Melrose 25, Selkirk 16


LEFT – Michael McVie kicks his second penalty for Selkirk early in the second half of Saturday’s Border League match against Melrose at The Greenyards. The home side eventually won 25-16. RIGHT – Wing Scott Hendrie pounces to score Selkirk’s first try.

LEFT – Rory Banks tries to evade the clutches of Melrose’s Joe Helps (No. 12) as Selkirk team-mate Ross Nixon looks on. RIGHT – Selkirk centre Lee Kibble goes airborne as Selkirk push for their third try of the afternoon. [Photos: GRANT KINGHORN]

FOR the second week in a row Selkirk took on RBS Premiership opposition, and showed enough commitment and drive in Saturday’s Booker Border League clash against Melrose at The Greenyards to suggest they could more than hold their own at the top level.

However, the visitors found it hard to breach Melrose’s well organised defence, especially in the second half when they had the lion’s share of possession and territory. Too often scoring chances went begging through lack of support, with Melrose showing the greater control and sharper decision-making as Selkirk paid the penalty for trying to force the game.

The match exploded into life as early as the second minute when a 50-metre burst upfield by Selkirk openside Angus Duckett took play deep into Melrose territory. New home full-back Austin Lockington managed to collar Duckett close to the line, and moments later Selkirk skipper Andrew Renwick was also stopped just short of the whitewash.

Soon afterwards Michael McVie did manage to put the Souters ahead from a penalty close to the Melrose 10-metre line, but Joe Helps replied in kind to level the scores after 10 minutes.

As the visitors proceeded to concede a string of penalties, Helps was able to demonstrate his considerable goal-kicking prowess by banging over a further three kicks to put Melrose 12-3 in front with just over half-an-hour gone.

Selkirk suffered a further setback when the restart kick went straight into touch, and from the resultant scrum on the halfway line Melrose centre Andrew Skeen broke clean down the middle of the pitch. When the ball was shipped wide to Allan Dodds, the wing raced over in the left-hand corner to increase the home side’s lead to 17-3.

At this point Selkirk newcomer Graham Turner replaced Cata Graur at tighthead prop, and after a spell of pressure visiting full-back Fraser Harkness powered upfield to stretch the home defence. Gavin Craig was on hand to carry on the attack, with Lee Kibble chipping towards the Melrose line to keep the home side on the back foot.

Melrose were penalised by referee Cammy Rudkin at the next ruck, and following a quickly taken tap penalty wing Scott Hendrie grabbed the ball as it ricocheted from a ruck to plunge over the line and register the visitors’ first try.

Melrose still had time to launch an attack up the right touchline by Damien Hoyland, but Fraser Harkness saved the day with a timely tackle. In the final move of the half Hendrie combined with Ross Nixon to make significant ground, but lack of support saw the move peter out. Halftime score – Melrose 17, Selkirk 8.

After the break another solid tackle from Harkness on Hoyland set the benchmark for a more spirited second half showing by Selkirk. McVie’s second successful penalty kick closed the gap to 17-11, but Helps restored Melrose’s 14-point advantage with his fifth penalty of the afternoon.

The same Melrose player struck a decisive blow in the 57th minute by crossing for a try to cap a spell of intense pressure by the home forwards, well marshalled by skipper Graeme Dodds.

Selkirk made three quick substitutions at this point, Callum Marshall, Ian Walling and Mikey Davies replacing Angus Duckett, James Bett and Michael McVie. A huge touch-finder from the boot of Rory Banks set up a good attacking platform for the visitors, and with Graeme Dodds yellow-carded by the referee, Selkirk pinned Melrose in their own 22 for several minutes.

Gavin Craig, Ewan MacDougall and Fraser Harkness all came close to getting over the line for the visitors, but Melrose’s defence remained rock-solid. A great steal by Matt Kissick at a line-out saw the visitors launch a further wave of attacks, with Craig MacDougall (on for Ross Nixon) and Lee Kibble combining well in midfield.

The breakthrough finally came when Craig once again broke the gain-line inside the home 22, and this time Cata Graur was on hand to collect the fly-half’s off-load and crash over for Selkirk’s second try, taking the score to 25-16 with seven minutes remaining.

For the rest of the contest it was the home side who held the upper hand, and despite one or two close calls, Selkirk’s players managed to soak up the pressure and keep their line intact.

MELROSE – A. Lockington, D. Hoyland, A. Skeen, J. Helps, A. Dodds, R. Mill, B. Colvine, N. Little, R. Ferguson, N. Beavon, J. Head, R. Ovens, P. Eccles, G. Runciman, G. Dodds. Replacements: C. Mackay, G. Holborn, D. Crawford, T. Wilson, L. Mallin.

SELKIRK – F. Harkness, S. Hendrie, L. Kibble, R. Nixon, R. Banks, G. Craig, M. McVie, G. Patterson, J. Bett, C. Graur, A. Renwick, M. Kissick, E. MacDougall, A. Duckett, R. Crockatt. Replacements: M. Davies, C. MacDougall, G. Turner, I. Walling, C. Marshall.

Referee – Cammy Rudkin (Hawick).