Selkirk 6 Boroughmuir 0

Home record still intact after epic defensive effort keeps Boroughmuir at bay

GOTCHA! Neil Darling and Martin Murray join forces to halt the progress of Boroughmuir's Kiwi tighthead prop Bronson Ross on Saturday. Also in the picture are Selkirk scrum-half Michael McVie and lock Eddie Gauché.

ALL-OUT EFFORT. Selkirk full-back Fraser Harkness finds himself in the thick of the action during Saturday's game against Boroughmuir. Keeping an eye on developments is Scott Hendrie, while centre Ross Nixon is also in the frame. (Photos: Grant Kinghorn)

SELKIRK once again defied expectations by defeating current Scottish champions Boroughmuir in a gripping Premier One clash at Philiphaugh on Saturday. Even the loss of goal-kicker David Cassidy after 24 minutes with a serious head injury couldn't distract Neil Darling's shock-troops from the task in hand, with the home players producing one of the club's bravest defensive displays to keep the visitors' giant-sized team in check.

"The boys put in a huge shift today," Selkirk coach Kevin Barrie said after the final whistle. "Our defence was superb, and that's what won us the game. We've now prevented three of the league's top sides - Melrose, Ayr and Boroughmuir - from scoring a try against us, and that is a great achievement in anyone's book.

"These players have worked incredibly hard at training in recent weeks, and they're reaping the rewards with results like this one today. However, the real test is taking this home form and replicating it on the road. We haven't been able to manage this yet, but the players will now be working extra hard to make this happen, as our next three league matches are all away."

Selkirk supporters will be pleased to know that after being detained in the Borders General Hospital overnight on Saturday for observation, David Cassidy was allowed home on Sunday morning. The centre had been knocked out following a midair collision with Boroughmuir wing Ed Mills, as the two players leapt to gather Greg Cottrell's high kick.

Immediate medical assistance was at hand, with Selkirk's club doctor Jeff Cullen and physio Mike Craig (a trained paramedic) rushing on to the pitch to attend to the Selkirk player, with assistance also being provided by Boroughmuir physio Pamela Coupar. The player was fitted with a neck brace and stretchered from the field, with an ambulance taking him to the BGH shortly afterwards.

"Thankfully David's injuries were not as bad as were first feared," said David's father Brian, the Selkirk 1st XV's team manager. "He suffered concussion, and his right ear required the insertion of 15 stitches, but everyone's relieved that this now appears to be the sum total of his injuries."

Before the incident, Cassidy had once again proved his immense value to the Philiphaugh team by landing two well struck penalties in the third and 15th minutes (the latter for a deliberate knock-on by Elgan O'Donnell) to put the home side 6-0 ahead. After Cassidy's departure (he was replaced by Ross Nixon), Selkirk's goal-kicking duties fell to Michael McVie and Ross Armstrong, with each player just falling short with attempts before and after the interval.

Both sides showed flashes of attacking brilliance in the opening exchanges of the match, Fraser Harkness and Lee Jones bursting through to set up promising positions, with visiting wings Ed Mills and Frank Hadden proving equally elusive. However, it was in the no-holds-barred exchanges up front where the real heat was generated.

Visiting skipper Fergus Pringle, fellow lock Greig Scott and pro. hooker Steven Lawrie always looked dangerous with ball in hand, but they more than met their match in the rock-solid tackling of Selkirk's equally determined eight. Not a single member of the home pack shirked their defensive responsibilities, hauling down Boroughmuir's bigger forwards time and again as they picked and drove towards Selkirk's try line.

Twice Angus Martyn was held up over the line as the champions battled to put some points on the board, with Selkirk's forwards in no mood for capitulation. Indeed just before the interval a try-saving tackle by Eddie Gauché epitomised the home team's indomitable fighting spirit, making the halftime score 6-0 in Selkirk's favour.

After the break Selkirk made immediate inroads into Boroughmuir territory, and in the space of 10 minutes created three scoring chances. First a typically powerful burst by Fraser Harkness up the grandstand side of the field looked to have penetrated the visitors' defence, but the full-back was eventually collared after cutting inside with Lee Jones steaming up on his left.

The next close call came when Ross Nixon managed to turn over ball and released Callum Johnston on a lightning break up the middle. The openside linked well with Lee Jones, whose kick ahead bounced tantalisingly over the dead ball line just as the wing dived full length to touch it down. Soon afterwards a similar scenario unfolded, when a clever break by Gavin Craig saw the stand-off chip over the visitors' try line, only for Boroughmuir full-back Steven Ruddock to just beat him to the ball.

For the next 15 minutes the city team laid siege to the Selkirk try line, but no matter how hard they tried, Boroughmuir's forwards couldn't find a chink in the home side's armour. Along the way a penalty kick at goal was spurned by the champions as they opted to go for the game's first try, while only a timely tackle by Johnston at a tap penalty prevented 'Muir from piercing the Thin Blue Line.

As the minutes ticked by, Selkirk players' fitness and willpower were both sorely tested as Boroughmuir rallied for an all-out assault on the home try line. Ross Armstrong saved the day on one occasion with a great clearance kick, while another last-ditch tackle by Eddie Gauché kept the Meggetland men at bay. An equally vital corner flag tackle was made on Andy Hadden by Fraser Harkness.

The indefatigable Scott Tomlinson received a rapturous reception from the home crowd after being replaced by Ryan Crockatt in the dying seconds of the match, while Selkirk supporters' nerves were stretched still tighter when Martin Murray's quickly taken 22 drop-out went into touch on the full, in what would have been the last play of the match. Seconds later referee David Changleng did blow his whistle to signal the end of an epic encounter, leaving Selkirk's proud home record intact and four precious league points in the bag.

After the game, the Four Seasons Forestry 'Man of the Match' Award was presented to home skipper Neil Darling. However, the Lilliesleaf Legend would be the first to admit that the prize could equally have been awarded to any one of the 20 players in Selkirk's squad. Heroes to a man, the Souters' dream start to their Premier One comeback season continues.

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, R. Nixon.

Referee - David Changleng (Gala & Peebles).