Town spirit rolls Watsonians

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Watsonians 15 Hawick 17

Watsonians learned the hard way about one of Scottish rugby's oldest adages: Hawick teams never, ever, give up before the final whistle, especially in a match as important as the inaugural Tennents Scottish Cup Final which attracted a 22,000-strong crowd to Murrayfield.

Leading 15-0 after half an hour, some Watsonians players later admitted out of earshot of their coaches that they thought the cup was in the bag. There again, a team with roots in the public school system can hardly be expected to fully appreciate that a century of tradition and satisfying the demands of supporters drives Hawick on.

Call it the Scottish equivalent of what the Welsh call hwyl, but Hawick had it and Watsonians did not, and this was the deciding factor. The Hawick hooker Jim Hay said: "They put 30 points on us in both league matches, and I thought after the first 10 minutes they were going to do it again. But we've always got that bit more to play for because we're representing a town.

"I wouldn't like to say some opponents' bottle goes - but in really important games Border teams might have an edge."

The manner of defeat was a devastating blow to Watsonians after Scott Hastings and Duncan Hodge had scored early tries.

Their lock Alistair Imray, lurking out wide, sparked the revival with a try before the interval, and from the moment Colin Turnbull went over for Hawick inside the last quarter, it was only a question of how much longer before the coup de grace was applied. Six minutes remained when Scott Welsh wriggled over for the decisive try.

Watsonians might have pulled the game out of the fire in the dying moments, but with Duncan Hodge poised for a drop goal attempt near the Hawick posts, Jim Hay heeled against head.

Tony Stanger, Hawick's international winger, believes fate had lent a hand: "The whole atmosphere around Murrayfield suggested the cup was destined to come to Hawick."

What's certain is that 24 years after England and Wales pioneered the way, the concept of a knockout cup - paraded around Hawick yesterday - is at long last firmly embedded in the Scottish rugby conscience.

Hawick: Tries Imray, Turnbull, Welsh. Conversion Welsh. Watsonians: Tries Hastings, Hodge. Conversion Hodge. Penalty Hodge.

Watsonians: D Lee; F Henderson (capt), 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.

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

Referee: J Fleming (Boroughmuir).

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