Hamilton 18, Selkirk 0

Hamilton call the shots as Selkirk struggle to escape Prem. 2 relegation zone

STRONG MAN. Selkirk wing Michael Jaffray (right of picture) gets to grips with a Hamilton attacker in Saturday's Prem. 2 match at Laigh Bent, with team-mates Lee Jones and Gordon Patterson ready to lend support if required. (Picture: Grant Kinghorn)

THERE was no disguising the sense of dejection surrounding the Selkirk players and supporters following the team's defeat at Laigh Bent on Saturday, where Hamilton's bigger and more powerful pack laid the foundations for a hard-fought home win.

The visitors were unable to replicate the explosive form that had seen off Stewart's/Melville so convincingly a fortnight earlier, and despite having several chances to get on the score sheet, found the rock-solid Hamilton defence too difficult to penetrate.

Playing against the wind in the first half on a sodden, slippery surface, it didn't help matters when Selkirk 'did a Scotland' by conceding a soft try in the opening seconds of the game. A missed tackle saw Stuart Eynon burst clean through the middle, draw the last defender, and release fellow centre Craig Inglis, who cantered over for a try without a finger laid on him. Craig Sangster added the conversion.

Five minutes later David Cassidy had an opportunity to cut the deficit with a long-range penalty, but his kick held up in the gusting wind and fell short.

With Selkirk's players not putting enough pressure on the ball carrier, Hamilton slowly worked their way towards the visitors' 22. A mix-up on Selkirk's own line-out ball resulted in a costly turnover, for soon afterwards the Souters were penalised in front of their own posts, allowing Sangster to kick a penalty and put his side 10-0 ahead.

The Philiphaugh men finally began to take the game to their opponents, with skipper Darren Hoggan showing the way with a powerful 30-metre surge up the right touchline. A quickly taken tap penalty then saw Rob Taylor and Lee Jones make ground towards the home try line, but another line-out turnover gave Hamilton the chance to clear their lines.

With David Cassidy yellow-carded shortly afterwards for a ruck infringement, Hamilton piled on the pressure at a series of line-outs and scrums on the visitors' 5-metre line. However, some resolute defending by Selkirk's pack kept the big home forwards at bay, with breaks from Hoggan, Alister Heatlie and Fraser Harkness eventually clearing the danger.

Just when it looked as though Selkirk would manage to keep the halftime deficit to 10 points, Hamilton struck a bitter blow. From a scrum close to the visitors' try line, Strydon switched the ball blind and Sangster needed no second invitation to exploit the overlap for a try. The conversion went wide, giving Hamilton a 15-0 interval lead.

The start of the second half coincided with a prolonged spell of rain, making the surface of the pitch even more glutinous. Ryan Crockatt and Ben Rawcliffe came on to replace Callum Johnston and Gordon Patterson, and for a brief spell the visitors threatened to cut the deficit with a series of forays into Hamilton's 22.

Sadly these failed to generate any points, and the game's momentum shifted back to Hamilton when a missed tackle allowed Alistair Smith to launch a swift counter-attack down the right flank, with Sangster eventually dropping a goal to stretch the home side's lead to 18-0.

A fine line kick from Cassidy set up an attacking platform for Selkirk close to the Hamilton try line, and Fraser Harkness, Bruce Armstrong and Ryan Crockatt all came agonisingly close to scoring as the visitors finally built up a head of steam.

The match ended with Selkirk still on the attack (Gordon Patterson being held up over the line) but by now there was no way back for the tiring Souters, and Hamilton deservedly took the spoils to maintain their challenge for fourth spot in the league.

With Hillhead-Jordanhill winning at Netherdale, Selkirk now know that only two wins from their last two remaining home games against Gala and Cartha Queens Park will guarantee them Premier 2 survival.

SELKIRK - F. Harkness, G. Blair, D. Cassidy, G. Craig, M. Jaffray, M. Rutherford, L. Jones, A. McDowall, D. Hoggan, G. Patterson, R. Taylor, R. Aglen, N. Darling, C. Johnston, A. Heatlie. Replacements - B. Rawcliffe, R. Crockatt, S. Renwick, B. Armstrong

Referee - P. Burr (Glasgow Univ.