Glasgow Hawks 24, Selkirk 25

Fired-up Selkirk continue to set the pace in Premier One after hard-fought win over Hawks

FIVE-STAR SERVICE. Scrum-half Michael McVie gets the ball cleanly away to team-mate Gordon Patterson, as Selkirk launch another attack in Saturday's match against Glasgow Hawks at Anniesland..

IN THE THICK OF IT. Selkirk lock Eddie Gauché takes on half the Hawks pack as the visitors hammer away at the home team's try line. Up in support are Rob Taylor (No. 20) and skipper Neil Darling.

ACTION STATIONS. Selkirk full-back Fraser Harkness cuts inside the Hawks defence as openside Ryan Crockatt arrives to lend a hand.

NO scoreboard was operating at Anniesland on Saturday, but when the final whistle sounded you only had to hear the roars of delight coming from Selkirk's large band of supporters to know which team had won this pulsating Premier One encounter.

Victory was no more than the visitors deserved for a characteristically spirited display. Behind 17-8 at halftime, Neil Darling's troops displayed the same self-belief and composure which had served them so well against Currie the previous week, refusing to buckle when Hawks retook the lead nine minutes from the end, and even pressing for a bonus point try in injury time.

Not surprisingly Selkirk coach Kevin Barrie was full of praise for his young side after the match. "To take on Glasgow Hawks on their own territory and come away with a win is a huge achievement, and the boys deserve credit for a gutsy performance. What pleased me most of all were the improvements made since the Currie game.

"For example I thought our ball retention and decision-making were much better than last week, while our defensive shape has also improved. Today it was important for the players to build on the Currie victory and to take another step forward. That has happened, so I'm obviously delighted by such progress."

One of the biggest plus-marks for Selkirk was the strong showing of 18-year-old centre Alex Dunbar, making his Premiership debut for the club. The former Annan threequarter made several telling breaks during the afternoon, while his rock-solid defence helped shackle Hawks' nippy back division - a try-saving tackle on Hawks skipper Ian Noble as early as the sixth minute proving the pick of the bunch.

It was a less happy afternoon for one of Selkirk's other centres, however. Ross Armstrong (sidelined by a finger injury for the past seven weeks) came on as a replacement at the start of the second half, but in the space of 60 seconds was yellow-carded for an alleged illegal challenge, while the head knock he suffered in the resulting collision ruled him out for the remainder of the contest.

It was Selkirk who made the livelier start to the game. Fraser Harkness' run out of defence was carried on by Dunbar, with the Academy player breaking three tackles as he burst into Hawks' half. The move was carried on by Rory Aglen (who had another fine game for Selkirk), with Neil Darling up in support to batter his way to within inches of the home try line. Unfortunately the visitors were unable to recycle the ball quickly enough from the ruck, and the scoring chance was lost.

On the 15-minute mark Hawks capitalised on some indifferent handling by Selkirk inside their own 22, with turnover ball allowing scrum-half Peter Jericevich to sprint over in the corner for the game's first try. Mike Rainey's conversion kick sailed over. Three minutes later Hawks increased their lead to 14-0, thanks to an overlap try by wing Sean Murray in the opposite corner, Rainey again obliging with the conversion.

Shortly after the restart Hawks were penalised at a ruck, and Michael McVie stepped up to put Selkirk's first points on the board from a successful penalty kick. More Hawks pressure followed, only relieved by a great touchline counter-attack from Aglen and Lee Jones. Soon afterwards Gavin Craig split the home defence to release Harkness on a typically bulldozing run up the left flank, but the full-back was stopped five metres short of the try line and the danger was cleared.

Five minutes before the interval Selkirk struck a telling blow, when good interplay between Fraser Harkness and Lee Jones down the blindside drew the home defence, and Martin Murray was on hand to take Jones' pass and plough over for a try. McVie's conversion attempt was held up in the wind, and Hawks stretched their lead to 17-8 just before halftime when Rainey kicked a straightforward penalty.

Whatever coaches Kevin Barrie and Michael Jaffray said to the visiting players at halftime certainly had the desired effect. With the cross-field wind now marginally in Selkirk's favour, the trusty left boot of Scott Tomlinson was increasingly brought into play in order to gain significant chunks of territory. Down to 14 men following the sin-binning of Ross Armstrong, the Selkirk players refused to let their heads drop.

Another surging run by Dunbar set alarm bells ringing in the home defence, and an attacking move involving Lee Jones, Rob Taylor and Rory Aglen was rounded off by Martin Murray burrowing his way over the line for his second try of the match. McVie's conversion from wide out sailed over to put Selkirk right back into the game at 17-15 behind.

The visitors had a golden opportunity to take the lead for the first time when Dunbar gathered a loose ball just inside Selkirk's 22 and burst clear on a 65-metre run up the centre of the field. Unfortunately with the try line in sight, his pass to the supporting Fraser Harkness didn't go to hand and the chance was lost.

Far from denting Selkirk's confidence, this let-off only seemed to increase the visitors' determination to put more points on the board. The breakthrough came from yet another exhilarating end-to-end attack. The move began in the shadow of Selkirk's goal-posts, with Scott Tomlinson releasing quick ball to teenage hooker Stuart Forrest (who had come on as a replacement and was showing up well in his senior debut).

The move was carried on by lock Eddie Gauché, another star performer on the day for Selkirk, who in turn fed Rory Aglen. Scrum-half Michael McVie snapped up Aglen's off-load to sprint towards the Hawks 22-metre line, and when halted slipped a pass inside to Gauché for the big South African to dive over the line for a spectacular try. McVie's conversion put the visitors 22-17 ahead.

The visiting supporters' cheers had hardly died down when Hawks once again threw the game wide open. A crunching tackle by Tomlinson on Robbie Hair looked to have saved the day for the Souters, but seconds later a quickly taken tap penalty caught Selkirk on the hop, and Sean Murray sprinted over for a try under the posts without a hand being laid on him. Rainey's conversion edged the home team in front 24-22.

With lock Simon Willet making his league debut from the replacements bench, McVie had a chance to regain the lead for Selkirk in the 66th minute, but hooked his penalty attempt to the left of the posts. Five minutes later the scrum-half lined up another penalty kick from a slightly wider angle, and this time bravely held his nerve to float the ball inside the right-hand post and nudge the visitors 25-24 ahead.

Hawks now threw everything into attack in a desperate bid to save the game, but Selkirk were able to ride out the storm - Eddie Gauché and Martin Murray both getting over Hawks' try line, only for referee Andy Ireland to rule that the ball had been held up on both occasions.

Seconds later McVie's kick to touch signalled the end of the contest… and the beginning of some wild scenes of celebration in the grandstand from Selkirk's ecstatic followers. The Prem. One new boys are certainly growing up fast.

SELKIRK - F. Harkness, R. Nixon, A. Dunbar, 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, J. Hendrie, S. Willet, R. Armstrong.

Referee - Andy Ireland (Grangemouth).