Kelso 25, Selkirk 21
Selkirk second best as tenacious Tweedsiders take the initiative
TOUCHDOWN! Selkirk wing Lee Jones dives over for a try in Saturday's Premier 2 match against Kelso at Poynder Park. (Picture: Grant Kinghorn).
FOLLOWING the high of the previous weekend's victory over Hillhead-Jordanhill, Selkirk were brought crashing back to earth by a fired-up Kelso team at Poynder Park on Saturday, where the home players' greater hunger and more clinical finishing steered them to victory.
Selkirk had chances to wrap up the points in the second half, but a combination of errors and spirited defensive work by the home side frustrated the visitors' attempts to stamp their authority on the match, whose outcome could yet prove crucial to both sides' chances of Premier 2 survival.
It took Selkirk just three minutes to open the scoring. Alistair Dickson's expertly floated pass to Darren Hoggan saw the visiting skipper make good ground up the middle of the field, and when Kelso were penalised at a ruck shortly afterwards, David Cassidy stepped up to kick the three points.
This lead was short-lived, however. Selkirk lost possession from a line-out drive just inside Kelso's half, and home centre Richard Minto launched a counter-attack towards the visitors' posts. Quick recycling saw the ball reach John Szkudro, and the lock needed no second invitation to plunge over the line for a try. Robin Carruthers added the conversion.
Within three minutes Selkirk were back in front. Dickson hit up the right flank from a scrum, allowing Cassidy (wearing the No. 10 jersey) to work a 'miss' move in midfield. The ball was taken at pace by full-back Fraser Harkness, who beat his man and sprinted confidently over for his first try of the season.
Penalties against Selkirk at successive rucks allowed Kelso to gain a foothold in the visitors' 22, and from a five-metre line-out the home pack succeeded in driving Andrew Wallace over for Kelso's second try, putting the Tweedsiders 12-8 ahead.
Unfazed by this reversal, Selkirk soaked up a period of intense Kelso pressure, before going back up the field thanks to clean line-out takes by Rory Aglen and deep clearance kicks from Cassidy. Two quick-fire passes from Gavin Craig and Fraser Harkness released Lee Jones wide down the left, and the wing managed to scramble over near the corner for a try. Cassidy's touchline conversion saw Selkirk back in front at 15-12.
The visitors increased this lead to 18-12 from a second Cassidy penalty, but on the stroke of halftime Selkirk were penalised for going to ground at a ruck, and home scrum-half Ewan Ford kicked a penalty from the 10-metre line to leave Kelso trailing at the interval by just three points.
Selkirk pressed hard for another score in the opening period of the second half, with Rob Taylor powering his way past four defenders in a blistering burst for the try line, only to be tackled just inches short. A mix-up in the threequarters soon afterwards allowed Kelso to regain the initiative and put the pressure back on the visitors.
Despite managing to keep the Tweedsiders at bay with a series of last-ditch tackles, Selkirk paid the price for not clearing their lines when Ewan Ford burst over for a try following a quickly taken tap penalty. Carruthers' conversion put Kelso 22-18 in front.
Penalty misses by Cassidy in the 53rd and 61st minutes frustrated Selkirk's attempts to get back on the score sheet, and Kelso then capitalised on turnover ball to increase their lead to 25-18 through a Carruthers penalty.
Five minutes from time Cassidy sent over his third penalty to put Selkirk in touching distance, but a yellow card for Rory Aglen took the wind out of the visitors' sails. Despite a clever steal at a ruck by Lee Jones (now wearing the No. 9 jersey after Michael McVie had retired hurt), Kelso were in no mood to countenance a comeback by the visitors, and held on for a gutsy win.
SELKIRK - F. Harkness, G. Craig,
A. Lyall, A. Dickson, L. Jones, D. Cassidy, M. McVie, A. McDowall, I. Walling, M. Murray, R. Taylor, R. Aglen,
N. Darling, D. Hoggan, S. Tomlinson. Replacements - A. Heatlie, G. Patterson, J. Everitt, B. Armstrong.
Referee - C. Brett (Edinburgh).
* Selkirk have two home Border League fixtures over the holiday period - v. Kelso on Boxing Day, December 26, and v. Melrose on Tuesday, January 2 (both 3pm kick-offs at Philiphaugh).