Selkirk 21, Peebles 9

CHAMPAGNE MOMENT FOR UNBEATEN SELKIRK TEAM AS TROPHY IS SECURED IN STYLE

LEFT – Skipper Ross Nixon leads out the home team past a Selkirk Rhinos guard of honour at Philiphaugh on Saturday. RIGHT – Selkirk prop Cata Graur keeps the Peebles defence busy as team-mate Ewan MacDougall prepares to lend support

LEFT – Full-back Josh Welsh bursts clear to score the first of his two tries for Selkirk, much to the delight of his team-mates. RIGHT – Selkirk hooker James Bett gets his pass away as the home side look to launch another attack.

LEFT – Rory Banks’ two penalties on Saturday took his personal points tally for Selkirk this season to 104. RIGHT – Scrum-half Mikey Davies makes another quick-fire break for the home side.

LEFT – Selkirk skipper Andrew Renwick is presented with the BT National League Division 1 trophy by SRU council member Doug Ward, watched by Selkirk vice-president Elliot Henderson (left) and president Mick Craig. RIGHT - Prop Kieran Cooney bursts open the bubbly as Selkirk celebrate taking custody of the BT National 1 trophy following Saturday’s 21-9 win over Peebles.

LEFT – Selkirk coaches and members of the backroom team celebrate after the final whistle, from left: Neill Wood (forwards coach), Jeff Cullen (club doctor), Peter Wright (head coach), Cameron Cochrane (backs coach), Ryan Crockatt (team physio), Tom Ramage (team manager), Nick Bihel (selector). RIGHT – Selkirk’s players get behind the club’s flag in the home dressing room.

LEFT – The official Selkirk mascots on Saturday were Hamish Scott and Elliot Hastie. RIGHT – Selkirk Rhinos players took part in a pre-match friendly just before kick-off. [Photos: GRANT KINGHORN]

More of Grant’s photos of the match can be found by following his web site’s gallery link here.

YOU didn’t need 20/20 vision at Philiphaugh on Saturday to see how much Selkirk’s victory over Peebles meant to the home players and supporters. With the BT National League Division 1 trophy due to be presented after the final whistle, the last thing the Souters wanted was to pick up their hard-earned silverware on the back of a defeat.

In the event, Ross Nixon’s troops proved too strong for a plucky Peebles team, so preserving Selkirk’s remarkable league record of ‘Played 20, Won 20’ – an astonishing achievement at any level of the sport.

Selkirk’s final two matches of the campaign are both away from home – against Watsonians at Myreside this Saturday, and against Kelso at Poynder Park on March 28 – and each will present special challenges as the Philiphaugh men bid for a clean sweep.

The only player to have appeared in all 24 of Selkirk’s matches this season is hooker James Bett, and after Saturday’s victory he told the selkirkrfc.com web site that everyone in the squad had wanted to finish on a high in front of their own supporters.

“Every Saturday, home or away, we get terrific support,” said James, “and so winning today was all about repaying the faith these supporters have in us. The atmosphere after the trophy presentation was amazing, and I can’t ever remember experiencing such a great buzz around the club.”

So what’s been the secret to Selkirk’s success? “I don’t think there’s any particular thing you can put your finger on,” said the 21-year-old, “but getting off to such a good start in the campaign was an important factor. This gave everyone a bit of confidence, and the self-belief in the team has grown with each game we’ve won.

“Before the players go out every Saturday, Peter tells us to concentrate on our own role in the team and to think about what we can contribute to the overall performance. He also encourages us to go out and enjoy ourselves, and I’m sure every Selkirk player has done exactly that over the past few months.”

Playing into the teeth of a fierce wind in the first half, Selkirk struggled to impose themselves in the early exchanges as a confident Peebles side went all-out to show they weren’t there simply to make up the numbers.

Visiting fly-half Donald Anderson’s clinical kicking from hand kept the home team pinned in their own 22 for long periods – one perfectly judged, 60-metre touch-finder just clearing Scott Hendrie to roll into touch on the home side’s five-metre line.

Indiscipline at the rucks was to cost the Souters dear, allowing Greg Raeburn to land three penalties to put his side 9-0 ahead after 19 minutes. The Peebles full-back then had the chance to stretch the visitors’ lead still further from another goal kick, but his effort slid wide of the posts.

This was the signal for Selkirk to step up their game, and a scorching Josh Welsh break up the stand touchline took play deep into Peebles territory. Callum Marshall’s line-out take saw the home pack drive Matt Kissick over the visitors’ line, but the ball was judged to have been held up.

Selkirk weren’t to be denied, however, and slick handling by Mikey Davies, Rory Banks and Craig MacDougall saw Josh Welsh finish off the move in style by touching down near the corner to put the Souters’ first points on the board.

Having now got their tails up, Selkirk continued to take the game to Peebles. Driving runs by Kieran Cooney and Angus Duckett were followed by some good work on the ground by Ewan MacDougall, and when Mikey Davies split the visitors’ defence to release Callum Marshall, the number eight expertly off-loaded to Josh Welsh, who crossed for his second try.

On the stroke of halftime, Selkirk increased their lead. A high tackle on Mikey Davies saw Welsh blast the penalty award into touch inside the Peebles 22. A clean line-out take by Matt Kissick sparked another powerful driving maul by the home forwards, propelling Angus Duckett over the line for Selkirk’s third try. Halftime score: Selkirk 15, Peebles 9.

Ironically Selkirk didn’t seem to pose the same threat when they had the viciously-gusting wind at their backs in the second half, and it was left to the boot of Rory Banks to take the Souters over the line with two well-struck penalties in the 45th and 47th minutes.

Although the visitors never gave up the fight, Selkirk’s well-organised defence prevented Peebles from crossing the whitewash during the remainder of the contest – Matt Kissick and Angus Duckett both pulling off try-saving tackles in the final quarter.

The BT National League Division trophy was presented to Selkirk’s 1st XV captain Andrew Renwick by Scottish Rugby Council member Doug Ward – the cue for champagne, wild cheering and an explosion of camera and cellphone flashes.

The Four Seasons Forestry ‘Selkirk Man of the Match’ award went to flanker Ewan MacDougall, although, in fairness, every member of Selkirk’s 20-man squad proved themselves deserving winners on a Saturday few lucky enough to be there will ever forget.

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

PEEBLES – G. Raeburn, C. Blyth, M. Brown, C. Pye, M. Anderson, D. Anderson, S. McCormack, M. Carrier, R. McConnell, A. Brown, J. Swiatek, K. Clyde, K. Brown, R. Harrison, D. Hall. Replacements: R. Stewart, R. Wilson, G. Hogarth, R. Clinch, N. Hogarth.

Referee – Matt Duncan (RHC & Army).