Stewart’s/Melville FP 16, Selkirk 17

LAST-GASP PENALTY AT INVERLEITH PRESERVES SELKIRK’S UNBEATEN RECORD

LEFT – Full-back Josh Welsh kicks the winning penalty for Selkirk in Saturday’s nail-biting 17-16 victory over Stewart’s/Melville FP at Inverleith. RIGHT – Number eight Callum Marshall dives over the line for Selkirk’s first half try.

LEFT – Openside Angus Duckett makes a typically determined break, supported by team-mates Jordan McGowan (left) and James Bett. RIGHT – Prop Cata Graur on the charge in Saturday’s hard-fought contest at Inverleith.

LEFT – Selkirk stand-off Callum McColm finds himself collared by a Stewart’s/Melville player. RIGHT – With the game in its final minute, Gordon Patterson (No. 18) and the rest of the Selkirk pack battle to defend their line. [Photos: GRANT KINGHORN]

DESPITE the team bus breaking down in Stow on the way to Saturday’s game - resulting in a delayed kick-off and severely truncated pre-match warm-up - Selkirk still managed to preserve their five-match unbeaten run with a dramatic last-minute win over Stewart’s/Melville FP at Inverleith.

Having been behind for 78 minutes of the match, Stewart’s/Melville’s players must have thought they’d snatched victory when Nick McCashin kicked a penalty to put the city men 16-14 ahead, with just a minute of regular time remaining.

However, straight from the restart the home side conceded a penalty 35 metres out, and Selkirk full-back Josh Welsh held his nerve to send the kick straight between the posts, giving the visitors their third league win on the road.

Ironically Saturday’s victory was not enough to keep the Souters on top of the BT National League Division 1 table, as GHA’s bonus point win against Marr sees the Braidholm club go a point clear of the Philiphaugh men. Still, given all the disruption to their pre-match routine, Selkirk’s players showed huge character in outgunning a stuffy Colleges team.

The match itself proved a nervy, stop-start affair, with no fewer than five yellow cards being shown during the afternoon – three to Colleges players and two to Selkirk. And while the visitors made by far the stronger start to the game, it was Stewart’s/Melville’s men who made most of the running as the game wore on.

Selkirk head coach Peter Wright was in typically candid mood after the final whistle. “Today we proved that when we don’t play well, we’ve still got enough heart and drive to go and tough it out. Those final five or six minutes saw our boys defend extremely well, with our seven-man scrum somehow managing to hold their pack on our own line.

“You take the plaudits when you play well, but it’s difficult games like these – when you’ve just managed to get over the line – that you remember the longest. I’ve thanked the players for all their effort, and for fighting so hard to get the result. Rugby’s about days like these.”

Selkirk captain Ross Nixon, making his first start of the season, echoed the coach’s words: “Today we definitely had to dig deep, but that’s what we’re about as a team. If you work hard you’ll get the rewards, and that’s pretty much what happened today – we never gave up.”

Another rock-solid display by Kieran Cooney gave Selkirk’s scrum the upper hand in the opening quarter, and Selkirk almost took the lead when powerful runs by John Everitt and Angus Duckett ended with James Bett just being squeezed out at the corner when a try looked on the cards.

A missed penalty by McCashin in the 7th minute gave the visitors some breathing space, and five minutes later Selkirk number eight Callum Marshall picked up from a scrum five-metres out to score a well deserved try.

Josh Welsh then put Selkirk 8-0 ahead from a penalty, before home full-back Michael Hanning and prop Rhys Morgan received yellow cards within three minutes of each other – the first for a late challenge on Rory Banks, and the second for a ruck infringement.

Selkirk stretched their lead to 11-0 following a second Welsh penalty, but with Colleges down to 13 men, Selkirk failed to take advantage of their numerical superiority, and it was the short-handed home team who pout their first points on the board from a McCashin penalty.

Three minutes before halftime Selkirk suffered a further setback when Alan Whittingham came off his wing to slice through the visitors’ midfield without a hand being laid on him, allowing Matt Morrell to race in at the corner for a try, superbly converted from the touchline by McCashin. Halftime score: Stewart’s/Melville FP 10, Selkirk 11.

Shortly after the restart another fine run by Duckett up the middle rang alarm bells in the home defence, but a knock-on at the next ruck dashed any chances of a score. A high tackle on Jordan McGowan in the 54th minute allowed Welsh to stretch Selkirk’s lead to 14-10.

James Bett and Cata Graur were replaced by Stuart Forrest and Gordon Patterson, before Ewan MacDougall made a great saving tackle to prevent a Colleges score. A third yellow card saw home prop William Aitken head for the sin bin, but again Selkirk failed to take advantage, and a McCashin penalty cut the deficit to 14-13.

On the hour-mark Scott Tough replaced Ross Nixon, and with tension beginning to mount on both sides, yellow cards were shown to Selkirk’s Callum Marshall (high tackle) and then Angus Duckett (ruck infringement). This put huge pressure on the visitors’ scrum, and despite some brave defending, Selkirk eventually conceded a penalty in the shadow of their own posts. McCashin landed the kick to edge Colleges 16-14 ahead with just over a minute of the match remaining.

Marshall came back on to the field just before the restart kick, and his ferocious follow-up tackle on the Stewart’s/Melville player who fielded the ball saw Selkirk’s players charge into the ruck. Moments later a home player was adjudged to have come in from the side, and Welsh stepped up to regain the lead for the visitors.

Several minutes of injury time followed, with Banks and Welsh making try-saving tackles in each corner of the field to preserve Selkirk’s narrow advantage. The final blast of referee Dan Shaw’s whistle to end the contest came as sweet music to the ears of Selkirk’s players and to the large number of travelling supporters.

Selkirk’s coaches will have been heartened by the first appearance of the season by utility forward Matt Kissick, who came off the bench for the final 10 minutes of the match. With skipper Andrew Renwick still out injured, his reappearance in a Selkirk jersey could hardly be more timely.

SELKIRK – J. Welsh, L. MacLennan, R. Nixon, C. MacDougall, R. Banks, C. McColm, S. Tough, K. Cooney, J. Bett, C. Graur, J. McGowan, J. Everitt, E. MacDougall, A. Duckett, C Marshall. Replacements: S. Tough, S. Forrest, G. Patterson, M. Kissick.

STEWART’S/MELVILLE FP – M. Hanning, M. Morrell, N. Bowie, S. Trotter, A. Whittingham, N. McCashin, F. Strachan, W. Aitken, H. Lindsay, R. Morgan, F. Morrison, C. Hunter Hill, S. Wilson, B. Wilson, R. Stewart. Replacements: R. Mitchell, A. Howie, F. Christie, A. Manson, M. Hannay.

Referee – Dan Shaw (Edinburgh RRS).