Selkirk 3, Melrose 13


LEFT – Selkirk scrum-half Mikey Davies gets the ball away in Saturday’s RBS Border Regional Cup match at rain-soaked Philiphaugh. RIGHT – Selkirk skipper Andrew Renwick (on ground) steadies the ball, allowing team-mate Scott Hendrie to send over a sixth-minute penalty.

LEFT – Selkirk lock Ricky Fluhler secures line-out ball. RIGHT – Ryan Crockatt comes to the aid of Selkirk prop Gordon Patterson as he goes to ground.

LEFT – Selkirk’s official mascots on Saturday, Charlie Lyall (left) and Coran Hulme, kept smiling despite the rain! RIGHT – Selkirk number eight Ryan Crockatt bursts on to the ball, supported by back row colleague Ewan MacDougall. [Photos: GRANT KINGHORN]

IN some of the worst rugby conditions seen at Philiphaugh, Selkirk and Melrose players were forced to battle the elements every bit as fiercely as their opposite numbers in Saturday’s wild and wind-swept RBS Border Regional Cup match.

With the ferocity of the gale steadily increasing as the game wore on, it spoke volumes for the commitment and courage of both sides that each ruck and maul was contested as though the players’ lives depended on it, in spite of numb fingers and heavy, rain-saturated jerseys.

Drenched but by no means down-hearted following his team’s 13-3 defeat, Selkirk head coach Ally Dickson had nothing but praise for the way his players had toughed it out against their Premiership opponents.

“It was a great effort by both sides,” he said after the final whistle, “and our boys can take a lot of heart from the way they prevented Melrose from scoring a try in the second half. By that stage the wind and rain was at its height, but there was no way they were letting anyone cross their line.

“That’s the kind of character Selkirk’s players have shown all season, with each member of the squad prepared to put his body on the line for the team. We’ve another big game against Peebles this Saturday, and we’re going to need the same commitment as was shown out there today.”

The match held special significance for Selkirk prop forward Gordon Patterson, making his 200th senior appearance for the club. The 30-year-old turned in a typically whole-hearted performance, recovering from an early knock to play a pivotal role in Selkirk’s forward effort.

Having won the toss, Melrose skipper Fraser Thomson elected to play against the strengthening wind in the first half. Although not obvious at the time, the game’s turning point came as early as the second minute.

A misdirected pass by Selkirk on the halfway line was hacked upfield by visiting fly-half Richard Mill, who skillfully controlled the ball before diving on it to score close to the posts. Joe Helps converted, leaving Selkirk stunned at being seven points adrift so early in the contest.

The home side cut the deficit to 7-3 thanks to a Scott Hendrie penalty, but shortly afterwards home skipper Andrew Renwick received a yellow card, to be followed into the bin two minutes later by Melrose prop Gary Holborn.

Both teams were forced to reshuffle their packs – John Everitt replacing Selkirk team-mate Ewan MacDougall, with Nick Beavon taking over from Melrose openside Grant Runciman.

In the 22nd minute Scott Hendrie saw his penalty attempt rebound back off the left-hand post, a scenario which was to be repeated just before the interval.

Melrose number eight Ross Miller was regularly making good ground from scrum pick-ups, although opposite number Ryan Crockatt was proving equally effective when breaking round the fringes or supporting the ball carrier. Halftime score – Selkirk 3, Melrose 7.

Both teams retreated to their respective dressing rooms at halftime to gain brief respite from the strengthening wind and rain, and on their return it wasn’t long before the visitors had Selkirk pinned deep inside their own 22.

Given the horrendous conditions, it was often the team without the ball who looked to have the advantage. Time and time again Selkirk defenders would stop Melrose attacks at source with thumping tackles, and Melrose’s players were happy to repay the compliment whenever the home team won back possession.

The only scoring of the half came from two Joe Helps penalties in the 43rd and 68th minutes, putting Melrose two scores ahead, and very much in the driving seat given the colossal effort it was taking Selkirk to make the hard yards back to Melrose’s try line.

Mikey Davies, Fraser Harkness and Scott Hendrie all took quick tap penalties to try and prise an opening in the visitors’ ranks, but despite their best efforts, and those of their team-mates, there was simply no way past Melrose’s well-drilled defence.

The referee’s whistle finally sounded to end a match in which each side had shown extraordinary resilience in the face of exceptionally difficult conditions. Holders Selkirk may have relinquished their grip on the RBS Border Regional Cup, but they certainly put up one heck of a fight.

SELKIRK – F. Harkness, S. Hendrie, R. Nixon, L. Kibble, L. MacLennan, G. Craig, M. Davies, G. Patterson, J. Bett, C. Graur, A. Renwick, R. Fluhler, E. MacDougall, C. Marshall, R. Crockatt. Replacements: J. Welsh, J. Everitt, R. Purves, M. Waldron.

MELROSE – F. Thomson, D. Hoyland, A. Dodds, J. Helps, C. Anderson, R. Mill, T. Wilson, N. Little, T. Pearce, G. Holborn, J. Head, L. Carmichael, P. Eccles, G. Runciman, R. Miller. Replacements: R. Ferguson, N. Beavon, R. Knott, C. Wilde, A. Skeen.

Referee – John Leahy (RFU).