ON THE BREAK. Selkirk centre Lewis MacLennan strains every sinew to escape the clutches of Melrose flanker Ruaridh Knott at Philiphaugh on Saturday.

SAFE DELIVERY. Selkirk skipper Andrew Renwick gives line-out ball to scrum-half Mikey Davies, watched by team-mates Gordon Patterson (left) and Callum Marshall.

DYNAMO DUCKETT. Openside flanker Angus Duckett bursts between Melrose’s Colin Arthur and Andrew Nagle to launch another Selkirk attack.

POWER PLAY. Selkirk number eight Callum Marshall looks to spread play wide as visiting skipper Fraser Thomson (right) prepares to chase him down.

LAST MAN STANDING. Selkirk utility forward Jordan McGowan finds himself outnumbered, as team-mate Cata Graur prepares to lend a hand. [Photos: BRYAN JOHNSTON]

TRAILING 3-39 with just five minutes showing on the clock in the second half, even the most diehard Selkirk supporter must have feared visitors Melrose would continue to pile on the points in the final half-hour or so of Saturday’s Booker Border League opener at Philiphaugh.

However, it was at this stage of the match Andrew Renwick’s young side finally began to find their rhythm and rediscover their self-belief, going on to score no fewer than five tries against the reigning Scottish champions - securing a bonus point in the process, and giving their loyal fans renewed hope for the coming campaign.

After the final whistle Selkirk’s new head coach, Peter Wright, was quick to praise his players’ improved second half showing: “In the first half we made far too many errors, and against a team of Melrose’s ability that’s always going to be asking for trouble.

“After the break the boys fronted up and showed a lot of character, which meant we could start to play the type of rugby we want to play, taking the game to the opposition and working hard to be a threat from anywhere on the pitch.

“Our younger players grew up a bit today, and each member of the squad contributed to the overall effort. The boys who missed today’s game know they’re going to have to work hard to get back into the side, as I’m a great believer in having healthy competition for places.

“Our fitness levels could be better, and the guys know this is something they’ve got to concentrate on themselves in the coming weeks. Overall I was pleased with the effort put in today, and it gives us a foundation to build on going forward.”

Selkirk’s new development officer Kieran Cooney gave a good account of himself against his former club, steadying the front row and working well in tandem with fellow prop Cata Graur, who made several telling runs and looked in resolute mood throughout.

The home pack had to be at their best to cope with a well-drilled Melrose eight, astutely marshalled by the experienced Graeme Dodds, who took no prisoners in the contact area and whose power in the loose kept Selkirk’s defence at full stretch. Perhaps the most telling aspect of the visitors’ play, however, was the speed of transfer behind the scrum.

Any Selkirk handling error or turnover was immediately pounced on by the Greenyards backs, with skipper Fraser Thomson eager to counter-attack from deep. The Melrose full-back scored a try on the half-hour mark, and his side’s other first half touchdowns came from Neil Irvine-Hess, George Taylor and Tom Wilson. Joe Helps kicked a penalty and two conversions, with Selkirk’s only reply a penalty by Callum McColm, making the halftime score 27-3 to the visitors.

Two tries in the space of five minutes after the interval by Thomson and Rory Tolland, the latter converted by Helps, may have put the game beyond Selkirk, but there was no way the Philiphaugh men were going to throw in the towel.

The back row of Ewan MacDougall, Angus Duckett and Callum Marshall had worked their socks off all afternoon, so it was fitting that the Kiwi openside began the Souters’ comeback with a try in the 52nd minute after scrum-half Mikey Davies had made the initial running. Soon afterwards Davies forced a turnover to put Selkirk in good position close to the visitors’ line, and Darren Clapperton won the race to touch down Lewis MacLennan’s chip over the line to score Selkirk’s second try.

Melrose were forced to reshuffle their back line after centre Joe Helps suffered a painful wrist fracture and had to leave the field, with Selkirk also ringing the changes - Scott McDonald replacing Jordan McGowan and Matt Robertson coming on for Ewan MacDougall.

Robertson soon made his presence felt by capitalising on MacLennan’s inside break to score Selkirk’s third try, with Scott Tough’s 65-metre dash down the left-hand touchline for the home team’s bonus point try receiving the biggest cheer of the day. Melrose hit back with a try by Austin Lockington, but Selkirk had the final say when Ewan MacDougall (back on for Duckett) crossed for the Souters’ fifth try, converted by Davies.

In the closing minutes of the match teenagers Kieran Thomson and Lewis Martin both took the field to make their senior debuts for Selkirk, which must have left home skipper Andrew Renwick - a former Youth Club player himself, and who had worked tirelessly throughout - special cause for satisfaction.

SELKIRK – D. Clapperton, C. McEwan, A. Given, L. MacLennan, S. Tough, C. McColm, M. Davies, K. Cooney, S. Forrest, C. Graur, A. Renwick, J. McGowan, E. MacDougall, A. Duckett, C. Marshall. Replacements (all used): L. Martin, G. Patterson, K. Thomson, M. Robertson, S. McDonald, J. Bett.

MELROSE – F. Thomson, G. Taylor, B. Hutchison, J. Helps, T. Wilson, A. Lockington, M. McAndrew, N. Little, R. Ferguson, C. Arthur, J. Head, N. Irvine-Hess, R. Knott, A. Nagle, G. Dodds. Replacements (all used): C. Mackay, M. O’Brien, S. Johnson, A. Runciman, G. Wood, R. Mill, R. Tolland.

Referee – Cammy Rudkin (Hawick).