Selkirk 17, G.H.A. 13

Glasgow visitors come close to causing cup upset, but Selkirk manage to steady the ship

BEST FOOT FORWARD. Selkirk number eight Andrew Renwick tries to burst past a G.H.A. defender in Saturday's cup tie at Philiphaugh. Team-mate Gavin Craig awaits developments.

AFTER eight weeks without rugby at Philiphaugh, normal service was finally resumed when G.H.A. arrived in the Royal & Ancient Burgh on Saturday for a Scottish Premier Cup first round tie. Although delighted to see Selkirk back in action after such a gap, home supporters had little to cheer about in the early stages of the contest, as Selkirk struggled to find their feet against the Premier Two visitors.

The home threequarters had a particularly bad day at the office. Moves would regularly break down because of basic handling errors, with mistimed passes adding to the frustration on the terraces. The visitors were quick to capitalise on their hosts' uncertainty, and took a deserved lead after 17 minutes.

G.H.A.'s experienced fly-half, James Noonan, floated a kick just over Selkirk's halfway line on the stand side for wing Ruairi O'Keefe to chase. As the ball bounced towards the touchline it looked as though Selkirk's Scott Hendrie would clear the danger, but the full-back slipped in the act of retrieving the ball, allowing O'Keefe to gather it and race clear for an opportunist try. Noonan converted to put the visitors 7-0 ahead.

Boosted by this score, the Glasgow team increased their lead five minutes later when referee David Crudge penalised Selkirk for straying offside at a ruck, and Noonan stepped up to send the ball over the bar and give his team a 10-point advantage.

More trouble could have been in store for the home side but for a brilliant 60-metre clearance kick by Darren Clapperton from in front of his own try line. This sparked a period of Selkirk pressure inside their opponents' 22, brought to a halt when Selkirk were penalised for not releasing under the shadow of G.H.A.'s posts.

With halftime looming, Selkirk replaced Martin Murray with Rob Taylor, and minutes later the Kiwi prop helped kick-start his team's recovery. Noonan's clearance to touch fell just short, and Scott Hendrie gathered cleanly before racing up the stand touchline. The ball was moved back infield to Taylor, who cleverly dummied past two defenders to crash over for a try. Hendrie added the conversion, making the halftime score 10-7 in the visitors' favour.

Straight from the restart Selkirk were penalised for an off-the-ball obstruction, and Noonan's third successful kick of the day stretched G.H.A.'s lead to 13-7. A well judged box kick by Michael McVie then took play deep into G.H.A. territory, and with the home pack executing a series of pick-and-drives, it looked as though the tide was about to turn.

A great piece of ball-stripping by man-of-the-match Simon Willet sparked a counter-attack, and when McVie forced his opposite number to knock on at the next scrum, brothers Jason and Scott Hendrie combined to release Neil Darling on a surging run.

In the 53rd minute Fraser Harkness (fresh from his successful Scotland Club International appearance) and Callum Marshall replaced Alistair Lyall and Neil Darling. A penalty under the G.H.A. posts was quickly taken by Harkness in a bid to produce a morale-boosting try, but Jason Hendrie was tackled into touch at the corner.

The sin-binning of the visitors' Kiwi flanker, Mike Gurran, in the 64th minute provided Scott Hendrie with the chance to put points on the board from the resultant penalty, but his attempt drifted just wide.

However, five minutes later the short-handed G.H.A. pack found themselves powerless to stop Selkirk's forwards from launching a rolling maul towards the visitors' try line, and it was Martin Murray who emerged from the pile of bodies to claim Selkirk's second score of the day and cut the deficit to 13-12.

With time running out, and Gurran still off the field, a typically powerful break by Fraser Harkness saw the full-bacl make good ground up the middle of the field. The move was carried on by Scott Hendrie, Rob Taylor, Martin Murray and Ross Nixon, and it was Darren Clapperton who finally spun the ball out to Jason Hendrie on the right touchline, and the wing dived over in the corner to put Selkirk ahead for the first time in the match.

In the remaining seven minutes of the game G.H.A. threw everything at Selkirk in a bid to claw back victory, but the Philiphaugh players stood their ground to record a valuable, if fruitious, victory and book the club's place in the second round draw.


STOPPED SHORT. Martin Murray is hauled down only a couple of metres away from the G.H.A. try line in Saturday's match at Philiphaugh. However, the prop did make it across the whitewash in the 70th minute to haul Selkirk back into the game. [Photos: Grant Kinghorn]


SELKIRK - S Hendrie, J. Hendrie, R. Nixon, A. Lyall, D. Clapperton, G. Craig, M. McVie, G. Patterson, D. Grieve, M. Murray, J. Smyth, S. Willet, N. Darling, C. Johnston, A. Renwick. Replacements: F. Harkness, S. Forrest, R. Taylor, C. Marshall.

Referee - David Crudge (Hawick).