Edinburgh Accies 16 Selkirk 24

 Selkirk players hold their nerve to win tricky assignment against talented Accies team


VITAL BREAKTHROUGH. Selkirk stand-off Gavin Craig cuts inside Accies skipper Dan Teague to score Selkirk's second try at Raeburn Place on Saturday. Watching with obvious satisfaction are team-mates Sean Crombie (left) and Ross Nixon.


EXPRESS DELIVERY. Fraser Harkness bursts past Accies defender Matt Coupar on his way to scoring Selkirk's third try at Raeburn Place. (Photos: Grant Kinghorn)




HAVING not won 'on the road' since the second week of the season, and facing three away fixtures on the trot, the pressure was on Selkirk's players to raise their game against Edinburgh Accies at Raeburn Place on Saturday. And Neil Darling's men did just that, running out deserved 24-16 winners to remain in the right half of the Premier One table.

Boosted by the presence of allocated professionals Sean Crombie and Simon Cross (the latter making his first appearance in a Selkirk jersey), the visitors took the game to the home side right from the kick-off. Martin Murray broke out from Selkirk's 22, with the move being carried on by Rory Aglen, Ross Nixon, Scott Hendrie and Callum Johnston up to the home side's own 22.

Accies were penalised at the breakdown, and with just three minutes gone Michael McVie had the opportunity to put the visitors ahead with a penalty. His kick just drifted past the right hand post, but it was to prove his only miss of the game, with the scrum-half going on to have an outstanding match for Selkirk.

Soon afterwards Aglen stole Accies' line-out possession before making a powerful break upfield, only for Selkirk to turn over the ball at the breakdown. Next it was Fraser Harkness' turn to test the home defences with a 30-metre run, but again the capital team stood firm - Stewart Walker and Matt Coupar combining to snuff out the danger.

In the 13th minute Selkirk finally managed to turn pressure into points. A fine line-out catch by Rory Aglen saw the ball spun along the Selkirk threequarter line, and at the next ruck McVie made a sniping run down the blind side. Quick transfer saw the ball reach Aglen wide on the right, and the lanky lock romped over for the first try of the afternoon. McVie landed the tricky conversion.

This advantage was quickly cancelled out when Accies' teenage centre Alex Blair - whose elusive running was to cause the visitors no end of trouble throughout the afternoon - slipped his marker and burst deep into Selkirk territory. The ball was quickly recycled, and stand-off Ruairidh Bonner found himself in space on the left to finish off the move with a try in corner.

Handling errors and turnovers then began to force the visitors on to the back foot, and a further blow came on the half-hour mark when centre Ross Armstrong retired with a hamstring pull. His place was taken by Guy Blair, who took over at stand-off, with Gavin Craig switching to inside centre.

A break by Craig was followed by a good touch-find from Blair, and Selkirk were again able to steal the home side's ball at the ensuing line-out. Moments later a penalty was awarded to Selkirk in front of the posts, and rather than take the three points McVie opted for a quickly taken tap penalty. It looked the wrong option as Accies smothered the visitors' attack, but the ball was recycled and shifted right to Gavin Craig, who sliced through the Accies' defence to score a fine opportunist try.

A knock-on at the restart was not what Selkirk's supporters wanted to see, and when the visitors conceded a penalty for offside on the stroke of halftime, Stewart Walker's successful goal kick made the interval score 14-8 in the visitors' favour.

With Simon Cross replacing Callum Johnston, and Rob Taylor coming on for Martin Murray, it took a while for Selkirk to settle at the start of the second half. A darting run by Matt Coupar took play into Selkirk's 22, where a penalty allowed Walker to narrow the gap to 14-11.

Former Edinburgh Accies lock Simon Willet then took the field against his old team-mates as a replacement for Rory Aglen. Five minutes later Selkirk stretched their lead to 21-11, when Blair's well timed pass to Fraser Harkness saw the full-back pick a great angle and split the home back division wide open, sprinting over from 35 metres for his team's third try. McVie added the conversion.

Although Accies reduced the deficit to just five points from a try in the corner by second row forward James Turner, following a blistering run by Iain Berthinussen, the decisive moment of the contest came 13 minutes from time.

Referee Iain Heard penalised the home team just inside the home 10-metre line for handling in a ruck. Despite facing a strengthening breeze, Michael McVie opted to go for goal and judged his kick superbly, curling the ball inside the right hand post to put his side eight points and (more importantly) two scores ahead of Accies.

Spurred into a final desperate effort to turn things around, the capital side threw everything into attack. Selkirk's players were equal to the task, however, repulsing Accies' attempts with the same grit and determination that had served them so well the previous week against Boroughmuir.

With time running out Accies were almost caught on the counter-attack by Harkness' surging run and chip over the line, but David Rattray just beat the Selkirk full-back to the touchdown. A final burst by Berthinussen down the left touchline raised home supporters' hopes of at least a bonus point, but Harkness' last-ditch tackle save the day for Selkirk and consigned Accies to their fifth straight defeat.

This Sunday Selkirk's players get another chance to prove their away day credentials with a rearranged game against Stirling County at Bridgehaugh (2pm kick-off).

SELKIRK - F. Harkness, S. Hendrie, R. Nixon, R. Armstrong, L. Jones, G. Craig, M. McVie, G. Patterson, S. Crombie, M. Murray, R. Aglen, E. Gauché, N. Darling, C. Johnston, S. Tomlinson. Replacements: S. Forrest, S. Willet, R. Taylor, S. Cross, G. Blair.

Referee - Iain Heard (Gala).