Selkirk 12, Melrose 27


LEFT - Selkirk openside Angus Duckett battles to escape the attention of Melrose’s Ross Miller in Saturday’s RBS National Cup quarter-final at Philiphaugh. Melrose won the match 27-12. RIGHT – Scrum-half Michael McVie looks to launch another home attack.

DESPITE a battling display, Selkirk found Melrose too tough a nut to crack in Saturday’s RBS National Cup quarter-final at Philiphaugh. A bumper crowd enjoyed a typically hard-fought Border derby, with the visitors’ superior finishing eventually proving the difference between the two sides.
“I thought our boys turned in a performance full of character today,” Selkirk head coach Brian Cassidy said after the match, “and they did both themselves and our supporters proud. Against a team as sharp as Melrose I reckon you have to take at least 80 per cent of your chances, and today I’d say we only managed around 50 per cent.
“That said, we remained competitive throughout the match, and if we’d managed to get our noses in front when we had them under pressure in the second half, then it might have been a different story. Still, all credit to Melrose, and I wish them well for the rest of the competition.”
Both teams tested each other out with a barrage of high kicks in the game’s early stages. From one such effort visiting full-back Fraser Thomson – whose elusive running troubled the home defence all afternoon – ran the ball back 40 metres to just outside Selkirk’s 22. When a home forward was penalised for going to ground, Andrew Skeen goaled the kick to put Melrose 3-0 up.
After referee Lloyd Linton had spoken to Angus Duckett and John Dalziel following a difference of opinion, Selkirk were awarded a penalty and made ground up the Ettrickhaugh Road touchline. Andrew Renwick won the line-out, and a carry up the middle by Ryan Crockatt provided Darren Clapperton with space on the left.
The ball was eventually switched to Fraser Harkness, whose chip to the line was gathered by Clément Lacour and off-loaded to Duckett. Quick ruck ball allowed Gavin Craig, Stuart Forrest and Harkness to make further inroads, and a penalty for not rolling away allowed Michael McVie to kick a penalty and level the scores.
The visitors had a chance to regain the lead after 10 minutes when Duckett was penalised for not releasing after making a crunching tackle on Ross Miller. However, Skeen’s kick drifted wide of the posts.
Melrose kept up the pressure, and after Rory Banks had done well to halt Thomson’s progress, it took a flying tackle by Darren Clapperton to prevent Melrose outside centre Bruce Dick from scoring in the left-hand corner.
The home supporters’ relief was short-lived. Melrose managed to win line-out possession on Selkirk’s throw, and a delicate chip to the opposite corner flag saw wing Callum Anderson deftly collect the bouncing ball and cross for the game’s opening try. Skeen’s conversion put the visitors 10-3 ahead.
It didn’t take Selkirk long to reply. A crisp break by Craig saw Crockatt up in support, and the number eight’s lobbed pass to Scott Hendrie put Melrose under pressure. A ruck infringement allowed McVie to kick his second penalty of the match to cut the deficit with 20 minutes gone.
Soon afterwards Bruce Colvine’s clever box kick pinned the home team in their own 22, and it took a turnover by Scott Hendrie under his own posts to clear the danger.
A yellow card was shown to Andrew Skeen in the 26th minute after Harkness had been tackled in mid-air, but despite being a man down the visitors had a chance to increase their lead when Joe Help’s penalty attempt rebounded off a post.
Within the space of a minute McVie and Helps landed penalties to make the score 13-9 in Melrose’s favour, but just before halftime the Selkirk scrum-half saw his fourth penalty attempt drift wide to leave the visitors four points clear at the break.
Wing-forward Ewan MacDougall, who got through a power of work, set the tone for a Selkirk resurgence in the second half. The 20-year-old pounced on John Dalziel’s line-out deflection to put the home pack on the front foot, then moments later won turnover ball to maintain the pressure.
For the next 15 minutes Selkirk enjoyed their best passage of play in the contest, with MacDougall, Lacour and Renwick taking the game to the visitors with repeated drives up the field. Gavin Craig and Angus Duckett then combined to prise open a gap in the Melrose defence, but the final pass didn’t go to hand and the scoring chance was lost.
A shuddering tackle by Harkness on Dick underlined Selkirk’s resolve, but two further penalty misses by McVie in the 52nd and 57th minute allowed Melrose to hold on to their lead. Another knock-on close to Melrose’s line only added to the home side’s frustration.
The game’s turning point came in the 70th minute when a rolling maul by Melrose’s pack resulted in a try for prop Gary Holborn. Skeen’s successful conversion put the visitors 20-9 in front.
A McVie penalty six minutes from time reduced the deficit, but the point of no return came when Ross Ovens fly-hacked a loose ball over the home line to score his side’s third try. Skeen’s conversion sailed over and the final whistle blew soon afterwards.
Ewan MacDougall was named as the Four Seasons Forestry ‘Selkirk Man of the Match’, but it’s fair to say that every player in the Selkirk squad gave nothing less than their best in a no-holds-barred contest. No-one epitomised this resolve more than ‘A’ XV captain John Everitt, who slotted into the second row despite being sidelined since the Hamilton game by an arm injury.
SELKIRK: F. Harkness, R. Banks, S. Hendrie, R. Nixon, D. Clapperton, G. Craig, M. McVie, C. Graur, S. Forrest , C. Lacour, A. Renwick, J. Everitt, E. MacDougall, A. Duckett, R. Crockatt. Reps: L. MacLennan, J. Bett, S. Renwick, S. Robertson, K. Mitchell.
MELROSE: F. Thomson, C. Anderson, B. Dick, J. Helps, A. Dodds, A. Skeen, B. Colvine, C. Keen, R. Ferguson, G. Holborn, G. Dodds, P. Eccles, J. Dalziel, R. Ovens, R. Miller. Reps: S. Lowe, W. Mitchell, A. Nagle, S. McCormick, R. Mill.
Referee – Lloyd Linton (Caledonia Society).

LEFT – Skipper Gavin Craig finds himself caught up in heavy traffic during Saturday’s game. RIGHT – Selkirk president Eric Forster presents blindside flanker Ewan MacDougall with the Four Seasons Forestry ‘Selkirk Man of the Match’ Award after the final whistle. [Photos: GRANT KINGHORN]