Selkirk 32, Aberdeen Grammar 12

SELKIRK TOP OF LEAGUE AFTER BONUS-POINT WIN OVER ABERDEEN GRAMMAR

LEFT – Full-back Rory Banks sends over another successful kick in Saturday’s 32-12 victory over Aberdeen Grammar. RIGHT – James Bett carries ball watched by team-mates Ewan MacDougall, Darren Clapperton and Callum Marshall.

LEFT – Selkirk centre Lewis MacLennan goes it alone after finding himself surrounded by five Aberdeen opponents. RIGHT – Callum Marshall tries to escape the clutches of visiting skipper Morgan Ward, with Mikey Davies ready to lend a hand.

LEFT – Selkirk’s ‘man of the match’, Angus Duckett, prepares to launch another home attack, watched by team-mates Ewan MacDougall and Kieran Cooney. RIGHT – Rory Banks wrong-foots an Aberdeen Grammar defender.

LEFT – The official mascots on Saturday were Rhinos players Elliot Hastie and Ben Garwood. RIGHT – The Selkirk team is led from the field by skipper Kieran Cooney, who marked his first game in charge with an impressive win. [Photos: GRANT KINGHORN]

ONE of the keys to Selkirk’s success this season has been the team’s ability to overcome any obstacle put in its path, and this was perfectly illustrated in Saturday’s hard-fought victory over a stuffy Aberdeen Grammar side at Philiphaugh.

On the morning of the match, Josh Welsh – Selkirk’s in-form full-back, who has amassed 106 points in just six appearances – had to drop out of the team following a severe bout of tonsillitis. Up stepped Rory Banks to pull on the No. 15 jersey, and the 23-year-old gave a confident, composed display in the match, landing five of his six goal attempts.

In the 11th minute of the game Selkirk suffered another setback when lock John Everitt (who himself had come into the side the previous week as a replacement for injured skipper Andrew Renwick), limped to the sidelines with a foot injury which ended his participation in the contest. Once again the Souters were able to solve the problem by sending on fit-again utility forward Matt Kissick who, despite his lack of game time this season, gave a hugely impressive display over the next 70 minutes.

Selkirk have been demonstrating this kind of resilience throughout their unbeaten BT National League Division 1 campaign, and Saturday’s 32-12 win sees them go three points clear at the top of the table, thanks to Jed’s defeat of leaders GHA.

On a gloriously sunny afternoon at Philiphaugh, Aberdeen Grammar made a lively start, and there were worried faces in the home crowd when Selkirk stand-off Callum McColm left the field in the fourth minute with a nose injury. He was replaced by Ross Nixon, who made an almost immediate impact.

After the visitors had been penalised for a deliberate knock-on, Rory Banks’ raking touch-finder took play to just outside the visitors’ 22. Callum Marshall’s clean line-out take saw scrum-half Mikey Davies break infield, with the move carried on by the ever-alert Angus Duckett. Quick ball allowed Davies to break right, and his inside pass to Nixon resulted in the Selkirk vice-captain slicing through for the game’s first try. Banks’ conversion put the home side 7-0 ahead.

Soon afterwards McColm was able to return to the field, but after 10 minutes John Everitt hobbled off with a foot injury, his place at lock being taken by Matt Kissick. A free kick against Aberdeen scrum-half Morgan Ward for a delayed scrum put-in was then followed by the visitors being penalised at a ruck, and Banks’ successful kick extended the home team’s lead to 10-0.

Ward’s quickly taken tap penalty in the 24th minute caught Selkirk napping, and Aberdeen’s right wing Grant Walker scampered over for a try to put the visitors’ first points on the board. This score gave the city side new momentum, and a series of pick-and-go drives pinned Selkirk deep in their own half.

The siege was lifted in spectacular style when Angus Duckett – in outstanding form throughout – won turnover ball just outside Selkirk’s 22-metre line and raced 40 metres upfield. A penalty against the visitors resulted in Banks finding touch six metres from the Aberdeen line, and Kissick’s safe line-out catch paved the way for a try by James Bett, converted by Banks.

Both sides made front row changes at this point: Gordon Patterson replacing Cata Graur at tighthead for Selkirk, and Ross Lumsden coming on for Colin Neilson for the visitors. At the next scrum Selkirk won a strike against the head, with Marshall picking up and making ground up the middle. Another penalty against Aberdeen at the ruck was punished by Banks, who kicked his second penalty to put Selkirk 20-5 ahead at the interval.

Home skipper Kieran Cooney was showing himself to be a player who enjoys leading from the front, and the prop must have relished Selkirk’s dominance at the scrums. Four minutes into the second half Aberdeen’s front row were penalised for disengaging after coming under severe pressure from the home eight, and Banks’ long kick found touch close to the visitors’ try line.

Kissick’s line-out take was taken infield by Duckett, and when the recycled ball was switched left to Craig MacDougall, the strong-running centre blitzed his way past his opposite number to score Selkirk’s third try and put the home side three scores ahead at 25-5.

It looked as though Selkirk would immediately add to their total when, straight from the restart, wing Darren Clapperton broke from inside his own 22 and sprinted 75 metres down the grandstand touchline. Just when he appeared certain to score, a brave last-ditch tackle by Aberdeen stand-off Alex Hagart cut him off at the corner flag to keep the visitors’ line intact.

Soon afterwards Selkirk’s Jordan McGowan made a similar try-saving tackle on Aberdeen wing Lemarre El Bouchehati, with Angus Duckett (who else?) on hand to secure turnover ball and clear the danger.

A back injury to the visitors’ tighthead prop Colin Neilson then saw the match go to uncontested scrums, and in the 66th minute Selkirk made certain of victory when replacement hooker Ruairi Wilson dived over for the home team’s bonus point try, converted by Banks.

Grammar notched a consolation try through Ross Lumsden, converted by Hagart, but it was Selkirk who finished the stronger - another touchline break by Clapperton taking play deep into Aberdeen territory, where the referee blew for full-time.

The home team’s hard-working openside, Angus Duckett, was named the Four Seasons Forestry ‘Selkirk Man of the Match’ – the third occasion the Scotland Club XV player has won the award, and in all likelihood it won’t be the last.

SELKIRK – R. Banks, C. McEwan, L. MacLennan, C. MacDougall, D. Clapperton, C. McColm, M. Davies, K. Cooney, J. Bett, C. Graur, J. McGowan, J. Everitt, E. MacDougall, A. Duckett, C Marshall. Replacements: R. Nixon, R. Wilson, G. Patterson, M. Kissick.

ABERDEEN GRAMMAR – A. Ratcliffe, G. Walker, J. Gilmour, S. Knudson, L. El Bouchehati, A. Hagart, M. Ward, J. Carter, F. McKenzie, C. Neilson, A. Robertson, S. Smith, C. Champion, G. Ryan, L. Kinsey. Replacements: R. Lumsden, M. Cox, C. Jollands, D. Russell, P. Nacamavuto.

Referee – Kevin White (Edinburgh RRS)