Hamilton, Hawick and Hogg

2 years ago, I took a friend along to Anniesland on a Tuesday night to watch Hawks v Hawick, a fixture controversially postponed earlier in the season.

Hawks were soaring high near the top of Premier 1 and Hawick were struggling near the bottom. I wanted to show my friend the young Hawick 13 – ‘he’s the next big thing.’ It was 18 year old Stuart Hogg. It wasn’t that clever an insight, as he had made his debut for Glasgow a few weeks earlier in the Pro 12, but I wanted to have a good look at him in his own environment. Most of the match has passed from my memory, but not the attitude of the younger Hogg brother. He spent most of the evening mouthing off at a female Hawks spectator who dared to criticize Hawick from the touchline. Every time there was a break in play he would turn, fix his eyes on her, and exchange more words. ‘Typical 18 year old – he’s got an attitude!’ commented my friend.

In between his ‘argy-bargy’, as the most famous son of Hawick might have called it, Hogg kicked 5 goals that night to give a Hawick a surprising 19-17 win and finish Hawk’s title hopes. That was the last time I saw Hawick play and it seemed to epitomise the Hawick spirit as much as anything.

From the distant vantage point of the West of Scotland, Hawick have always struck me as having an attitude. Clannish; there’s no one quite like their own. They tell it as it is – a shovel is a shovel. When they’re good they’re very good – tight as a drum, fiercely proud, never knowing when they’re beaten; but when they’re bad they can fall out with their own shadows – witness the regular movement of players away from Hawick to other Border Clubs and back again over the last few seasons.

Saturday I went to Laigh Bent to have a first look at the National League leaders this season. What I saw impressed me. The attitude is still there – when they conceded a 2nd Hamilton try 10 minutes into the 2nd half to cut the Hawick lead to 32-14, there were fierce recriminations among the team beneath the goal posts. But their dented pride simply propelled them to find another gear, and another two tries, to take them home with a clear 49-21 win. Scottish Rugby needs Hawick in its top division. They had more away supporters with them on Saturday than I have seen for any other Scottish club this season and they continue to produce talented players year after year. On Saturday they scored 7 tries starting with a swift forward interchange up the touch line that led to No 8 Keith Davies sprinting in after 5 minutes, and finishing with substitute Graham Hogg dummying his way under the posts with 5 minutes left. In between Rory Hutton oozed class at 10, always looking as though he had time to spare, and passing as good as any Premier 1 stand off, and whether it was Johnstone’s footwork, Armstrong’s strength, or Coutts speed, when Hutton released his backs they all looked threatening. The aforementioned 3 all scored tries, (Armstrong, 2) as did David Lowrie in the 2nd row. In the forwards, prop Shaun Muir returned from Scotland U20 bench duty last week, and looks both a good set piece technician and a mobile handler about the field. He’s one to keep an eye on.

Hamilton played their part in an entertaining game. It was Ladies day and the 100 or so Disney characters lunching in the clubhouse certainly brightened the day. One or two of them even made it outside to watch the game, joined on the steps by Hamilton’s usual loyal support. David Sutherland was in fine form, scoring Hamilton’s 1st try and running some dangerous lines at speed. Despite their best efforts in the 2nd half, with further tries from Inglis and Selfridge (both converted), Hamilton couldn’t find an elusive 4th try for a bonus point in defeat. Andy Hill was at his abrasive & dextrous best at No 8, the young No 3 got himself around the pitch well, and substitute Callum Crawford, called on to the bench at short notice, filled in bravely at 9 for the last 20 minutes after the excellent Stephen Turnbull had been red-carded for ‘stamping’. Hamilton’s spirit, epitomised by veteran Richie Maxton, will keep them in this league, no doubt at all.

Meanwhile next Saturday, guess what? Its Hawick v Hawks again, this time with the National League title and promotion to Premier 1 at stake. I wouldn’t bet against the Hawick attitude winning the day again.