Selkirk 28, Currie 24

Never-say-die Selkirk stun Currie with superb fightback in Premier One thriller

POINT OF NO RETURN. Scrum-half Michael McVie breaks clear to score Selkirk's fourth try late in the second half, putting the home team ahead for the first time in Saturday's match.



MAN OF THE MOMENT. Currie scrum-half Blair Skipper just fails to hold on to Fraser Harkness as the Selkirk full-back powers his way to the try line for a sensational solo score.



BLOODY BUT UNBOWED. Despite having had seven stitches inserted in a head wound, Selkirk fly-half Gavin Craig returned to the fray in the second half of Saturday's game, helping steer Selkirk to a famous victory. (Pictures - Grant Kinghorn)


'WILL the good times ever end?' ran the banner headline on the back page of Friday's "Selkirk Weekend Advertiser", referring to Selkirk's triumph at their own sevens. Judging by the heroic fashion in which the Philiphaugh side overturned a 21-8 halftime deficit to clinch a sensational win over Currie in Saturday's opening Premier One fixture, the answer to the above question is: 'Not any time soon!'

As they proved last season, when defeating all 11 Premier Two teams in succession to surprise everyone and clinch promotion, Selkirk's young players simply never know when they're beaten. And what they might lack in experience at the top level, they more than make up for in passion, pride and uncompromising fitness levels.

Perhaps the most important aspect of Saturday's come-from-behind victory, however, was that it demonstrates beyond a shadow of a doubt that Selkirk can compete at the highest level. This win will also send a defiant message to all those doom merchants who believed Neil Darling's men would be better continuing to ply their trade in the second tier of Scottish rugby, rather than rubbing shoulder's with the game's elite.

Not surprisingly Selkirk coach Kevin Barrie had a smile as wide as the Auld Brig after the final whistle. "We looked a bit overawed in the first half, and made a lot of basic errors," he told the selkirkrfc.com web site. "After the break I thought the players began to find their feet, and the more their confidence grew the more dangerous we became. The boys showed a lot of character today, and that's something we'll need plenty of in the weeks and months to come."

No-one epitomised this strength of character more than Gavin Craig, who had to leave the field early in the contest with a nasty head gash sustained in a tackle. Despite being off the field for 25 minutes and having seven stitches inserted in the wound, the young stand-off returned to the fray in the second half and turned in a storming display.

Eddie Gauché and Ryan Crockatt likewise made no fuss about their recent head knocks, each of which required 14 stitches. Their determination to play on Saturday, come what may, underlined the pair's unswerving commitment to the Philiphaugh club, and must have given heart to their team-mates.

It certainly seemed to inspire Gauché's second row colleague Rory Aglen, who had an outstanding afternoon. The rangy Lindean farmer stole a number of Currie's line-out throws, while his gritty determination both in attack and defence helped maintain Selkirk's momentum at crucial junctures of the match. Equally important to the home cause was full-back Fraser Harkness, whose stunning second half try took his team to within striking distance of the Currie total, and prepared the ground for a grandstand finish.

It had all looked so very different at 3pm. Selkirk put themselves under pressure straight from the kick-off by failing to secure Marc Fouche's drop-kick, and illegal hands in the ruck gave Currie's impressive Kiwi full-back Johnnie Smith the opportunity to step up and kick the visitors into a 3-0 lead. A succession of individual mistakes and wrong options ensued, with the home players showing clear signs of nerves in their first taste of Premier One rugby.

A series of turnovers culminated in Smith scoring an overlap try for Currie in the right hand corner, putting the Malleny Park team 8-0 ahead after just 14 minutes. With Gavin Craig injured in the build-up, Guy Blair came off the replacements bench to deputise at stand-off for the remainder of the first half. Shortly afterwards Blair almost engineered Selkirk's first try when his delicate chip was gathered just inside the touchline by Jason Hendrie, but the wing's quick off-load to Harkness was judged forward by the referee as the full-back headed for the try line.

Selkirk did manage to get on the score sheet in the 20th minute. A pick-up and drive by Scott Tomlinson took play into the visitors' 22, and when the ball was switched left along the Selkirk threequarter line, Ross Nixon slipped his marker and found Harkness in support. Despite the attentions of two defenders, the Selkirk vice-captain managed to release the ball to Lee Jones, and the wing burrowed his way over for a try.

Currie restored their lead on the very next visit to Selkirk's half. Turnover ball at a scrum allowed Ross Weston to break through the Souters' first line of defence, and a series of drives on the home line resulted in wing Mike Norton touching down for a score, converted by Smith. The latter added a penalty in the 32nd minute, and although McVie replied in kind for Selkirk, a third Smith penalty ominously stretched Currie's halftime lead to 21-8.

The second half's early exchanges gave no hint of what was to come. Selkirk continued to lose ball in contact, while a series of wayward touch and positional kicks allowed Currie to keep the pressure firmly on the home side. Everything changed in the 48th minute when Fraser Harkness made a sizzling break up the Ettrickhaugh Road touchline. The move was carried on in glorious fashion by Rory Aglen, and moments later Gavin Craig partially charged down a Currie clearance kick. When the ball squirted behind the visitors' try line, Ryan Crockatt pounced for an opportunist score. McVie's conversion kept Selkirk in touch at 21-15.

Although a neat drop-kick by Fouche regained the initiative for Currie, the Selkirk bandwagon was unquestionably beginning to roll. Lee Jones' impressive early season form has seen the Scotland under-20 player exude new-found confidence, and his clever chip and chase up the grandstand side of the field almost resulted in a scoring chance for Rob Taylor.

A home try was not long in coming. Fouche's speculative punt upfield was taken by Ross Nixon just outside Selkirk's 22. The centre quickly passed infield to Jason Hendrie, who in turn found Harkness steaming up in support. In trademark sevens style the full-back proceeded to cut a 60-metre swathe through Currie's bemused defenders, and the home crowd erupted as Harkness crashed over the line for a quite magnificent try.

Selkirk's resurgence was clearly getting to the visitors, with referee Gary Gordon marching Currie back an extra 10 yards at a penalty for backchat. Another stolen line-out ball by Aglen then put Selkirk on the attack, and a breath-taking break by Gavin Craig was carried on by Alistair Lyall. Scrum-half Michael McVie finished the move off in style to score under the posts, putting the home side ahead for the first time.

While Currie's players were now showing signs of tiring, the Philiphaugh team appeared to grow in strength. Rob Taylor's booming line kick kept the visitors on the back foot, while another great break by Harkness was just foiled by Skipper's last-ditch tackle. With the clock ticking down, Smith had the chance to regain the lead for Currie from a penalty on the right, but his kick slipped wide.

Another well judged kick-ahead by Lee Jones put the pressure back on Currie. A ruck infringement soon afterwards allowed McVie to slot his second penalty and stretch Selkirk's lead to four points. A period of frantic injury time ensued, but Selkirk's players held their nerve to register a famous victory.

SELKIRK - F. Harkness, J. Hendrie, R. Nixon, A. Lyall, L. Jones, G. Craig, M. McVie, G. Patterson, I. Walling, M. Murray, R. Aglen, E. Gauché, N. Darling, R. Crockatt, S. Tomlinson. Replacements: R. Taylor, S. Forrest, A. Renwick, G. Blair, C. MacDougall.

Referee - Gary Gordon (Hillfoots).