Heriot's FP 31, Selkirk 21

Hard going at Goldenacre, as string of Selkirk errors hand Heriot's the initiative

SCORE GIVEN. Referee Neil Paterson raises his arm to signal a try, after Selkirk skipper Neil Darling pounced on loose line-out ball to notch Selkirk's first touchdown of Saturday's contest.

DOUBLE-TEAMING. Fraser Harkness and Ross Armstrong join forces to prevent Heriot's from launching another attack in Saturday's match at Goldenacre. (Pictures: Grant Kinghorn)

THERE was to be no great escape for Selkirk's players at Goldenacre on Saturday, where Heriot's FP gave the visitors an object lesson in how to turn pressure into points. Selkirk's usually reliable handling proved the team's Achilles heel on this occasion, with too many passes either not going to hand, or else straight into the arms of an opposing player.

Both teams made an edgy start, Selkirk kicking away valuable possession which Heriot's pacy threequarters invariably returned over the gain line with interest. The visitors had fly-half Gavin Craig to thank for making a couple of vital tackles on opposite number Greig Rutherford (son of former Gala player Bruce), while a series of Selkirk knock-ons frustratingly returned possession straight back to the home side.

A monstrous 22 drop-out by David Cassidy took play deep into Heriot's territory, but a Graham Thomson break then sliced open the visitors' midfield, and it took a smart piece of defensive work by Scott Hendrie to clear the danger. Yet another spilled ball by Selkirk returned the initiative to Heriot's, and after 21 minutes home full-back Colin Goudie followed up his own kick-ahead to score the game's opening try. Graham Wilson added the conversion.

With the visitors continuing to have difficulty keeping possession, and referee Neil Paterson penalising Selkirk for backchat, Heriot's players began to grow in confidence and control proceedings. Another thumping 22 drop-out by Cassidy gained valuable yardage for the Souters, but a missed tackle allowed Rutherford to penetrate Selkirk's defence and sprint home for his side's second try.

On the half-hour mark Scott Tomlinson sent a powerful kick to Heriot's 5-metre line after the city side had been penalised at a ruck. Despite Heriot's jumpers stealing possession on Selkirk's line-out throw, the ball was not properly secured and squirted over the home try line. Visiting skipper Neil Darling was first to react, dropping on the ball for a badly needed try. Cassidy's successful conversion cut the deficit to 12-7.

Buoyed by this turn of events, a good break by Ross Armstrong took Selkirk to within striking distance of the Heriot's try line. However, just as it looked as though Selkirk's driving play would bring another score in the right-hand corner, a wild pass allowed Heriot's wing Stuart Bell to hack the loose ball upfield and give chase, and he eventually touched down for a fine opportunist try from 90 metres out. Wilson's conversion gave Heriot's a 19-7 lead.

An almost identical scenario took place minutes later, after Gavin Craig had just been stopped short of the Heriot's try line and Selkirk were pressing hard for a score. Bell again materialised on the left to intercept Lee Jones' pass and sprint upfield. Luckily for the visitors Scott Hendrie was able to cut off the move just inside Selkirk's 22, and as the halftime whistle blew Selkirk were lucky to be no more than 12 points in arrears.

Two incidents then conspired to completely take the wind out of Selkirk's sails. The first came when Fraser Harkness burst through for what visiting supporters deemed would have been a perfectly good try, only for the score to be chalked off for a debatable forward pass.

Then in the 53rd minute Heriot's right wing Michael Short was awarded a try in the corner, even though his foot appeared to be well over the touch line. The score stood nonetheless, and Wilson's touchline conversion rubbed salt into the visitors' wounds by stretching the city side's lead to 26-7.

To their credit Selkirk's players never let their heads drop, with teenagers Alex Dunbar and Andrew Renwick coming off the replacements bench and immediately making an impact. Tries by Fraser Harkness and Michael McVie, both converted by Cassidy, helped keep Selkirk in the game, but in between times a fifth Heriot's touchdown by Bell put victory out of the visitors' reach.

A touchline break by Gavin Craig in the final seconds of the match raised hopes of a losing bonus point, but despite Scott Hendrie's best efforts to keep the move alive, he was bundled into touch 20 metres short of the Heriot's try line and the chance was lost.

Selkirk's players must now pick themselves up for the visit of unbeaten Ayr to Philiphaugh this Saturday. For the Souters to have any chance of springing a surprise on the Millbrae men, they will have to protect the ball and keep possession far more effectively than they managed to do at Goldenacre on Saturday.

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

Referee - Neil Paterson (Aberdeen).