Kelso 0 Selkirk 11

Selkirk hold nerve to deny Tweedsiders

Photo G Kinghorn

WITH both teams desperate to escape the BT Premiership Division Two relegation zone, Saturday's local derby at Poynder Park was always going to be a tense affair. Selkirk ultimately prevailed thanks to an outstanding defensive display, preventing Kelso from turning pressure into points.
Despite enjoying greater territorial advantage and the majority of possession, especially in the first half, the Tweedsiders simply couldn't find a way to break through to the visitors' try line.
Kelso also suffered a major setback as early as the third minute, when former Borders skipper Kevin Utterson hobbled from the field after sustaining a painful ankle injury in his comeback match. It proved a setback too far for the home team.
This was Selkirk's fourth consecutive league victory, and virtually guarantees the Philiphaugh men will be playing Division Two rugby next season. Kelso's supporters will have to wait a little longer before safety is reached, although with three of the team's four remaining fixtures at home, the Black & Whites' survival prospects remain good.
No-one epitomised the Souters' resolve more than the back row of Denver Rumney, Scott Jeffrey and Alister Heatlie. All three players almost tackled themselves to a standstill, snuffing out the threat of Kelso's most dangerous player, ex-Scotland internationalist Adam Roxburgh, and repulsing wave upon wave of home attacks.
In truth there were very few chinks in the visitors' armour, with teenage threequarters Michael Rutherford and Alistair Lyall in particular showing maturity beyond their years as the battle for league survival intensified around them.
Kelso's cause certainly wasn't helped by some slipshod handling, while the goal-kicking of Robin Carruthers fell short of expectations, even allowing for the windy conditions.
The only try of the game came midway through the first half, when lock Rory Aglen took a quick tap penalty five metres inside the Selkirk half. After a number of off-loads the ball was shipped wide to Simon Murdoch, and the Kiwi made ground before Fraser Jack steamed up in support to dive over for his 12th try of the season.
Just before halftime visiting hooker Darren Hoggan managed to win a strike against the head on his own try line to keep Selkirk in the driving seat, with Rutherford's earlier penalty giving Selkirk a deserved 8-0 interval lead.
Playing with the sun at their backs after the break, Kelso tried desperately to get back into the game, but found the visitors in uncompromising mood. Time and again Rumney stopped promising moves at source, while props Martin Murray and Iain Purves both carried the ball well to relieve pressure.
A sizzling 40-metre drop-goal from visiting skipper Guy Blair well and truly took the wind out of Kelso's sails, and there was no further scoring from either team as the curtain came down on a hard-earned Selkirk victory.
A knee injury sustained by Michael Rutherford in the final minutes of the match took some of the gloss of Selkirk's win, while centre David Cassidy picked up a hand injury which may or may not preclude him from taking part in this Sunday's fifth round BT Cup tie against Edinburgh Accies at Raeburn Place.

SELKIRK - F. Harkness, S. Murdoch, D. Cassidy, A. Lyall, G. Blair, M. Rutherford, F. Jack, I. Purves, D. Hoggan, M. Murray, N. Darling, R. Aglen, S. Jeffrey, D. Rumney, A. Heatlie. Replacements (all used): R. Crockatt, S. Renwick, E. Robbie, S. Tomlinson.

KELSO - R. Carruthers, G. Laing, K. Utterson (rep. J. Smail 3 mins), R. Minto, G. Cowe, A. Hobkirk, I. Fairley, R. Glendinning, L. Logan, M. Butler, I. Wallace, S. Paterson, W. Barrie, T. Callander, A. Roxburgh.