Selkirk 20, Kirkcaldy 19
Selkirk scrape home in battle of the basement
| A SECOND half slump almost cost Selkirk victory at Philiphaugh on Saturday, as fellow strugglers Kirkcaldy
came within a whisker of turning the tables on the home side.
It was hard to believe this was the same Selkirk team who had put up such an inspired display against Berwick the previous weekend. For after racing to a 17-3 lead with barely a quarter of the match gone, the wheels then began to come off the home bandwagon in spectacular fashion.
Passes were dropped, wrong options taken and penalties conceded, so what had looked like a reasonably straightforward task to put the match beyond the visitors' reach, suddenly appeared beyond the capabilities of Selkirk's panicky players.
The forwards in particular struggled to recapture their early composure after a series of rolling substitutions, allowing the Kirkcaldy eight to grow in confidence as the home pack's rhythm deserted them.
Luckily for Selkirk (and their long-suffering supporters), the Fifers couldn't quite manage to claw back the 14-point interval deficit, although no-one in the crowd would begrudge the plucky visitors their fifth bonus point of the season.
The home team got off to a brisk start by putting their first points on the board after just five minutes. Scott Tomlinson's long-range pass was well gathered by skipper Guy Blair, and Fraser Harkness' intrusion into the line saw the ball shipped to Denver Rumney wide on the left. The Irish wing rounded his opposite number in textbook fashion to dive over for a try, with Blair's conversion kick sailing over.
A somewhat harsh crossing penalty allowed Kirkcaldy to cut the deficit through a Jamie Watson penalty, before a blistering break by Selkirk number eight Alister Heatlie, following a scrum pick-up, almost saw Simon Murdoch slip through the visitors' defence.
Successful penalty kicks were then exchanged by Blair and Watson, before a typically swift Murdoch break took play deep into Kirkcaldy territory. The move was carried on by Tomlinson, who, when stopped short, managed to find half-back partner Michael Rutherford in space on the left. The Scotland under-19 player finished the move off in style by squeezing underneath his tackler for a try.
Blair converted the score from the touchline, before adding a second penalty just before the break to put his team 20-6 ahead.
Far from consolidating their lead, from this point on the Selkirk players' poise and self-belief went into a tailspin. It didn't help that within three minutes of taking the field as a replacement for Ryan Crockatt, flanker Jim Ross was yellow-carded by the referee for a tackle infringement.
At the next scrum, Kirkcaldy number eight Craig McDonald picked up the ball, cleverly angled his run past the now unprotected openside flank, and broke through three despairing home tackles to touch down under the posts. Watson's conversion was the signal for a remarkable revival.
Although scrum-half replacement Fraser Jack made some probing runs as Selkirk tried to get back into the game, by now it was the fired-up visiting pack who were calling the shots.
Two more penalties by the increasingly effective Watson took Kirkcaldy to within a point of the home side, while Blair pulled two similar chances wide of the left hand post to prolong the home crowd's anxiety.
Had the Kirkcaldy stand-off not snatched at a drop-goal attempt in the dying minutes of the contest, then there could have been a very different outcome to the contest.
As it was, a nerve-jangling period of injury time ensued before Rutherford's powerful clearance kick took play to the visitors' 22, where the referee's whistle for full-time saved Selkirk from further embarrassment.
Without a doubt Selkirk used their 'Get Out Of Jail' card on Saturday. Further lacklustre displays, such as that witnessed in the second half at Philiphaugh, will see the Souters firmly imprisoned in the relegation zone.
SELKIRK - F. Harkness, S. Murdoch, G. Blair, A. Lyall (rep. F. Jack 40 mins), D. Rumney, M. Rutherford, S. Tomlinson, R. Taylor, E. Robbie (rep. I. Walling 40 mins), M. Murray (rep. G. Ruthven 26 mins), S. Robson, M. Barnett, N. Darling, R. Crockatt (rep. J. Ross 47 mins), A. Heatlie.
Referee - M. Valentine (Stewartry).