Selkirk 15, Jed-Forest 14

Selkirk players forced to dig deep, as Royal Blues launch ferocious second half blitz

RORY'S BALL. Selkirk lock forward Rory Aglen secures vital line-out possession as the home side press for a score in Tuesday night's Border League thriller at Philiphaugh. (Photo: Grant Kinghorn)

PLAYING three games in the space of seven days is a huge ask for any side, and Selkirk's jam-packed schedule almost cost them dear at Philiphaugh on Tuesday night, with Jed-Forest coming within a whisker of knocking the defending Border League champions out of this season's competition.

Playing with the wind in the first half, Selkirk raced to a 15-0 lead in as many minutes, at which stage it looked as though the result could be wrapped up by halftime. The Royal Blues' players had other ideas, however, growing in confidence as the match wore on, and being quick to punish a string of errors by a home side looking increasingly weary.

However, despite the visitors' best efforts in a frantic final quarter - when Selkirk not only had to battle the gale-force wind, driving rain and a fired-up Jed team - Martin Murray's men managed to hang on to their single-point lead to pick up four points and secure their place in the league's 2009 play-off final at Langholm.

It was Ryan Crockatt who set the ball rolling by breenging up to the Jed '22' before feeding Rory Aglen. Although stopped short, the lanky Lindean lock managed to recycle quick ball, and Fraser Jack launched his threequarter line down the right flank for Jason Hendrie to cross near the corner for the night's first try.

Five minutes later full-back Guy Blair tidied up some scrappy ruck ball and broke down the right hand side of the field. Martin Murray was on hand to carry on the move, with the home skipper feeding out to Rory Aglen, who picked a great line to crash over the whitewash for Selkirk's second score.

This try was converted by Ross Armstrong, and soon afterwards the inside centre kicked a penalty, having rocked the visitors back on their heels with a two tremendous tackles straight from the restart. Selkirk had a chance to stretch their lead following a blistering 45-metre run by Gavin Craig, but the fly-half was stopped just short of the try line.

Jed prop Russell Holborn then brought the visitors right back into the game when he capitalised on a quickly taken tap penalty to burst clean through Selkirk's flat-footed defence to touch down near the posts. Euan Scott's successful conversion cut the home side's lead to 15-7, and this is how things stood at the break.

As the wind and rain strenghtened, so did the Jed players' self-belief, and a strike against the head by Michael Weekley saw the Royal Blues set up camp just inside the home '22'. The introduction of teenage replacement Andrew Renwick helped bolster Selkirk's defensive effort, but the pressure was beginning to tell on the home players and something had to give.

The visitors' persistence was rewarded in the 68th minute when Ross Armstrong's clearances kick from behind his own try line was charged down. Euan Scott was quickest to react, with the centre pouncing on the loose ball to score Jed's second try of the match. The same player then kicked a superb touchline conversion to take Jed to within a point of Selkirk's total, so setting the stage for a frantic finale.

To their credit Selkirk's players defended as if their lives depended on it for the remaining 10 minutes of the contest, meeting their opponents' fiery attacks with some equally resolute defending. When referee Malcolm Changleng blew for no-side Jed were still pressing for the winning score, but Selkirk's players had done just enough to keep their Border League title hopes alive.

SELKIRK - G. Blair, J. Hendrie, R. Nixon, R. Armstrong, L. Jones, G. Craig, F. Jack, G. Patterson, I. Walling, M. Murray, R. Aglen, S. Willet, R. Crockatt, E. Gauché, S. Tomlinson. Replacements: C. Johnston, R. Taylor, A. Renwick, C. Marshall, S. Forrest, B. Purves, N. Brown.

Referee - M. Changleng (Gala).

CLOSE CALL. Scott Tomlinson heads the dressing room, followed by team-mates Ben Purves and Andrew Renwick, at the end of Tuesday night's match against Jed-Forest. (Photo: Grant Kinghorn)