortunes. They opened the second half with a fierce intensity. Grant Strang broke the line, only to be caught by a desperate tackle. The desperation saw Hawick concede a penalty to narrow the gap in 43 minutes. (6-3)

A few minutes later a tremendous catch and drive by the Hawks pack saw Hawick give away another penalty, as again the tackler failed to get out of the way. Adamson put the ball over with ease, tying the score. (6-6)

The small but vocal travelling support were in their element as the tension built up. Just after the 50 minute mark, Adamson opted to kick to touch when a score seemed possible. The lineout from 5 metres was taken cleanly and decision seemed vindicated until one of the Hawks pack came in to the maul from the side. Hawick used the penalty to clear. The game continued with both sides living on their nerves, Hawick now aware that the bonus was out of reach had to focus on a score to take four points. Yet, you simply couldn't see where the points would come from. Here were the two most expansive sides in the National League involved an war of attrition. Hawks lineout played well, but Hawick were just good enough not to turn over in this area. Again in the scrum Hawks, put a strong shove on but again Hawick held fast.

This was rugby hard and raw and very disciplined. Given the physicality this was a balanced contest played with great spirit and no niggle. The game seemed to be heading toward a draw as thirty player, who by rights should have been dead on their feet, dug deep into mental and physical reserves. There were minutes to go when the touch judge drew thereerees attention to an incident which saw scrum-half Paddy Boyer yellow carded for a high tackle on his opposite number. With Hawks down to 14 men, the Greens sensed an opportunity flying at the visitors, lifting themselves for one last rally. Hawks were tackling desperately and forced an error from Hawick which gave Hawks a scrum, that looked like finishing the match. But Hawick took the scrum against the head and in opportunistic fashion put the ball wide. To both sets of supporters Lee Armstrong's "rummle" to the line passed in slow motion, joy for Hawick as he touched down for the try and despair for the Hawks. With no conversion, the referee blew for no-side and it was over.

Nothing was settled, Hawick have a trip to Jed to come, a side they only beat 13-6, at Mansfield and for Hawks they still have their own destiny in their hands with 4 games to be played. It is a testament to Hawks that to many in this knowledgable crowd, this was the best match at the ground this season and Hawks were the best side to visit. Such a compliment graciously given in the Borders is someting to be appreciated.

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