Selkirk 34, Watsonians 14

Great timing! Late points-scoring flurry helps Selkirk rediscover the winning habit

TOP FLIGHT. Selkirk skipper Michael McVie fires out a pass from in front of the grandstand to launch another attack in Saturday's bruising basement battle at Philiphaugh. (Photo: Grant Kinghorn)


TWO late tries sealed a hugely significant bonus point win for Selkirk in Saturday's critical Scottish Hydro Premier One game against fellow strugglers Watsonians at Philiphaugh.

The fact that both scores came in a period of injury time lasting 10 minutes only served to heighten the sense of joy and relief felt by the home crowd, who had turned out in their hundreds for this season-defining fixture - no fewer than 160 lady supporters having earlier packed the Philiphaugh Suite for their biannual sponsored lunch.

Saturday's victory lifts Selkirk into ninth place in the division, leap-frogging Edinburgh Accies in the process, and putting eight clear points between themselves and Watsonians. And while Selkirk are not quite out of the woods just yet, another victory in one of their remaining four league fixtures should see Premier One rugby continue at Philiphaugh next season.

Traditionally cold starters, Selkirk knew they would have to hit the ground running in order to stymie Watsonians' explosive firepower behind the scrum, which has seen the Myreside men run in 13 tries against Selkirk in the teams' past three encounters. In the event, this is exactly what Michael McVie's troops managed to achieve.

With the home forwards refusing to let the 'Sonians pack settle, either at the set piece or in the loose, it took Selkirk less than three minutes to put their first points on the board. Rory Aglen's clean line-out take was quickly transferred to stand-off Gavin Craig, and the Scotland Club International cap ghosted through a gap in the visitors' midfield defence before rounding Watsonians full-back Jamie Forbes to score a brilliant solo try close to the posts. Cassidy's conversion kick sailed over.

Strong runs by Andrew Renwick and Fraser Harkness followed, but Watsonians capitalised on a string of penalties awarded against the home side, quick taps by scrum-half Jamie Blackwood and some astute positional kicks from fly-half Mike Ker pinning Selkirk back in their own 22.

However, a spear-tackle in the 17th minute by lock Harris Grant on Gavin Craig saw the Watsonians lock yellow-carded by referee Iain Heard. From the penalty David Cassidy tried a high cross field kick to the left-hand corner for Lee Jones, but the new Barbarian just failed to touch down the ball as it bounced dead for a 22 drop-out.

Three minutes later, however, Jones did manage to register a try in the same corner, following another clever break by Gavin Craig, which was then carried on by David Cassidy who delayed his pass just long enough to draw in the cover and give Jones enough time to outrun his opposite number.

David Cassidy sent over a peach of a conversion from the touchline, before adding a penalty after Gavin Craig, Fraser Harkness and Lee Jones had combined to put pressure on the visitors' line, only for a high tackle to halt Jones' progress. With half an hour played, Selkirk found themselves 17-0 in front and looking confident of keeping the visitors at arm's length.

This situation changed dramatically on the stroke of half-time, when home prop Gordon Patterson was yellow-carded inside the 22 for dropping a Watsonians maul. The visitors opted for a scrum rather than a kick at goal, and when the ball reached Mike Ker the fly-half side-stepped his way past a couple of defenders to score under the posts. His successful conversion made the halftime score 17-7 in Selkirk's favour.

It was Watsonians who looked by far the hungrier side at the start of the second half, and only some stout defending and a skilfully engineered turnover by lock Jon Smyth kept Selkirk's line intact. Unfortunately for the Myreside men, Mike Ker had to leave the field injured after an accidental clash with David Cassidy, and in the stand-off's absence it was Cassidy who stretched the home side's lead to 20-7 with a penalty in the 66th minute.

To their credit the Watsonians players refused to let their heads drop, and deservedly reduced the deficit when teenage replacement Grant Somerville took advantage of some indifferent first-time tackling by Selkirk to cross for the visitors' second try of the afternoon. Forbes' successful conversion kick put the city team right back in the hunt at 20-14, with the big Philiphaugh crowd having gone ominously silent.

With full-time imminent, but almost 10 minutes of injury time decreed by the referee, Selkirk scored their all-important third try when wing-forward Callum Johnston (later named Selkirk's Four Seasons Forestry 'Man of the Match') somehow managing to force his way over the line for a try following good drives by Scott Tomlinson, Andrew Renwick and Gavin Craig.

Even though the vast majority of the home support would have settled for 27-14 scoreline, there was still more to come. Another break by Gavin Craig saw the stand-off link up on the left with Lee Jones, and the wing showed pace, poise and power to squeeze over near the corner flag for a vital bonus point try. Cassidy's soaring touchline conversion put the icing on the cake.

Selkirk have three home games left against Stewart's/Melville FP, Currie and Ayr, as well as an away fixture with Glasgow Hawks, while this Saturday the team travel to take on Prem. 2 leaders Stirling County in a second round cup tie at Bridgehaugh.

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

Referee - Iain Heard (Gala).