Selkirk 17, Jed-Forest 23

Never-say-die Selkirk prove a point, but Jed win the day

THIS might have been Selkirk's third successive BT Premiership defeat, but the manner in which the injury-hit Souters battled back to secure a bonus point in the game's final seconds, will have given their players and supporters a big lift in the run-up to this Saturday's crunch match at Peebles.

With Jed-Forest deservedly leading 15-0 early in the second half after punishing a series of unforced errors by the home team, it looked as though the Royal Blues were on course for a winning bonus point in addition to the win.

Selkirk had other ideas, however. Ironically it was when reduced to 14 men following the yellow-carding of number eight Alister Heatlie (for tackling Jason Gill without the ball) that the Souters decided to take the game to their Riverside rivals, and for the remainder of the contest it was the pumped-up home team which had the upper hand.

Nevertheless it was Jed-Forest's clinical finishing, solid defence and ability to cash in on Selkirk's unacceptably high error count that ultimately proved decisive. The visitors also had the most influential man on the field in number eight Jason Gill, whose powerful running and aggression always set alarm bells ringing.

Missing both recently returned Trinidad Sevens players, Scott Tomlinson and Craig Hunter, Selkirk's back division was further weakened when centre David Cassidy failed a late fitness test on a hamstring pull.

And it took the Royal Blues just eight minutes to stretch the home threequarter line to breaking point, when full-back Neil Smail finished off a crisp handling move to score wide out after Jed had stolen Selkirk's lineout ball. Greig Laidlaw converted.

Selkirk then suffered a major blow when wing Bruce Armstrong had to leave the field with what was later diagnosed as a fractured cheekbone, after receiving the ball and a crunching Gill tackle simultaneously. This brought teenage replacement Gavin Craig on to the field for his BT Premiership debut.

It was the visitors' turn to lose a man next, with skipper Gary Goodfellow being sidelined by a knee injury - Laidlaw moving to scrum-half for the rest of the match.

Jed-Forest increased their lead in the 34th minute. Michael Rutherford failed to find touch with a clearing kick after Scott Laidlaw had been stopped just short of the home try line, and Jed lofted a high gary owen back into Selkirk's 22. Unfortunately for the home crowd the ball ricocheted off Selkirk skipper Scott Jeffrey's chest, and replacement Scott McDonald could hardly believe his luck as he gathered the loose ball to dive over for a try.

Shortly after half-time Jed punished another wayward Rutherford line kick after Selkirk had won back possession through a great Martin Murray recovery, this time Kevin Amos landing a drop-goal to make it 15-0.

Spurred on by this setback, a powerful Scott Jeffrey break was the launch pad for Selkirk's first try - Fraser Harkness bursting up the left touchline to touch down close to the corner flag. Rutherford's conversion kick sailed over.

Within minutes the visitors extended their lead, this time Amos encountering little resistance as he sliced through for a try following a line-out. Next came Heatlie's moment of madness in front of his own posts, tackling Gill after the number eight had chipped over his headů with Harkness appearing to have the ball covered. Laidlaw's conversion put Jed 23-7 ahead.

This was the signal for Selkirk's pack to roar into life, and for the rest of the match it was the home forwards -Rob Taylor clearly warming to the unfamiliar role of lock - who started to call the shots up front.

No-one epitomised Selkirk's second half transformation more than lock Neil Darling, whose work rate around the field both in attack and defence inspired his team-mates to greater efforts when the odds look stacked against the home side getting anything from the game.

Taylor it was who struck a crucial blow after Selkirk had opted to take a scrum instead of a penalty in front of the home posts. A couple of phases later the young Kiwi emerged with the ball to power over the line for a try, converted by Rutherford.

Selkirk almost got another try when Rutherford's penalty attempt bounced back off the post, and Alistair Lyall just failed to hold on to the bouncing ball with the line at his mercy.

With the seconds now ticking away, a last-ditch break by Harkness was halted in midfield. Jed were penalised at the breakdown, allowing Rutherford the chance to salvage a bonus point from a penalty slightly to the right of the posts. The youngster kept his nerve to send the ball between the posts, giving Selkirk's players at least some reward for their gutsy second half fightback.

SELKIRK - F. Harkness, F. Jack, A. Lyall, M. Jaffray, B. Armstrong, M. Rutherford, M. McVie, B. Rawcliffe, E. Robbie, M. Murray, N. Darling, R. Taylor, S. Jeffrey, D. Rumney, A. Heatlie. Replacements (all used): I. Walling, R. Crockatt, J. Ross, G. Craig.

Referee - A. Hoyle (Aberdeen).

UP AGAINST IT. Selkirk lock Neil Darling battles against a sea of Royal Blue defenders in Saturday's hard-fought local derby between Selkirk and Jed-Forest at Philiphaugh. (photo by grant kinghorn)