Selkirk 8, Watsonians 6

TEAM SPIRIT WINS THE DAY – BOTH ON AND OFF THE PITCH – AS SELKIRK PLAYERS RISE TO THE OCCASION

FOND FAREWELL. Selkirk’s players, coaches and team assistants gather around Neil Darling in the home dressing room following Saturday’s game, after skipper Gavin Craig had presented him with an inscribed quaich to commemorate his final match for the club. [Photo: Grant Kinghorn]



SHOWING every bit as much commitment as the 80 volunteers who had spent the best part of five hours clearing the pitch during the morning, Selkirk’s players battled their way to a famous victory over Watsonians at Philiphaugh on Saturday.
The fact that the match marked the final appearance of ex-skipper Neil Darling, one of the Selkirk club’s all-time greats, added further spice to the occasion, with the wing-forwards’ team-mates clearly determined to make sure ‘Duoro’ ended his playing days on a winning note.
Head coach Brian Cassidy had nothing but praise for players and supporters after the match. “Someone said that today was a right Selkirk effort from quarter to nine in the morning through to quarter to five in the afternoon. Everybody worked really hard to get the game played, and the Selkirk players responded in kind. It summed up what Selkirk is all about.
“Watsonians are a very good side, we always knew that, but today the Selkirk boys showed real character to keep them from crossing our line. The commitment of the players was huge, and the match proved a fitting send-off for Duoro, who’s been at the heart of this club for so long.”
Both teams were hit by late call-offs – Selkirk openside Angus Duckett dropping out on Friday night with a leg injury, while Watsonians fly-half Mike Ker had to withdraw after Thursday’s training. Their places were taken by Ewan MacDougall and Ross Aitken.
The visitors made by far the more positive start, forcing Selkirk to concede no fewer than five penalties in the opening six minutes. Watsonians scrum-half Brian Walls successfully kicked one of these to put his side 3-0 ahead, but was just wide with a second attempt after Andrew Renwick had been spoken to by the referee following a line-out transgression.
Watsonians’ relentless pressure continued, and only a superb turnover by Darren Clapperton near Selkirk’s left-hand corner stopped what looked a certain score. Soon afterwards a great double-tackle by Gavin Craig - first on Rory Steele and then on ’Sonians skipper Mark Rennie – epitomised the home side’s spirit.
In the 15th minute Selkirk’s solid scrummaging just outside the visitors’ 22 allowed Ross Nixon to release Scott Hendrie down the right, but the Watsonians defence held its shape to stifle the attack. Selkirk were almost caught out when the visitors’ strong-running number eight, Chris Scott, exploded down the stand side on a 50-metre charge - Fraser Harkness’ last-ditch tackle eventually saving the day. Selkirk managed to work their way back up the field, where Matt Kissick’s storming run from a line-out was followed by a sizzling Gavin Craig break.
On the half-hour mark Selkirk got their first points on the board. Another solid scrum by the home pack put the visitors on the back foot, and after a couple of phases the ball was moved out wide on the right. Fraser Harkness chipped over the Watsonians cover and raced after the ball, just beating Rory Steele to the touchdown. Michael McVie’s conversion attempt rebounded off the right-hand post, but Selkirk were now 5-3 in front.
A minute later Neil Darling raced to the touchline to have his dislocated right thumb re-set by club doctor Jeff Cullen. The flanker was only off the field for l three minutes, so keen was he to return to the fray.
On the stroke of halftime Watsonians flanker Dom Dunnett suffered a serious leg injury after falling awkwardly at a ruck. The player was stretchered from the field in obvious pain, later being taken by ambulance to the BGH where an X-ray revealed ligament damage rather than a fracture.
Ten minutes into the second half the home threequarters were caught offside, Walls landing his second penalty to edge Watsonians 6-5 ahead.
At this point Selkirk’s players regrouped and launched a series of attacks on the visitors’ line. Both Gavin Craig and Fraser Harkness came close to scoring, but on each occasion the well-organised Watsonians defence proved equal to the task.
In the 64th minute Selkirk got the chance to retake the lead when a visiting player was penalised for not rolling away after tackling Rory Banks. Michael McVie kept his head, and his footing, to send the penalty kick straight between the posts, edging the home side 8-6 in front.
Soon afterwards a crunching tackle by Harkness on Ewan Miller broke up a dangerous Watsonians attack, but within minutes Selkirk were penalised for collapsing a scrum, allowing Walls the chance to regain the lead for his team. His attempt was off-target, but Selkirk still found themselves fighting tooth and nail to defend their line as the visitors continued to turn the screw.
With five minutes left on the clock, Selkirk were penalised for a high tackle just outside their 22. Opting to kick for touch rather than go for goal, Watsonians’ pack was unable to get over the Selkirk try line despite launching a series of powerful rolling mauls and close-quarter drives.
Selkirk’s battle-weary troops somehow managed to protect their line during six long minutes of injury time, and when referee Cammy Rudkin’s whistle finally sounded to signal no-side, the relief among home supporters around the ground was palpable.
Fittingly it was Neil Darling who led the Selkirk team from the pitch for the last time. A great end to a great player’s rugby career.

SELKIRK: F. Harkness, J. Welsh, S. Hendrie, R. Nixon, D. Clapperton, G. Craig, M. McVie, C. Lacour, J. Bett, C. Graur, A. Renwick, M. Kissick, N. Darling, E. MacDougall, R. Crockatt. Reps: R. Banks, S. Forrest , S. Renwick, M. Waldron, C. Marshall.

WATSONIANS: R. Steele, J. Niven, S. McKean, E. Millar, R. Aitken, B. Walls, M. Heather, D. Rutherford, C. Gamboa, C. Smith, M. Rennie, H. Grant, D. Dunnett, C. Scott. Reps: A. Chalmers, J. Ferguson, A. Ross, D. Fraser, C. Harvey.

Referee – Cammy Rudkin (Hawick).