Selkirk 18, Hamilton 19
FOR the fourth week in a row, the result of Selkirk's match was decided by the very last kick of the game. Unlike last weekend at Inverleith, however, this time there was to be no happy ending for the Souters, with David Cassidy's touchline conversion attempt into a stiff breeze drifting agonisingly wide of the left-hand post.
Minutes earlier, mayhem had broken out on the grandstand touchline when Selkirk wing Lee Jones had been deliberately taken out by Craig Inglis after chipping the ball over the Hamilton full-back's head. This sparked a mass brawl involving both sets of players, and once the dust had settled - with home supporters calling for a penalty try to be awarded - referee Andrew McMenemy yellow-carded Inglis before awarding Selkirk a penalty where the ball had landed on the 22.
Two line-outs later, and with the game now deep into injury time, Selkirk prop forward Martin Murray scrambled over for a try in the corner (his second of the match) to send the home crowd wild with excitement as the score left the home team trailing by just one point. Seconds later it was the turn of the visiting supporters and players to raise the roof, as Cassidy's brave conversion kick just missed its target.
The upshot was that Selkirk had to make do with a losing bonus point for the fourth time in the current campaign, with opponents Hamilton successfully clocking up their seventh win of the season, demonstrating just why the Laigh Bent outfit has made such a big impression on its Division Two debut.
Playing with the wind at their backs in the first half, Selkirk suffered a cruel blow in the sixth minute when Fraser Harkness had to be stretchered from the field after his foot caught in the surface of pitch, violently twisting the same knee that had required corrective surgery in the close season. His place at full-back was taken by Guy Blair.
For the next 10 minutes Hamilton kept the home side pinned in its own half, with Selkirk having to rely on some thumping clearance kicks from David Cassidy to relieve the pressure. From one such kick the Souters were able to gain a foothold just outside Hamilton's 22, and Alister Heatlie won clean line-out ball to put the visitors' try line under serious threat. A knock-on halted the move, however, and at the resultant scrum Selkirk's front row were penalised for an engagement offence.
Hamilton quickly took the free kick, and with Selkirk's defence at sixes and sevens, Craig Sangster sprinted from under the shadow of his own posts clean up the middle of the pitch. Three passes later the ball reached the visitors' South African scrum-half Ronald Strydom, who swallow-dived over the line for a classic counter-attack try.
After 39 minutes Cassidy was just short with a penalty attempt from one metre inside the Hamilton half, but the outside centre did manage to successfully find the target with his next two penalty kicks - the second after a good break by Neil Darling, carried on by Gordon Patterson and Alistair Dickson - giving the home side a 6-5 halftime lead.
Rob Taylor replaced Michal Adamczewski in Selkirk's second row after the break, and Hamilton wasted no time in turning the wind to their advantage - high kicks from fly-half Kenny Diffenthal keeping the home team pinned in their own half.
Just three minutes after the restart the visitors regained the lead. David McGrath's overthrown line-out ball was caught at the tail by David Gemmell, who burst between two defenders, linked with Matt Gray, who in turn found Strydom, with the scrum-half scoring his second try of the match. Diffenthal's conversion made the score 12-6.
Selkirk rallied after this, and minutes later Dickson's chip ahead for Jones bounced into touch just short of the corner flag, as Hamilton found themselves under siege. Within minutes, however, the home side had fallen further behind.
Diffenthal's towering kick out of defence took an awkward bounce as Guy Blair ran forward to field it, and as the ball flew past the on-rushing full-back, Gerry Hawkes pounced to fly-hack it over the home try line, just beating Alistair Lyall to the touchdown for a score that had come out of nothing. Diffenthal's conversion put Hamilton 19-6 ahead.
At this point Selkirk's hopes of getting back into the game looked decidedly doubtful, as Hamilton's hungry players began to turn up the heat. To their credit the home players refused to let their heads drop, and felt they had scored a try after Taylor appeared to ground the ball following Darling's line-out take and drive. The referee thought otherwise, ruling that the ball had been held up over the line.
As it turned out, a score was not long in coming. A quick tap penalty saw Dickson (who battled gamely throughout) break Hamilton's first line of defence, and Lyall appeared in support to send Martin Murray over for a try on the right, converted by Cassidy.
Hamilton had the chance to put the game beyond Selkirk's reach when Diffenthal attempted a penalty five metres inside his own half, but the ball dropped short. The Selkirk pack then courageously repulsed two line-out drives in the corner as Hamilton went for the jugular, before home skipper Darren Hoggan led a magnificent drive upfield to relieve the pressure.
Shortly afterwards Murray's second try of the afternoon left Selkirk poised to snatch an improbable victory, but Hamilton hung on to take the spoils, leaving the home supporters to think about what might have been.
SELKIRK - F. Harkness, A. Lyall,
D. Cassidy, A. Dickson, L. Jones, G. Craig, M. McVie, R. Taylor, D. Hoggan, A. McDowall, M. Adamczewski, R. Aglen,
N. Darling, D. Rumney, A. Heatlie. Replacements - M. Murray, I. Walling, G. Patterson, G. Blair.
Referee - A. McMenemy (Gala YM).
LATE LIFELINE. Selkirk prop Martin Murray dives over in the corner to score his dramatic second try in Saturday's Premier 2 match against Hamilton, much to the delight of the home supporters on the touchline. (Picture: Grant Kinghorn)
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