Selkirk 23, Hamilton 20

Selkirk do it the hard way with narrow home victory over stuffy visitors Hamilton

Selkirk captain Gavin Craig on the break in Saturday's match against Hamilton, with hooker Stuart Forrest awaiting developments.

Number eight Ryan Crockatt stretches over the line for Selkirk's second try on Saturday - his third score in the past four games. (Photos: Grant Kinghorn)


THESE days it's pretty easy to spot a Selkirk rugby supporter - just look for the telltale sign of fingernails bitten to the quick. For the third week in a row, Gavin Craig's team put the Philiphaugh faithful through the wringer as they battled to hold on to a wafer-thin lead in the game's dying seconds.
That Selkirk managed to keep an increasingly confident Hamilton side at bay long enough to notch their third straight RBS National League victory says much about the character of the home players, but they'd be the first to admit they made life hard for themselves thanks to a catalogue of individual errors made throughout the match.
Time and again promising moves would be stopped dead by knock-ons or wayward passes, while the concession of turnover ball in attacking situations proved equally frustrating for players and spectators alike. After the game Selkirk coach Brian Cassidy was in no mood to mince his words.
"That was one of our most disappointing performances I've seen in the last two seasons. I simply can't understand why we made so many basic errors and why the players' decision-making was so poor. There was a lot of talk out there, but not enough action.
"Yes, we got the win, and full credit goes to Hamilton for pushing us all the way and taking the game right down to the wire. The frustrating thing is that I know there's much more to come from these players, but as yet we've only been able to show our true colours in fits and starts. Things are only going to get tougher in this league, and we need to raise our game significantly."
Selkirk played against the wind in the first half, and Hamilton fly-half Owen McLeish dictated the early exchanges with some booming positional kicks that had the home side pinned in their own 22. It didn't help that Selkirk's forwards were penalised at each of the first three scrums, the latter award being advanced 10 yards for backchat.
Only a well timed intervention by Andrew Renwick, who spotted the ball was out at a Hamilton ruck, allowed the home side to clear the danger. The visitors were not to be denied, however, and on the 11-minute mark a missed first-time tackle in midfield allowed Hamilton centre Scott Whitelaw to coast home for the game's first try. McLeish's conversion sailed over.
Soon afterwards a strong charge upfield by Selkirk number eight Ryan Crockatt put Hamilton on the back foot, and when a defender was judged offside at a ruck, up stepped Michael McVie to kick the penalty and cut the deficit to 7-3.
A wrist injury forced Lewis MacLennan to be replaced in the home threequarter line by Callum McColm, and after Selkirk were penalised for not retreating 10 metres, McLeish made no mistake with a sweetly struck penalty to restore Hamilton's seven-point advantage after 18 minutes.
Selkirk's forwards finally managed to put together a series of phases up the right side of the field, and when a long pass was floated out to Darren Clapperton wide on the left, the talented wing cleverly sidestepped his way past three defenders to score. McVie's conversion levelled the scores.
After 26 minutes Selkirk took the lead for the first time. Another clever break by Craig saw the ball off-loaded to Ross Nixon, and the centre found Ryan Crockatt up in support. The home number eight backed himself to get over the line, and did just that to notch Selkirk's second try.
A yellow card for not retreating 10 metres saw Hamilton lock Ali Marshall head to the bin, and just before halftime he was followed by Ryan Crockatt - deemed by referee Burel to have deliberately knocked on. The interval whistle sounded soon afterwards, with Selkirk 15-10 ahead.
Any hopes home supporters might have had of Selkirk ratcheting up the pressure now they had the wind at their backs were cruelly dashed within minutes of the restart. Yet another knock-on by a Selkirk player saw the referee play advantage, and Hamilton wing Ross Inglis showed a clean pair of heels to the home defence for a try under the posts.
A second McLeish penalty, after Callum Johnston was penalised for not releasing the ball, allowed Hamilton to get their noses back in front at 20-15. Selkirk had a chance to level the scores after Craig Inglis made a high tackle on Angus Duckett, but McVie's penalty attempt drifted wide.
Although the home side began to exert more pressure, poor passing and yet more penalties at the scrum allowed Hamilton to hold on to their lead. A 66th minute penalty miss by McLeish was followed by a similarly wide effort from McVie, and with the seconds ticking away things were beginning to look bleak for the Philiphaugh team.
All that changed eight minutes from time when a Hamilton knock-on gave Selkirk a scrum outside the visitors' 22. A pick-up by Ryan Crockatt saw the number eight make ground on the blind before off-loading to Darren Clapperton, who showed pace and poise to sprint over for his second try and level the score at 20-20.
A 75th minute penalty against a Hamilton tackler for not rolling away gave Michael McVie the chance to put his side back in front, and just as he did at Mansfield Park, the scrum-half kept his nerve to land the all-important kick.
A frantic final five minutes saw both sides battle hard for the decisive score. However, Selkirk's players managed to protect their narrow lead to record the side's third consecutive league victory, although at this rate nail scissors will soon be a thing of the past in the Royal & Ancient Burgh…

SELKIRK: M. Rutherford, S. Hendrie, L. MacLennan, R. Nixon, D. Clapperton , G. Craig, M. McVie, C. Lacour, S. Forrest, C. Graur, A. Renwick, N. Darling, C. Johnston, A. Duckett, R. Crockatt. Reps: C. McColm, E. MacDougall, P. Forrest, G. Patterson, E. Turner.
Referee - Jean-Marie Burel (Morgan Acad FP).