ON-SONG SELKIRK BLOW HOT AT HARTREMILL TO SECURE RECORD VICTORY 


Centre Craig MacDougall gets his pass away despite the close attention of opposite number Connor Lavery. [Photos: GRANT KINGHORN]

 Biggar 12, Selkirk 43

SATURDAY’S rearranged RBS National League game between Biggar and Selkirk was as close as any of the players - or supporters huddled on the touchline - will get to experiencing what it’s like to spend 80 minutes in a wind tunnel.

The force-nine gale which whipped down the Hartreemill pitch throughout the match was of a ferocity even professional players would have struggled to master. Such was Selkirk skipper Andrew Renwick’s confidence in his team-mates, however, that on winning the toss he elected to play into the teeth of the gale.

His faith proved well-founded, with Selkirk’s players turning in one of their most impressive performances of the season against the elements in the first half. A combination of secure handling, tireless support play and textbook recycling resulted in the visitors scoring five tries before the interval to lead 29-5 at the break - an incredible feat in the circumstances.

“The boys played the conditions really well,” Selkirk head coach Ally Dickson said after the match, “and the effort put in by every member of the squad was huge. We got the feelgood factor back against Hillhead-Jordanhill last week, and this helped lay the foundations for another big win today.”

With only one RBS National League fixture to play, Selkirk are now guaranteed a top half finish in the division, while victory over Dundee at Mayfield on March 22 would see the Souters end the campaign in fourth place – the same position they finished last season.

The only downside to Saturday’s victory was the broken nose suffered by Darren Clapperton five minutes before halftime. The Selkirk wing has been in superb form since returning from injury four weeks ago, and had already crossed for two tries in the game until a tackler’s knee caught him in the face. His place was taken by Callum McColm, himself making a comeback from injury.

It was Clapperton who set the Selkirk bandwagon rolling in the first minute with a mazy break out of defence up the left touchline. From the resultant line-out, the ball was moved wide to Josh Welsh, who made ground up the right touchline before feeding inside to Fraser Harkness. The full-back’s well-timed off-load sent Clapperton sprinting under the posts for a try, converted by Rory Banks, putting Selkirk 7-0 ahead after just four minutes.

Selkirk’s forwards continued to dominate possession and assiduously protect the ball, with Andrew Renwick giving a strong lead as the visitors patiently built phase after phase, gradually inching their way up the field into Biggar territory.

Selkirk stretched their lead when good tidying-up work by Ricky Fluhler allowed Rory Banks to launch a counter- attack. Craig MacDougall (a late replacement on the morning of the match for Lee Kibble) fed Matt Kissick, who in turn found Fraser Harkness bursting up the left. Harkness and Kissick then exchanged quick passes before Mikey Davies – in superb form throughout – came on an angled run to race clear for Selkirk’s second try, again converted by Banks.

Biggar hit back in the 16th minute when a spilled ball was scooped up by centre Connor Lavery, who ran 40 metres to score a try wide on the right without a hand being laid on him, cutting the deficit to 14-5 in the visitors’ favour.

In the 26th minute Clapperton crossed for his second try following Davies’ quickly taken tap penalty and Angus Duckett’s charge, and soon afterwards Fraser Harkness made a storming run up the right touchline to score his side’s bonus point try.

Before the interval Josh Welsh, who was full of running all day, finished off Harkness’ powerful burst to score Selkirk’s fifth try of the half, making the interval score 29-5 in the Philiphaugh men’s favour.

For the second half Callum Marshall and Callum Turnbull took the field in place of Angus Duckett and Cata Graur, while in the 55th minute hooker James Bett aggravated a thumb injury and was replaced by Ruairi Wilson.

Biggar scored their second try through fly-half Craig McDonald, which he converted himself, but Selkirk had the final say when Josh Welsh sprinted over for two further touchdowns to complete his hat-trick, Rory Banks landing each conversion from the touchline to set the seal on Selkirk’s biggest ever win at Hartreemill.

A special mention goes to Selkirk’s teenage wing-forward Scott McClymont, who came off the replacements bench in the final quarter to make his senior debut for the Philiphaugh club, after Matt Kissick had taken a head knock.

BIGGAR – J. Sullivan, M. Bertram, Z. Carolyn, C. Lavery, D. Paterson, C. McDonald, D. Reive, C. Arthur, K. Anderson, C. Henderson, C. Taylor, J. Orr, C. Cochrane, E. Sanderson, D. Notman. Replacements: J. Simpson, A. Howatson, A. Peacock, C. Parker.

SELKIRK - F. Harkness, J. Welsh, R. Nixon, C. MacDougall, D. Clapperton, R. Banks, M. Davies, C. Elliot, J. Bett, C. Graur, A. Renwick, R. Fluhler, E. MacDougall, A. Duckett, M. Kissick. Replacements: C. McColm, S. McClymont, C. Marshall, C. Turnbull, R. Wilson.

Referee – Kevin White (Edinburgh).