Kelso 11, Selkirk 15


LEFT - Selkirk vice-captain Callum Johnston prepares to get to grips with Kelso lock Donald Seed in Saturday's match at Poynder Park, watched by Clément Lacour. RIGHT - Fraser Harkness on the attack in the second half, with team-mate Matt Kissick reminding him he's available if needed. (Photos: Grant Kinghorn)

A GRITTY, dogged performance earned Selkirk a hard-fought 15-11 win over Kelso in Saturday's RBS National League fixture at Poynder Park. What the game lacked in attacking finesse and flair it more than made up for in ferocity and commitment, with both packs going toe-to-toe in the loose and set-piece exchanges.
In last season's corresponding fixture, the Tweedsiders sent the visitors away from Poynder Park with their tails between their legs following a 35-3 drubbing. It soon became clear from the intensity of Saturday's contest that Selkirk's players were determined there would be no repeat this time around.
Kelso played into the strong sun in the first half, and had to look lively after first Gordon Patterson and then Fraser Harkness made inroads into their 22. However, in what was to prove the visitors' Achilles heel throughout the afternoon, Selkirk fell foul of the referee's whistle, conceding no fewer than five penalties in the first 10 minutes of play to hand the initiative back to the Black & Whites.
Two consecutive penalty awards allowed home fly-half Murray Hastie to find touch on Selkirk's five-metre line, and at the line-out visiting flanker Neil Darling was yellow-carded for an offence spotted by the referee. Moments later home number eight Darren Gillespie burst through to score the first try of the match with 12 minutes on the clock.
Michael McVie had a chance to cut the deficit from a penalty attempt in the 15th minute but sent his kick just wide. Murray Hastie also missed the target four minutes later. Indeed both players struggled to find their best goal-kicking form throughout the match: Hastie converting just one of six goal attempts, with McVie's success ratio slightly better at two from five.
Selkirk went ahead in the 23rd minute. Kelso were penalised for early engagement at a scrum on the halfway line, allowing Rory Banks to find touch inside the home 22. Lock Andrew Renwick secured possession at the line-out, and Gavin Craig's inside break was supported by Angus Duckett.
The Kiwi openside fed Fraser Harkness, whose powerful run down the left touchline was carried on by Scott Hendrie. When stopped, the wing managed to off-load to team-mate Darren Clapperton, who managed to ground the ball for a try despite Dom Buckley's all-enveloping tackle. McVie's conversion put the visitors 7-5 up.
With Neil Darling back on the field Selkirk's pack began to rediscover its rhythm, but no sooner had progress been made than the referee's whistle would invariably blow for another penalty against the Philiphaugh men. In the 28th minute Hastie capitalised on one such award to edge Kelso back in front 8-7.
It was now the Tweedsiders' turn to exert pressure, and midfield surges by Euan Ford and Michael Robertson took play deep into Selkirk territory until a penalty at a ruck halted the home side's progress.
Five minutes before the interval Selkirk struck a decisive blow. Inter-passing between Harkness and Clapperton up the left touchline saw the latter player tackled just short of the home try line. The Selkirk pack was quickly on the scene, and moments later Neil Darling somehow managed to negotiate a pile of bodies to score the visitors' second try.
Just before halftime McVie was wide with a penalty attempt from in front of the posts, leaving the interval score 12-8 in Selkirk's favour.
The stop-start nature of the match continued after the break, due in part to the high incidence of penalty awards, but also the ability of both teams' hard-hitting defences to cancel each other out. Errors began to proliferate - Hastie kicking the ball dead when handling might have been the better option, and Banks twice missing touch from penalty kicks.
Selkirk lost the services of prop Gordon Patterson with a torn tendon in his hand after just five minutes of the second period, his place being taken by Cata Graur.
At the heart of Selkirk's pack Neil Darling continually urged his team-mates to greater efforts, while Andrew Renwick stole three home line-outs to keep Kelso on the back foot, and hooker Stuart Forrest marked his 100th senior club appearance with his most consistent display of the season.
Two more penalty misses by Hastie were countered by a successful kick from McVie in the 55th minute to put the visitors 15-8 ahead. Kelso then managed to cut the deficit to 15-11 from a Will Massey penalty after Craig had been penalised for a high tackle.
The remainder of the game saw both teams hell-bent on landing the decisive blow. Hendrie and Harkness combined on the right to almost secure the clinching score, while Michael Robertson and Darren Gillespie pulled out all the stops to get the Tweedsiders over the line.
In the sixth minute of injury time the referee awarded the visitors a penalty near their own try line after sustained pressure from Kelso, and a relieved Andrew Renwick unceremoniously booted the ball into touch to bring this bruising Border derby to an end.

KELSO: A. Haig, D. Buckley, R. Minto, A. Alexander, G. Minto, M. Hastie, A. Tait, K. Cooney, C. Riddell, S. Lowrie, D. Seed, I. Wallace, M. Robertson, E. Ford, D. Gillespie. Reps: R. Glendinning, S. McCroll, J. Stewart, W. Massey, F. Robson.

SELKIRK: R. Banks, S. Hendrie, F. Harkness, R. Nixon, D. Clapperton , G. Craig, M. McVie, G. Patterson, S. Forrest, C. Lacour, A. Renwick, M. Kissick, N. Darling, A. Duckett, E. MacDougall. Reps: C. McColm, J. Bett, C. Johnston, C. Graur, A. Lambie.

Referee - Graeme Wells.