Selkirk 16, Ayr 15

Home players refuse to give an inch as Ayr unable to get the measure of Selkirk


MURRAY IN A HURRY. Selkirk prop Martin Murray launches another attack into enemy territory, supported by team-mate Eddie

Gauché, with skipper Neil Darling and scrum-half Michael McVie ready to assist.


PATE IN FULL SPATE. Gordon 'Pate' Patterson prepares to offload in Saturday's epic victory over Ayr, as visiting skipper AJ McFarlane tries to keep the home side in check. (Pictures: Grant Kinghorn)


WITH the financial world's foundations currently being shaken to the core, you won't find many people willing to risk their money on the stock market. An altogether safer bet would be to wager that when playing at Philiphaugh, Selkirk will reach halftime staring defeat in the face, but 40 minutes later will have turned things round and snatched victory.

This scenario occurred for the third time on Saturday, when a confident Ayr team rolled into the Borders riding high at the top of Premier One on the back of six straight victories. Playing against the wind, the Millbrae men managed to post a 9-6 halftime lead, and with the elements behind them after the break it looked odds-on that the league leaders would not only outmuscle Selkirk, but bring to an end the Souters' unbeaten home record which stretches back to September 1, 2007.

Yet once more the Selkirk squad's indomitable spirit saw them stage another astonishing comeback - not only confounding the form book and ending the table-toppers' unbeaten run, but preserving their own home record which has seen them go 14 league games at Philiphaugh without defeat.

Having managed to catch his breath after Saturday's epic contest, Selkirk coach Kevin Barrie praised his players for sticking to the agreed game plan and refusing to buckle when Ayr started racketing up the pressure. "It's been another great day for the club," said the coach, "and the players deserve everything they got after working so hard.

"This side is getting a reputation for playing with pride and passion, and that's fine. Selkirk supporters would expect nothing less. But before today's game I told the boys I wanted them to be known for their rugby ability as well - the ability to come up against top teams and match them man for man. Today we made less errors than we did against Heriot's, and this proved crucial. We won today's match on ability, and that really pleased me."

Ayr won the toss and elected to play against the stiff breeze in the first half. Selkirk made early inroads through Fraser Harkness and Lee Jones, but Ayr's defence looked rock-solid, as did their scrum, with the home eight being pushed off their own ball in the opening minutes. However, Selkirk settled after some accurate positional kicks from David Cassidy.

After 15 minutes Ross Armstrong broke through the visitors' defence on a crash ball following Eddie Gauché's clean line-out take, and soon afterwards Gavin Craig made a superb break towards Ayr's try line. Although stopped just short, play was called back for a previous ruck infringement, allowing Cassidy to kick the penalty and put Selkirk's first points on the board.

Three minutes later Cassidy repeated the feat. Rory Aglen's line-out possession had been spun out by Michael McVie to Gavin Craig, who cut inside opposite number Frazier Climo to launch Callum Johnston on a run to the line. The ball reached Lee Jones, but when the wing was stopped an Ayr player was adjudged to have prevented release, and Cassidy's second successful kick put Selkirk 6-0 ahead.

Ayr then lost flanker Andy Dunlop to the sin-bin, and Selkirk pressed hard for a score through driving play by Neil Darling and Scott Tomlinson, with Scott Hendrie combining with Fraser Harkness to set alarm bells ringing amongst the visiting defenders. At one point it looked as though Harkness would score wide on the right after blitzing through on a crash ball, but Richard McCallum's flying tackle saved the day.

The Millbrae side managed to weather the storm, and drew level through two Climo penalties in the 31st and 36th minutes. Before the interval a yellow card for Scott Tomlinson allowed Climo to kick his third penalty, giving Ayr a halftime lead of 9-6.

With the wind at their backs, Ayr's players began to raise the tempo. Scott Forrest started to gain big yardage up the middle of the field, while Glasgow pro. player Callum Forrester made his presence felt at number eight. Selkirk's defence held firm, however, and when young home hooker Stuart Forrest - who had a great game in his first start for the club - caught a line-out deflection and launched Rob Taylor on a surging drive, Dunlop was penalised at the ensuing ruck. From 40 metres out, and against the wind, Cassidy kicked a superb penalty which just crept in over the left hand corner of the crossbar, levelling the scores at 9-9.

Soon afterwards Climo replied in kind to regain the lead for Ayr, but this setback proved a mixed blessing, for it was the precursor to a quite outstanding passage of rugby that changed the course of the game.

Cassidy's restart drop-out was fielded by Ayr scrum-half AJ McFarlane. The visiting skipper banged the ball downfield, where it was gathered by Fraser Harkness just outside his own 22. The full-back set off upfield, beating one man before chipping ahead to Ayr's 10-metre line. Catching the ball cleanly after just one bounce, Harkness powered on without breaking stride, and off-loaded to Scott Hendrie. The wing drew in the Ayr cover, and despite being crunched by a heavy tackle, somehow managed to get the ball to Lee Jones wide on the left.

The Scotland under-20 threequarter pinned back his ears and burst through Ryan Holland's despairing dive, before shrugging off Andy Wilson's equally desperate tackle at the corner to stretch over the line and score a truly magnificent try. Cassidy kept his poise to land the difficult conversion kick from just inside the touchline, putting Selkirk 16-12 ahead with quarter-of-an-hour to go.

Suddenly Selkirk's tired players found fresh energy, with Martin Murray, Gordon Patterson and Eddie Gauché all hitting up ball. Ayr's players were in equally determined mood, however, and Climo reduced the deficit to one point from his fifth successful penalty.

Minutes later it looked all over for Neil Darling's men. Mikey McVie was penalised for a late challenge on Grant Anderson, after the wing had kicked ahead to the Selkirk try line, before collapsing in a heap following McVie's challenge. For the first time in the match Climo sent his penalty attempt just wide, and the home supporters could breathe again.

The closing minutes of the match saw the game ebb and flow as both sides battled to land the knock-out punch. Ayr's cause wasn't helped by the sin-binning of Paul Burke, while Selkirk took heart from a sizzling touchline run by Lee Jones and another incredible solo break-out by Harkness after he had taken a line-out throw to himself.

A bout of touchline fisticuffs between the two packs in the dying seconds only served to underline how badly each side wanted victory, and moments later referee Healey blew for no-side to signal the end of a massive victory for the Premier One newcomers. The win was no more than the Selkirk players' heroic efforts deserved, a fact Ayr coach Kenny Murray generously conceded after the game.

The Philiphaugh side now faces two tricky away fixtures against West of Scotland and Stirling County, both of whom will be gunning for the scalp of Premier One's dark horses. These won't be easy assignments, but as Saturday's humbling of Ayr has shown, when you're talking about this Selkirk team anything is possible.

SELKIRK - F. Harkness, S. Hendrie, D. Cassidy, R. Armstrong, L. Jones, G. Craig, M. McVie, G. Patterson, S. Forrest, M. Murray, R. Aglen, E. Gauché, N. Darling, C. Johnston, S. Tomlinson. Replacements: S. Willet, R. Taylor, A. McDowall, R. Crockatt, A. Dunbar.

Referee - Andrew Healey (GHA).