Hillhead/Jordanhill 19, Selkirk 26

SELKIRK PLAYERS DIG DEEP ONCE AGAIN TO PULL OFF ANOTHER NARROW VICTORY

Selkirk captain Gavin Craig prepares to off-load the ball as Hillhead/Jordanhill halfbacks David Armstrong (left) and AJ Macfarlane try to halt his progress during Saturday's seven-try thriller at Hughenden.

Lock Matt Kissick gets ready to hand off Hillhead/Jordanhill prop Steven Longwell , with Selkirk team-mate Ross Nixon ready to lend support. (Photos: Grant Kinghorn)


SELKIRK had to pull out all the stops to keep their unbeaten RBS National League record alive in a pulsating contest against Hillhead/Jordanhill at Hughenden on Saturday. This was the first league fixture to be played on the Glasgow club's new pitch, and both teams ensured the new Hughenden surface was handselled in style.
Having won the toss, home skipper Stuart Ross elected to kick off, allowing opposite number Gavin Craig to choose to play into the stiff breeze blowing across the field. It was Hillhead/Jordanhill who made by far the more positive start, the heavier home pack (featuring ex-Glasgow pro. Joe Stafford at hooker) making inroads into Selkirk territory whenever they had the ball.
Selkirk had a couple of early let-offs when Hills fly-half AJ Macfarlane was wide with two penalty attempts awarded within the first three minutes of the match. The visitors put further pressure on themselves by not securing possession on their own line-out throws, and it took a try-saving tackle by scrum-half Michael McVie on wing Chris Butler to keep the score sheet blank.
Another penalty against the visitors resulted in Hillhead/Jordanhill finding touch close to the Selkirk try line, but a timely line-out steal by Andrew Renwick relieved the pressure.
The Philiphaugh team's first meaningful attack saw Scott Hendrie break up the left touchline from turnover ball, and although Fraser Harkness then made good ground he was stopped just short of the home try line.
Somewhat against the run of play Selkirk took the lead in the 29th minute. Centre Ross Nixon did well to recycle ball under pressure, and a half-break by Gavin Craig created just enough space for Darren Clapperton to pop up on the opposite wing to score wide on the right. McVie's conversion put Selkirk 7-0 up.
Good recovery work on the deck by Neil Darling helped keep the Hills back row in check, while the high work rate of Kiwis Angus Duckett and Matt Kissick in both defence and attack was proving key to the visitors' survival.
A missed kick to touch by Selkirk in the 36th minute was immediately punished by the home team. A quick transfer saw Hills number eight Blair Macpherson smash through several tackles before releasing the city side's lively blindside, Geoff Dunne, who burst over for a try. Macfarlane's conversion levelled the scores.
Just before halftime Hillhead/Jordanhill took the lead when a monster line kick from Will Marshall pinned Selkirk inside their own 22, and moments later Dunne stormed over the line for his team's second try and a 14-7 interval lead.
Selkirk hooker Stuart Forrest was replaced by brother Peter at half time, and six minutes into the half Dunne turned sinner when he was yellow-carded following a ruck infringement. Shortly afterwards Neil Darling had to leave the field with a rib injury, his place being taken by Callum Johnston.
With the wind now in their favour, Selkirk were beginning to apply more pressure, with first Harkness and then Hendrie being stopped close to the home line. Quick thinking by prop Gordon Patterson helped get Selkirk back on level terms when he drove over for a try following untidy scrum ball. McVie's solid conversion kick made the score 14-14.
The match's turning point came three minutes later when McVie's clever blindside interception saw the scrum-half sprint clear and give a scoring pass to the ever-alert Angus Duckett, who crashed over for the visitors' third try, which was safely converted by McVie.
Back came Hills, and with 10 minutes to go prop Will Goulden bulldozed his way over for a try after a spell of intense pressure on the visitors' line. Macfarlane's conversion attempt drifted left, leaving Selkirk 21-19 ahead.
For the next seven minutes Hillhead's pack battered away at Selkirk's try line, but found the visitors in no mood to give up their advantage. It was Patterson who eventually lifted the siege by ripping the ball from a Hills forward's hands, and the indefatigable Kissick helped clear the danger.
Inspired by this show of defiance, Selkirk immediately burst upfield in a counter-attack involving Craig, Nixon, Clapperton and Duckett. Nevertheless Hillhead/Jordanhill were far from finished, and when Harkness' pass was intercepted by home replacement Jamie Cross, it looked as though the game might be up for the visitors.
However, Harkness managed to retrieve the situation by sprinting after Cross and tackling him just outside the Selkirk 22 - much to the relief of his team-mates and travelling supporters.
With the game deep into injury time, Selkirk lock Matt Kissick set the seal on a memorable Selkirk victory by diving over for his side's bonus point try in the left-hand corner after McVie and Duckett had exploited a lack of defenders on the blindside.
The stage is now set for a battle royal this Saturday at Philiphaugh between the National League's only remaining unbeaten teams, Selkirk and Glasgow Hawks. Hopefully everyone's heart rates will have returned to normal by thenů

HILLHEAD/JORDANHILL: W. Marshall, D. Osugo, R. Williamson, R. Holland, C. Butler, A. Macfarlane, D. Armstrong, S. Longwell, J. Stafford, W. Goulden, C. Buchan, J. Agnew, G. Dunne, B. Macpherson, S. Ross. Reps: A. Macmillan, D. Crichton, D. Grove, A. Leslie, J. Cross.

SELKIRK: F. Harkness, L. McLennan, S. Hendrie, R. Nixon, D. Clapperton , G. Craig, M. McVie, C. Lacour, S. Forrest, C. Graur, A. Renwick, M. Kissick, N. Darling, A. Duckett, R. Crockatt. Reps: M. Rutherford, E. MacDougall, P. Forrest, G. Patterson, C. Johnston.

Referee - Alan Campbell (Fife).