Selkirk 26, Berwick 13

Revitalised Selkirk savour first league win

NORMAL service was resumed at Philiphaugh on Saturday, as Selkirk ended their five-match losing streak with a hard-fought and deserved victory over Berwick.
The passion and pride so conspicuous by its absence in recent weeks was back in abundance amongst the Selkirk players, whose fiery commitment and tenacious tackling against a well drilled Berwick side had the long-suffering home supporters roaring their appreciation on the touchlines.
At the heart of Selkirk's revival lay a gritty performance by the pack, who fronted up in every department, and who monopolised possession for lengthy spells. Props Rob Taylor and Martin Murray were in particularly good form, both carrying the ball to telling effect in the loose, while causing their opposite numbers plenty of problems in the scrums.
Flanker Ryan Crockatt had his best game in a Selkirk jersey before retiring hurt 10 minutes from full-time, and lock Simon Robson finally got some tangible reward following a string of consistently solid displays in recent weeks. The match also marked fellow lock Marcus Barnett's 150th game for Selkirk.
Although the home threequarters found Berwick's defence a tough nut to crack, they showed the same resilience when dealing with attacks by the visitors. Centre Alistair Lyall epitomised the home backs' new-found confidence, making several telling breaks throughout the afternoon, and tackling as though his life depended on it.
Denver Rumney was equally unbending in defence, with full-back Fraser Harkness always eager to counter-attack and wing Simon Murdoch back to his mercurial best in his first senior outing since arriving from New Zealand 10 days ago.
Indeed it was the Christchurch flier who turned the match Selkirk's way on the half-hour mark, when he latched on to Andrew Skeen's pass inside his own '22' and raced the length of the pitch for a classic interception try - his 20th for the club in his 40th appearance.
Playing against the wind in the first half, it was the home team who made the livelier start. Sustained driving by the Selkirk pack, aided by a string of penalties against the visitors for ruck infringements, took play deep into Berwick territory. A quickly taken tap penalty by Martin Murray caught Berwick off-guard, and the tighthead prop burrowed his way over for the opening try.
A 22nd minute penalty by Matthew McCreath cut the deficit, before Murdoch's runaway score brought the crowd to its feet. Guy Blair added the conversion, making the interval score 12-3 in Selkirk's favour.
Despite now having the wind behind them, Selkirk found themselves on the back foot in the opening exchanges of the second half. With Haggerstone and Younger to the fore, Berwick's pack began to gain the upper hand, and when Matt McCreath's chip ahead wasn't cleanly gathered in the 46th minute, the ball was quickly won back and spun wide to visiting skipper Colin Young, who dived over in the right-hand corner for a try.
Soon afterwards Berwick took the lead for the first time. After Rumney had been spoken to by referee Ted Coutts, the ball was kicked to touch on Selkirk's five-metre line. A clean take by Tim Sanderson was followed by a controlled drive over the home try line, where Graham Watson was credited with the touchdown, putting Berwick 13-12 ahead.
Just prior to this, an injury to Michael Rutherford saw Scotland under-18 scrum-half Ciaran Beattie take the field to make his senior debut for Selkirk. Within minutes the talented teenager showed why he has been named in the Borders pro. team's European squad, by making a quicksilver break down the stand touchline following a well-timed pass from Alister Heatlie.
The move was carried on by Martin Murray, who powered his way over for his second try of the afternoon. Blair's successful conversion re-established Selkirk's lead at 19-13.
Both teams then enjoyed spells of pressure at either end of the ground, with Selkirk coming closest to scoring when Lyall did the hard part by breaking through the Berwick line, only to throw out a wild pass with the try line beckoning.

A penalty miss by Blair in the final minutes ensured the contest would go right down to the wire. However, the home side were not to be denied. Rob Taylor settled the issue by somehow hanging on to a pass way above his head, then making enough headway to off-load to team-mate Neil Darling, who needed no second invitation to take the ball over for Selkirk's fourth try and a bonus point.

This victory lifts Selkirk off the foot of BT Premiership Division Two for the first time this season, but the Philiphaugh side know they will have to work every bit as hard against fellow strugglers Kirkcaldy this Saturday if the club's change in fortunes is to continue.

SELKIRK - F. Harkness, S. Murdoch, G. Blair, A. Lyall, D. Rumney, M. Rutherford (rep. C. Beattie 51 mins), S. Tomlinson, R. Taylor, E. Robbie (rep. I. Walling 46 mins), M. Murray, S. Robson, M. Barnett, N. Darling, R. Crockatt (rep. J. Ross 72 mins), A. Heatlie.

Referee - T. Coutts (Watsonians).

All Out - Ciaran Beattie attacks from deep inside Selkirk's half, supported by Denver Rumney: Picture G Kinghorn.