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Club scene: Green Machine back on the march

They might not have rediscovered all their old juggernaut qualities, but Hawick's fabled Green Machine is on the march again.

Phil Leck says there is genuine excitement building around Mansfield Park again. Picture: SNS
Phil Leck says there is genuine excitement building around Mansfield Park again. Picture: SNS

In the past, the club which churned out a conveyor belt of international players, from Hughie McLeod and Jim Renwick to Colin Deans and Tony Stanger, formerly amassed honours the way that Milton Jones cracks one-liners; namely, at a fast and frenetic pace, and hitting the mark more often than not.

For a spell, however, the Border side slumped, suffering relegation from the top flight of the domestic circuit, not once, but twice. Coaches arrived and departed Mansfield Park as if it was a bus terminal, rather than a rugby ground. Yet, while they are currently in the Scottish National League, Hawick have the chance to all but secure their return to the RBS Premiership this weekend when they tackle Glasgow Hawks in a contest which is likely to involve the sort of venom and aggression which isn't really permitted under the Geneva Convention.

Intrigue abounds, in advance of the tussle. Rory Bannerman, the club's president, has already called on his townsfolk to unleash the sort of fervent atmosphere which once reduced central-belt softies to quivering wrecks. "This match is one of the most important in recent years, and the Hawick support is probably the best in the country," said Bannerman. "We want our stand packed to give the team the biggest boost possible. Admission will be £5 to everybody who comes dressed in green and under-18s will get in free. We want to whip up as much noise as possible and roar on the boys."

Passion doesn't guarantee prizes, of course, but Phil Leck, the Hawick coach, appreciates the significance of this looming showdown. His personnel are 10 points clear of Hawks, but the latter have three fixtures in hand, so they would be well placed to pip their rivals if they could orchestrate victory against the Teris. However, if Leck's charges can maintain the form which has recently earned them a string of convincing wins, including a 49-21 success away to Hamilton last weekend, they could establish a 15-point gap, which would be very difficult for Hawks to overhaul. And with only one of these sides guaranteed automatic promotion, the stakes could scarcely be higher.

"It's a big challenge, but we always had the feeling that it would come down to this match and I would rather we were in our position, where we have the points on the board" says Leck. "The lads have done everything I have asked of them in the last few months and there is a genuine excitement building around the club again. I noticed, as soon as I came here [he replaced Derek Armstrong in November, 2011] that the community was enthusiastic about rugby and my job has been about tapping into that spirit.

"It has been a difficult balancing act with such a small squad, because I've had to try and keep everybody happy, but I can't fault the boys for their commitment.

"Now, we know we are on the verge [of promotion] and I just hope Mansfield is packed this Saturday. Perhaps, the club alienated some spectators in recent seasons, but things are moving in the right direction and my message is simple: if you don't want to watch the kind of rugby we are playing, then you don't watch to watch rugby."

That's the kind of statement which might have appealed to the Hawick stalwarts of the past but Leck prefers to focus on steering his team into a bright future.

TEAM OF THE WEEK

Biggar have endured an inconsistent season, but produced an excellent performance to trounce Watsonians 35-8 in the Scottish National League. The outcome all but ended the Myreside men's ambition of returning to the top flight next season.

TALKING POINT

The Premiership format might have its critics. But, in terms of providing thrills and twists, you can't fault any competition where seven out of ten clubs can still gain entry to the B & I Cup - or be relegated - with only three or four matches left.

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