Kelso 29, Selkirk 32

SELKIRK PLAYERS SECURE THEIR PLACE IN RECORD BOOKS WITH INCREDIBLE KELSO FIGHTBACK

LEFT – Kelso’s players do their level best to stem the Selkirk surge, as the visitors try to snatch victory in the dying seconds of Saturday’s pulsating match at Poynder Park. RIGHT – Moments later Selkirk prop Cata Graur bulldozes his way over the line for the winning try, sparking scenes of jubilation amongst his Selkirk team-mates and the club’s supporters on the touchline.


[Photos: GRANT KINGHORN]

A HOLLYWOOD script writer wouldn’t have dared dream up the ending to Selkirk’s season on Saturday, for fear of being ridiculed for imagining such a far-fetched denouement could ever occur in the real world.

Seeing is believing, however, and having trailed Kelso at Poynder Park for 65 minutes of the match, the Souters somehow clawed their way back from a 24-5 halftime deficit to snatch a sensational victory, thanks to a last-gasp try in the eighth and final minute of injury time.

The win ensures Selkirk keeps its 100 per cent record in BT National League Division 1 of played 22, won 22, having beaten each of the other 11 teams in the league both home and away – the first time such a feat has been achieved in this division.

Selkirk head coach Peter Wright couldn’t conceal his pride and delight as the players were applauded off the pitch by the 150 or so jubilant Selkirk supporters who had travelled to Poynder Park to cheer on the league champions.

“You prepare to win every game, that’s your attitude, but you don’t really believe you can go through a whole league season and actually win every game,” Wright told the selkirkrfc.com web site after the final whistle.

“I managed 21 victories in a row when I was coaching Glasgow Hawks, but we lost the very last game, so to get the 22nd victory here today was fantastic. We’ve come back from the dead in two or three matches this season, and to be honest today I thought we were pretty much dead and buried at halftime.

“But the courage and quality we have in the squad is there to be seen, and the boys stuck at it and stuck at it. You couldn’t have asked for a more dramatic last minute of the season, and when you win a game as dramatically as that, with only 20 seconds left on the clock, it just makes it that bit more special.”

The visitors looked anything but special in the early stages of the match. A series of uncharacteristic errors were pounced on by a Kelso side full of confidence after guaranteeing their BT National League Division 1 survival by defeating Biggar last week, and very much up for the fight.

Selkirk’s cause wasn’t helped when their talismanic threequarter, Scott Hendrie, limped from the pitch with a hamstring strain after just three minutes. Lewis MacLennan switched to full-back, with Scott Tough taking over on the left wing.

A barnstorming run by Angus Duckett on the 20-minute mark took the visitors deep inside the home team’s half. However, following intense pressure on the Kelso line, a Selkirk pass didn’t go to hand and the Tweedsiders launched a counter-attack from under the shadow of their own posts. Scrum-half Andy Tait took the final off-load to sprint clear from the halfway line to score. Andrew Skeen’s conversion put the home team 7-0 up.

Four minutes later Selkirk suffered another setback when Mike Davies was flattened in the act of passing, and a Kelso player fly-hacked the loose ball over the visitors’ try line where Gregg Minto won the race to the touchdown. Skeen’s conversion and a penalty soon afterwards stretched the Black & Whites’ lead to 17-0.

Although Matt Kissick managed to score a try for the visitors in the 34th minute to cut the deficit, Kelso struck again just before the interval. A turnover allowed Andrew Skeen to chip over the visitors’ defence, and the fly-half gathered the ball on the bounce to run in his side’s third try. His conversion kick put Kelso 24-5 ahead at halftime, leaving the visitors with a mountain to climb after the break.

With the wind now behind them, two Rory Banks penalties helped steady the Souters’ nerves. Kelso lock Ian Wallace then received a yellow card, and during his absence Selkirk managed to engineer a pushover try for number eight Callum Marshall, converted by Banks, to bring the visitors back into the game at 24-18.

The Selkirk front row were then penalised at a scrum for an early hit, and a quickly taken free kick caught the visitors unawares - Murray Hastie sprinting home for the Tweedsiders’ fourth try and a 29-18 lead.

The match’s turning point came soon afterwards when Selkirk skipper Ross Nixon made a magnificent try-saving tackle on Kelso full-back Hastie just as he was poised to score in the right-hand corner.

After this let-off, the visitors marched straight back down the pitch to set up camp on the home try line. Following a series of collapsed scrums, referee Finlay Brown had no hesitation in awarding Selkirk a penalty try, converted by Banks, to reduce the deficit to 29-25 in Kelso’s favour.

With the seconds ticking away, and the match going to uncontested scrums after Kelso prop Chris Keen withdrew to the sidelines injured, it seemed certain Selkirk would lose their unbeaten record at the very last hurdle.

Showing the brand of steely resolve that has served them so well this year, Callum Marshall picked up from the back of the final scrum, Matt Kissick carried the ball a further couple of yards, before prop Cata Graur bulldozed his way over under the posts for the clinching score. Banks’ successful conversion signalled the end of the match and the start of the visitors’ jubilant celebrations.

Selkirk’s perfect league season will ensure the names of the Philiphaugh club’s coaches and players will be written into the record books for all time. It was a privilege being present at Poynder Park on Saturday to witness rugby history being made in such breath-taking fashion.

KELSO – M. Hastie, G. Ponton, R. Minto, F. Robson, G. Minto, A. Skeen, A. Tait, C. Keen, R. Henderson, G. Holborn, I. Wallace, S. Patterson, G. Harkins, L. Tait, A. Grieve. Replacements: B. Waddell, A. Frame, T. Wichary, A. Haig, A. Johnston.

SELKIRK - S. Hendrie, C. McEwan, R. Nixon, C. MacDougall, L. MacLennan; R. Banks, M. Davies; K. Cooney, J. Bett, G. Patterson, M. Kissick, J. McGowan, E. MacDougall, A. Duckett, C. Marshall. Replacements: S. Tough, J. Everitt, R. Wilson, C. Graur, M. Utteridge, B. Riddell.

Referee – Finlay Brown (Northumberland Referees Society).

LEFT – Selkirk number eight Callum Marshall rises high to win line-out possession. RIGHT – Scrum-half Mikey Davies prepares to get the Selkirk back line moving once more.

LEFT – Lewis MacLennan feels the heat as two Kelso opponents put the brakes on his run out of defence. RIGHT – Matt Kissick prepares to move the ball wide, watched by his second row partner Jordan McGowan.

LEFT – Selkirk blindside flanker Ewan MacDougall breaks upfield with back row colleague Callum Marshall in support. RIGHT – Brother Craig MacDougall manages to off-load the ball despite the attentions of two Kelso players.

LEFT – Selkirk’s ecstatic players line up for a team photo after the final whistle had blown at Poynder Park. RIGHT – Saturday’s game marked the final 1st XV appearance of Gordon Patterson (centre), who is hanging up his boots after 232 games for the club. He is flanked by Kiwis Angus Duckett and Matt Kissick, who this week head for Australia and New Zealand respectively.