Melrose 20, Selkirk 0

Selkirk go down fighting, but Melrose take honours in Border League play-off final

(Photos: Grant Kinghorn)

CONSOLATION PRIZE. Selkirk prop Matt Weller accepts his runners-up medal from Border League president John Reed at the end of Wednesday night's play-off final.

NO SURRENDER. Wing forward Neil Darling tries to battle his way through Melrose's defence in trademark style.

DESPITE a battling display, Selkirk lost out to Scottish champions Melrose in Wednesday night's 'Radio Borders' Border League play-off final at The Gytes, Peebles. In front of a large crowd, Fraser Harkness' men did their level best to retain the trophy the club has won for the past three years, but a hot-and-cold display against a team in such a rich vein of form as Melrose wasn't enough to keep the silverware at Philiphaugh.
Playing with the sun at their backs in the first half, Melrose stand-off Scott Wight's siege-gun kicks kept Selkirk under continual pressure, and the Greenyards team almost opened the scoring as early as the third minute when Wight put Jamie Murray clean through down the left flank, but the stand-off's pass was adjudged forward.
Moments later Selkirk showed typical opportunism when fly-half Gavin Craig - who was in fine form throughout - broke from his own 22. The move was carried on right up to the Melrose try line by Darren Clapperton, Rob Taylor and Neil Darling, but the ball was spilled when it looked certain the Souters would score.
Melrose capitalised by sweeping back down the field to set up camp just outside their opponents' 22-metre line. A series of drives by the Greenyards forwards stretched Selkirk's defence to the limit, and a missed tackle allowed Fraser Thomson the space to sprint over for a try near the left-hand corner.
In the 28th minute Selkirk were penalised for not rolling away at a ruck, and Wight's kick took play to just five metres from the Selkirk try line. From the rolling maul following the line-out it looked as though Graeme Dodds had been propelled across the line for a score, but referee David Changleng ruled the number eight had been held up.
The Philiphaugh side's relief was short-lived, however, for soon afterwards Selkirk scrum-half Michael McVie was penalised by the referee for backchat, and Wight gratefully sent the penalty kick straight between the posts.
Despite creating promising openings, Selkirk's error count was beginning to creep up, with knock-ons at critical times handing the initiative straight back to their opponents. A great break by David Cassidy looked as though Selkirk would put their first points on the board, but Clapperton was unable to hold the final pass.
With McVie off the field with a bloodied nose and Ciaran Beattie operating at scrum-half, Melrose struck a significant blow on the stroke of halftime when a strike against the head allowed the Greenyards side to again put Selkirk on the back foot. A few phases later John Dalziel needed no second invitation to bulldoze his way under the posts for his team's second try. Wight's conversion took the interval score to 15-0 in Melrose's favour.
Selkirk made an explosive start to the second half when Fraser Harkness and Ryan Crockatt combined to open up the Melrose defence, and moments later a superb burst by Craig almost saw the stand-off cross the line, but he just failed to gather his own chip-ahead.
With Rory Aglen and Rob Taylor retiring to the sidelines, replacements Callum Marshall and Martin Murray got the chance to make an impact, and both players turned in solid performances. However, despite having the bulk of the pressure, Selkirk were unable to find a chink in Melrose's defensive armour.
In the final minute of the match Joe Helps found space on the left to seal victory with Melrose's third try, and Selkirk's misery was compounded when immediately afterwards referee Changleng showed Michael McVie a red card for abusive language. It just wasn't Selkirk's night.

PLAYING CATCH-UP. Another superb line break by Selkirk stand-off Gavin Craig splits the Melrose defence.

SO NEAR. Selkirk wing Darren Clapperton comes within a whisker of crossing Melrose's try line, but it was not to be. (Photos: Grant Kinghorn)

MELROSE: F. Thomson; C. Anderson, J. Murray, J. Helps, A. Dodds; S. Wight, R. Chrystie; N. Beavon, W. Mitchell, R. Higgins, G. Elder, H. Mitchell, J. Dalziel, G. Runciman, G. Dodds. Replacements: S. Johnson, N. Little, G. Innes, R. Miller, C. Hardie, B. Colvine, B. Allan.

SELKIRK: F. Harkness; C. Beattie, D. Cassidy, R. Nixon, D. Clapperton; G. Craig, M. McVie; R. Taylor, S. Forrest, M. Weller, R. Aglen, S. Willet, N. Darling, R. Crockatt, A. Renwick. Replacements: M. Martin, M. Murray, C. Marshall, E. MacDougall, C. MacDougall, J. Hendrie, R. Banks.

Referee - David Changleng (Gala).