Currie Chieftains Malleny

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Premier League Play-off Final – Match 23: 4.5.24.

A View from the Touchline

Hawick RFC 24 pts (t 3, c 3, pg 1) v Currie Chieftains 26 pts (t 2, c 2, pg 4)

‘Once upon a time’.... as the story goes, a mixture of sport enthusiasts decided that their village needed a rugby club. Sadly, the funeral of Roger McLaren, the last surviving member of that group took place on Monday last, 29th April. Over the years, that ambitious dream of establishing a formidable rugby club is reality, and Currie Chieftains were again contesting the League play-off final against a mighty Hawick team at Mansfield Park. Would a third play-off final bring success?

Although the sky was overcast, the pitch was firm and green, unlike several previous occasions when the visitors' expectations disappeared in cold wet Borders mud. From the outset of this match, Currie took control, they built the phases and within 3 minutes, a clever blindside move had Rhys Davies crashing in for the opening score which Jamie Forbes converted. The start was remarkably like that at Marr in the previous play-off match 6 weeks earlier.

Of course, there was an immediate response from a stunned Hawick team who were soon threatening at the other end with a series of ominous driving mauls. The Chieftains infringed, and Hawick had 3pts on the score board. After 15 minutes of exhilarating play, which only occasionally got beyond both teams’ 22s, the Chieftains had extended their lead with two further penalty goals from Jamie Forbes. The exuberant Currie pack was also exerting pressure that the opposition found difficult to deal with. At crucial moments however, a lineout malfunction, or a slightly inaccurate pass proved costly for the visitors who squandered a couple of real opportunities.

When Hawick did manage to exit their half, they reverted to their tried and tested formula; the muscular driving maul. From a lineout midway in the Currie 22, the defending team’s strategy backfired, and the green machine rumbled over virtually unopposed for a converted try. For the remainder of the first half, play was confined to Hawick territory, and the pressure told, with Jamie Forbes kicking another penalty goal. On the cusp of halftime, a dramatic incident occurred. It was difficult to see what happened, as there were so many bodies at a competitive breakdown in front of the stand. Following a lengthy discussion between officials, Currie’s scurrying scrumhalf, Gregor Christie was shown a red card. To many this seemed harsh, as there appeared to be other incidents which went unnoticed. The final few minutes before the break were testing, but Currie withheld a ferocious onslaught.

Halftime score – Hawick 10 pts, Currie Chieftains 16 pts.

Hawick had not been beaten at Mansfield Park for two seasons, and the local support must have thought that it would only be a matter of time before the scoreboard would be moving in their favour. The red card incident did not diminish the visitors’ resolve, and although the hard-working Archie Fletcher was sacrificed to accommodate replacement scrumhalf Paddy Bowyer, the Chieftains pack quickly knuckled down to the extra workload. Sam Cardosi, Ollie Blyth-Lafferty, Thomas Jeffrey and DJ Innes delivered some big hits, stopping the opposition in their tracks and inflicting critical turnovers.

From Currie’s 10 metre line, Paddy Bowyer threw a long accurate pass to Jamie Forbes who, with the speed and agility of a sparrow hawk, flew through the Hawick defence. His astonishing 50 metres dash was halted just short of the line, but the damage had been done, and the quickly recycled ball found Cammy Grey who stepped inside the scrambling defence for a memorable try. A cool Jamie Forbes converted the score to stretch Currie’s lead; the crowd were silent; you could hear the birds singing.

With 35 minutes remaining, it would still require tremendous effort to keep the aggressive opposition at bay. As the game moved into its final quarter, Hawick had their best spell of the afternoon with waves of attacking rugby which went close and were accompanied by an increasing number of Currie penalties. A series of trademark driving mauls along the visitors’ goal line sucked in Currie’s defence before the ball was released to their experienced backs, and a nicely worked converted try. The confidence boosting score put the Border men back on track.

Having tasted success, the Greens went to full throttle, but despite their best endeavours and enormous vocal support, they could not unpick the magnificent Chieftains defence. It was exciting, breath-taking stuff, but Hawick’s error count and Currie’s doggedness stifled any further progress for the “green machine”. When Hawick were penalised for not releasing, Jamie Forbes bagged the points to put two scores once again between the teams.

With a little over 10 minutes remaining, James McCaig charged down a clearance kick inside the Hawick 22, and the marauding Chieftains pack were unlucky not to snatch another try through Rhys Davies. As the clock ticked down, the Mansfield men produced a passage of crisp passing which ripped open an exhausted Currie defence. The try was converted and took the hosts to within two points of Currie’s total. The remaining few minutes were tense and seemed endless. Graeme Carson, Ryan Stewart, Chris Anderson, Roy Vucago, Ali Bain and Courtney West had run themselves into the ground, but they held on to possession until the final whistle. The Chieftains’ founding fathers must have been smiling... fairy tales can come true!

I.J.S – 5.5.24

Currie RFC

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