Selkirk 8, Stewart’s/Melville FP 3

SELKIRK PLAYERS HOLD NERVE AGAINST DETERMINED STEWART’S/MELVILLE SIDE

Ex-president Bert Duffy and other committee members clear snow from in front of the stand on Saturday morning.

George Welsh uses an industrial blower to telling effect as he clears the halfway line at Philiphaugh.

Selkirk stand-off Callum McColm takes the hit… but still manages to retain possession in Saturday’s tense match against Stewart’s/Melville FP.

SELKIRK prop Cata Graur goes over for the game’s only try – to the delight of team-mates Matt Kissick and Kieran Cooney.

Selkirk number eight Callum Marshall wins line-out ball for his team midway through the first half.

Openside flanker Angus Duckett makes a typically uncompromising foray upfield, with Craig MacDougall ready to help.

Wing Scott Hendrie makes another promising break up the stand touchline.

Darren Clapperton side-steps his way past Colleges’ right wing Matt Morrell.

Callum Marshall off-loads the ball to back row colleague Angus Duckett as the forward battle hots up.

Darren Clapperton goes to ground, but has ready support from team-mates Angus Duckett, Matt Kissick & Mitch Utteridge.

Rory Banks and John Everitt lead the Selkirk players off the field at the end of Saturday’s close-fought contest.

Selkirk skipper Ross Nixon is flanked by Saturday’s mascots – Rhinos players Millie McDonald & Oisin Beard.

[Photos: GRANT KINGHORN]


SELKIRK opened their 2015 league campaign in winning style at Philiphaugh on Saturday, battling to a hard-fought victory over an equally determined Stewart’s/Melville FP team.

This was the Souters’ 15th consecutive win in BT National League 1, moving them 12 points clear of nearest rivals GHA at the top of the table. It is a winning streak unprecedented in the Philiphaugh club’s 108-year history.

However, Saturday’s match might not have been able to go ahead at all had it not been for the sterling efforts of a willing band of volunteers. From early in the morning, groundsman Brian Cassidy and helpers swept snow off the lines, cleared spectator standing areas and re-lined the pitch with yellow marking.

Selkirk began the match with the breeze at their backs, but it was the visitors who exerted the early pressure thanks to some probing kicks by fly-half Nick McCashin. Danger threatened when Colleges were awarded a scrum on Selkirk’s five-metre line, but the home pack pushed their opponents off the ball and the danger was cleared.

Successive line breaks by Callum McColm and Darren Clapperton tested the Stewart’s/Melville defence, but the visitors’ fierce tackling was never less than all-enveloping, repeatedly preventing Selkirk’s attacks from generating any real momentum.

In the 19th minute Selkirk had the chance to take the lead, but Josh Welsh’s penalty attempt drifted just wide. Three minutes later the Souters did put points on the board. Matt Kissick’s clean line-out take set up a rolling maul close to the visitors’ line and, after a series of drives, prop Cata Graur was able to ground the ball for a try.

With the ever-industrious Gus Duckett continuing to prove a thorn in the visitors’ side at the breakdown, and number eight Callum Marshall linking well at the set-piece, Selkirk came close to increasing their lead when a thrilling run by Matt Kissick up the stand touchline was carried on by Scott Hendrie. However, the city side managed to regroup in time to clear the danger.

Breaks by James Bett and Mikey Davies maintained the pressure on the Stewart’s/Melville’s try line, but halftime arrived with no further scoring, leaving Selkirk 5-0 ahead.

In the 62nd minute Colleges reduced the deficit thanks to a Nick McCashin penalty after a Selkirk player had been penalised for not releasing. At the other end of the field, Welsh and Hendrie came close to scoring following quickly taken tap penalties, but each player was forced into touch just short of the corner flag.

By the final quarter of the match Selkirk had used all five of their replacements, and it was one of this group, Rory Banks, who managed to give the home team some breathing space by successfully kicking a penalty seven minutes from time to edge the Souters 8-3 in front.

This forced Stewart’s/Melville to run all of their subsequent penalties, and in the final move of the match it looked for a split-second as though the visitors’ replacement Chris Anderson had gone over for a try in the corner.

However, much to the relief of the home supporters, the combined efforts of Angus Duckett and Darren Clapperton prevented the Colleges player from grounding the ball, allowing Selkirk’s exhausted players to savour yet another hard-earned victory.

After the match, forwards coach Neill Wood praised the Philiphaugh team for another committed display. “We knew it would be a tough assignment against Stewart’s/Melville, who are a quality side, but the boys got stuck in right from the kick-off and turned in a typically gutsy performance.

“I was especially pleased by our work at the breakdown, with Gus Duckett in particular forcing several turnovers to keep us on the front foot. I thought Stewart’s/Melville’s defence was really solid, but then again so was ours whenever they threatened our try line.

“When the chips are down this squad of players always pull out all the stops, and you can’t ask for more than that. It was a real team effort out there today, with every member of the 20-man squad playing his part and making a significant contribution.”

The only thing to mar Selkirk’s day came midway through the second half when skipper Ross Nixon dived to gather a loose ball - just as a Colleges player attempted to fly-hack it upfield. This led to Ross sustaining a possible wrist fracture.

Although he stayed on the field for the remainder of the match, a visit to the BGH on Sunday confirmed that the Selkirk centre was very likely to have fractured his left scaphoid. A further X-ray will be taken later this week once the swelling has subsided.

This injury could see Nixon sidelined for the rest of the season, where he will join two other Selkirk players with long-term injuries – Andrew Renwick and Gavin Craig.

The Four Seasons Forestry ‘Selkirk Man of the Match’ Award on Saturday went to lock forward Matt Kissick for another five-star display.

SELKIRK - J. Welsh, S. Hendrie, R. Nixon, C. MacDougall, D. Clapperton, C. McColm, M. Davies, K. Cooney, J. Bett, C. Graur, M. Utteridge, M. Kissick, E. MacDougall, A. Duckett, C. Marshall. Replacements: R. Banks, G. Patterson, C. Willemse, R. Wilson, J. Everitt.

STEWART’S/MELVILLE FP – M. Hanning, M. Morrell, N. Bowie, S. Trotter, C. Whyte, N. McCashin, A. Manson, W. Aitken, R. Mitchell, R. Morgan, C. Hunter-Hall, F. Morrison, H. Lindsay, S. Wilson, A. Howie. Replacements: C. Mackay, F. Christie, S. Brewster, C. Anderson, F. Strachan.

Referee – Dunx McClemont (SRU).