Hawick 26 Selkirk 30
Selkirk come back from the brink to pull off stunning victory at Hawick
HAVING looked dead and buried trailing 23-5 at halftime, Selkirk's players staged a remarkable comeback at Mansfield Park on Saturday to snatch a bonus point 30-26 victory over Hawick and maintain their unbeaten record in the RBS National League.
Still trying to catch his breath after the frantic final five minutes of the match - when the Greens had come within a whisker of crossing the visitors' line for a match-saving try - Selkirk coach Brian Cassidy had nothing but praise for his men.
"The whole team showed great character in fighting back like that after the break, for I thought Hawick was the hungrier side in the first half. I reckoned the wind would be worth 20 points to the team who had it at their backs, but even so we still had it all to do in the second period.
"Hawick's defence after the break was solid, and they gave away very few penalties, but the boys raised their game and built up enough momentum to shift the balance in our favour. Full credit to Hawick for coming back at us in the final minutes, but Selkirk's players kept their nerve and stood tall. As a coach, you can't ask for more."
In such an all-round team performance it's perhaps unfair to single out Selkirk players for special praise, but the tireless running of forwards Angus Duckett and Ryan Crockatt, allied to the high work rate in both attack and defence of backs Gavin Craig, Fraser Harkness and Ross Nixon, gave the Souters an extra edge.
Having won the toss, skipper Greg Cottrell elected to play with the strong wind in Hawick's favour, and it took the home team just five minutes to put its first points on the board. A slick reverse pass by ex-Selkirk player Ross Armstrong allowed the Greens to break through the visitors' first line of defence, and after a crisp sequence of inter-passing prop Shaw Muir crashed over for a try, converted by Neil Renwick.
Shortly after the restart Selkirk were penalised for not releasing, and Renwick stepped up to send over a penalty from two metres inside his own half to put Hawick 10-0 ahead.
The visitors gradually began to find their feet, and after 13 minutes a break up the middle by captain Gavin Craig allowed Callum McColm to make ground down the left. When Cata Graur was held up close to the home '22', the ball was switched right, where full-back Fraser Harkness barrelled his way over near the corner flag for Selkirk's opening try.
The visitors' relief was short-lived, for when Selkirk were penalised for offside, another monster penalty kick by Renwick - taken from fully five metres inside his own half - sailed between the posts to put Hawick 13-5 ahead.
A fluffed restart kick immediately allowed Hawick to gain a foothold in Selkirk territory, and after Ross Nixon had been spoken to by referee Changleng for a ruck infringement, Renwick's third successful penalty stretched the Greens' lead to 16-5.
Despite a spirited push upfield by the visiting pack - in which Neil Darling had replaced Ewan MacDougall - Hawick forced another turnover. A rapid counter-attack saw Neil Renwick take the final pass to waltz through Selkirk's stretched defence to touch down and convert his own try, making the halftime score 23-5 to the Greens.
Whatever the Selkirk coaches said to their charges during the interval break clearly hit home, for with the strengthening breeze now at their backs, the Philiphaugh team looked a different outfit in the second half. A penalty after two minutes by McVie was answered by Renwick's fourth of the afternoon to preserve Hawick's 20-point advantage.
With Selkirk's pack now beginning to call the shots, Selkirk cut the deficit in the 46th minute when lock Matt Kissick was up in support of Fraser Harkness' blistering break to swallow-dive under the posts for the visitors' second try. McVie's conversion made the score 26-15 in the Greens' favour.
At this point Hawick lost the services of lock Craig Smith, soon to be followed by opposite number Matt Kissick, who badly sprained his right ankle after landing on an opponent's foot at a line-out. A reshuffle in the visiting pack saw vice-captain Callum Johnston take the field for his first appearance since returning from a working holiday in America.
The match's turning point came when a scrum to Hawick just short of their 10-metre line saw the ball switched blind. The move was read by Selkirk scrum-half Michael McVie, who intercepted Davies' pass and raced clear before sending number eight Ryan Crockatt on a 30-metre dash to score the Souters' third try.
On the 70-minute mark McVie's second penalty took Selkirk to within just three points of Hawick's total, and before the Hawick players had had time to draw breath the men from Philiphaugh delivered what was to prove the killer blow.
A barnstorming run by Andrew Renwick into the heart of the Teries' defence saw the ball whip through the hands of Callum Johnston, Neil Darling, Ross Nixon and Callum McColm, before Gordon Patterson side-stepped Renwick to burst over the line for a superb try wide on the right.
McVie lined up the conversion knowing a successful kick would put his team four points ahead, and duly kept his nerve to send the ball straight between the posts.
With the seconds ticking away, McVie turned sinner when his penalty kick failed to find touch, and with the game deep into injury time it looked all over for the Souters when Hawick wing Steven Anderson steamed towards the right-hand corner for what would have been the winning try. Luckily for Selkirk Darren Clapperton proved equal to the task, just managing to force Anderson into touch inches shy of the line.
Referee Malcolm Changleng blew his whistle seconds later to bring a pulsating Borders derby to a close, leaving Selkirk's players and supporters to celebrate one of the club's greatest-ever victories at Mansfield Park.
HAWICK: N. Renwick, S. Anderson, L. Armstrong,
R. Armstrong, S. McLeod, R. Hutton, G. Cottrell, S. Muir, L. Gibson, L. Launders, C. Smith, K. Willison, N. Mactaggart,
R. Scott, K. Davies. Reps: H. Scammell, D. Johnstone, A. Weir, S. Graham, G. Johnstone.
SELKIRK: F. Harkness, C. McColm, L. McLennan, R.
Nixon, D. Clapperton , G. Craig, M. McVie, C. Lacour, P. Forrest, C. Graur, M. Kissick, A. Renwick, E. MacDougall,
A. Duckett, R. Crockatt. Reps: M. Rutherford, J. Bett, G. Patterson, N. Darling, C. Johnston.
Referee - Malcolm Changleng (Gala).