Pride of Border clubs take to the field

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Many a wry smile has been provoked by the passion and enthusiasm with which Border clubs have embraced the first Scottish Rugby Union Tennents' 1556 Scottish rugby cup, due to climax today with a final at Murrayfield between Hawick and Watsonians.

For example, since Hawick defeated Melrose in the semi-final a fortnight ago, the club's secretary, John Thorburn, has had duties which have included judging high street window displays, organising a fleet of buses including one for the town brass band, taking delivery of 2,500 commemorative hats, rearranging the annual club dinner and liaising with officials of the town's annual month-long Common Riding Festival, the start of which clashes with today's 50-mile pilgrimage to Edinburgh.

Underpinning the hype is a song specially written to emphasise the fact that the Hawick team is exclusively home-grown. The town's most famous son, the television commentator Bill McLaren, has compared the fervour on his doorstep with that shown countrywide after Scotland's 1990 Grand Slam.

All a bit ironic in view of the fact that it has taken Scotland 24 years to emulate England and Wales in organising an official cup - largely because of the intransigence of Borderers, who have been wary of any threat to their traditional end-of-season, seven-a-side circuit. However, the SRU finally came up with a competition worth pounds 15,000 to today's winners.

Thorburn admits: "I can see where folk who said we held things back are coming from, but Border teams always maintain that, when a cup was introduced, they would be early winners.

"That has made us more determined, and our players are well aware that Hawick were the first winners of the Border League in 1902 as well as the first winners of the National League in1974, so cup success would complete a treble."

Watsonians, whose membership was, until recently, restricted to former pupils of an Edinburgh public school, are wary of the threat posed by opponents motivated by such strong tradition.

Their captain, Fergus Henderson, admits: "This final is about so much more than ability. It's a nitty gritty thing that's hard to put a finger on. Man for man, Watsonians are at least the equal of Hawick, but they will be playing to ensure they don't let their town down. That's what we are up against."

Hawick: C Turnbull, G Sharp, A Stanger, C Murray, K Suddon, S Welsh, K Reid, B MacDonnell, J Hay, A Johnstone, A Imray, I Elliott, J Graham, B Renwick, G Harris.

Watsonians: D Lee, F Henderson, S Hastings, A Garry, J Kerr, D Hodge, J Weston, T Smith, G McKelvey, J Waddell, S Grimes, C Mather, G Hannah, C Brown, I Sinclair.

Referee: J Fleming (Boroughmuir).

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