Selkirk 34, Cartha Queens Park 12
DOUBLE DELIGHT. Selkirk full-back Fraser Harkness touches down his second try on Saturday to put the home side 25-5 ahead. (Picture: Grant Kinghorn)
HAVING spent the past eight months in Premier 2's
last chance saloon, Selkirk finally managed to blast their way out with all guns blazing in an epic encounter against
Cartha Queens Park at Philiphaugh on Saturday. And by picking up their first try-scoring bonus point of the season,
Darren Hoggan's side jumped to eighth place in the league table - their highest position all season.
On a beautifully sunny day, and with the Philiphaugh pitch firm and dry, conditions were near perfect for the home team's brand of running rugby. And just as they had done against Gala a fortnight previously, Selkirk turned pressure into points whenever they got close to their opponents' 22… with David Cassidy's unerring goal-kicking another vital factor in an exhilarating win.
Full-back Fraser Harkness earned his Man of the Match accolade by turning in yet another five-star display. His powerful counter-attacks had alarm bells ringing in the visitors' defence all afternoon, and his mazy 60-metre run for the first of his two first half tries must rank as one of the all-time great solo scores at Philiphaugh.
In truth this was yet another superb team effort by Selkirk, with the home forwards having to front up to Cartha's bigger pack in an energy-sapping series of driving mauls in the second half. No-one showed more appetite for the fray than prop Gordon Patterson, who capped his best performance in a Selkirk jersey by scoring the game's first try in the 18th minute.
With Cartha winning the toss and electing to play with the breeze at their backs in the first half, it was Selkirk who struck the first blow when David Cassidy kicked a penalty in the fourth minute after the visitors' front row was penalised for collapsing a scrum. Six minutes later Cassidy repeated the dose, this time for off-side at a line-out.
Cartha then stepped up a gear, and Selkirk had a narrow escape when visiting number eight Andrew Crozier burst clear from Selkirk's 10-metre line but found none of his colleagues up in support. Soon afterwards locks Rory Aglen and Rob Taylor made vital tackles as the Glasgow team went all-out for a score, the pressure being eventually lifted by a thumping Cassidy clearance.
Selkirk's first try of the contest came when a powerful surge by Fraser Harkness was halted just outside the visitors' 22. Quick ruck ball was then swept out to the right flank, where Gordon Patterson backed himself to get over the line and did just that, triggering a roar of delight from the home supporters on the grandstand touchline. Cassidy's successful conversion put Selkirk 13-0 ahead.
Hardly had the cheers died down before Cartha hit back. A line-out knock-on by the home team allowed the Glasgow side a toe-hold in Selkirk's 22, and when Cassidy's clearance kick was charged down it was left to Andy Black to gather the loose ball and stride over for a try.
Ten minutes later the whole momentum of the match was changed by a piece of individual brilliance from Fraser Harkness. Cartha kicked a long 22 drop-out straight to the home full-back. Collecting the ball on his own 10-metre line, 'Harky' pinned back his ears and carved his way past half-a-dozen would-be tacklers to score a breath-taking try close to the posts. Not surprisingly the home crowd raised the roof, with Cassidy's conversion kick sailing between the posts to put Selkirk 20-5 ahead.
Seven minutes before halftime Harkness struck again. With Cartha's players expecting Cassidy to kick for goal from a penalty just outside the 22, the centre took a quick tap and fed the fired-up full-back, who scampered over the line for a try without a finger being laid on him.
Cassidy's conversion edged Selkirk ahead 27-5, but the visitors cut the deficit just seconds before the interval when Alan Howie penetrated the Selkirk defence to score Cartha's second try. Black's conversion made the halftime score 27-12 to Selkirk.
Despite having the wind at their backs after the break, Selkirk found it hard to gain territory or possession against Cartha's bigger forwards. A spate of penalties against the home team resulted in an energy-sapping series of driving line-out mauls, with Selkirk prop Alan McDowall being yellow-carded for deliberately taking down one of these.
Despite all this pressure, the city side couldn't find a chink in Selkirk's defensive armour, with Ben Rawcliffe called in to replace McDowall and the whole Selkirk pack hanging on for grim death as their line came under sustained attack.
When the siege was eventually lifted, it was scrum-half Michael McVie who put the result beyond doubt with a clever try in the 70th minute. A scrum to Cartha on their own 22 back-fired when the ball shot out past scrum-half John McCrossan. Quick as a flash McVie scooped up the loose ball to romp over for Selkirk's bonus point try.
The rest, as they say, is history. Shortly afterwards referee Luis Arola blew for no-side, the cue for wild celebrations around the ground. Selkirk had finally managed to escape the relegation zone - reward for three gutsy displays against Stewart's/Melville FP, Gala and Cartha. The going had got tough, and the tough had got going.
SELKIRK - F. Harkness, M. Jaffray,
D. Cassidy, A. Lyall, C. Hunter, G. Craig, M. McVie, G. Paterson, D. Hoggan, A. McDowall, R. Taylor, R. Aglen,
N. Darling, R. Crockatt, A. Heatlie. Replacements: B. Armstrong, C. Johnston, B. Rawcliffe, K. Connor.
Referee - L. Arola (Walkerburn).