Selkirk 27, Watsonians 16

SELKIRK’S HOT STREAK CONTINUES WITH CONVINCING WIN OVER WATSONIANS

LEFT – Selkirk prop Cata Graur drives upfield in Saturday’s 27-16 victory over Watsonians at Philiphaugh. RIGHT – Jordan McGowan makes a typically determined break .

LEFT – Number eight Callum Marshall dives over the line for Selkirk’s third try. RIGHT – Rory Banks wins the race to touch down the ball, putting Selkirk 12-6 ahead.

LEFT – Scrum-half Scott Tough breaks clear with a clutch of team-mates in support. RIGHT – Josh Welsh bursts on to Angus Duckett’s pass to score Selkirk’s fourth try. [Photos: GRANT KINGHORN]

LEFT – Official mascots Ethan Deane (left) and Rowan Tuft flank Selkirk skipper Andrew Renwick prior to kick-off. RIGHT – Ewan MacDougall, Saturday’s Four Seasons Forestry ‘Selkirk Man of the Match’, receives his award in the clubhouse from president Mick Craig. [Photos: JOHN SMAIL]

SELKIRK continue to set a hot pace at the top of BT National League Division 1, and another five-star display at Philiphaugh on Saturday saw them secure an impressive bonus-point victory over Watsonians.

The home supporters’ celebrations at the final whistle were, however, muted. In the eighth minute of injury time, Selkirk skipper Andrew Renwick took a painful knock to his knee following an accidental collision with team-mate Cata Graur. He was taken by ambulance to the BGH, and an exact diagnosis is expected later this week when the swelling has gone down.

“Jock’s injury right at the end was a sickener,” head coach Peter Wright admitted after the game, “and certainly took some of the shine off what was a great performance. The manner of the victory against a decent Watsonians team was what pleased me the most, and the way the boys played in the first half was as impressive a display as I’ve seen from any of the sides I’ve coached.

“When Watsonians began to put pressure on us after the break our defence was solid, and everybody in the side retained their focus. There’s a good feeling in the squad, and I’m confident the players will continue to raise the bar, and work even harder for each other, in the weeks ahead.”

Selkirk were forced to make a late change to their starting line-up when scrum-half Mikey Davies failed a late fitness test. Scott Tough stepped up from the replacements bench to pull on the No. 9 jersey, with the 24-year-old joiner dovetailing perfectly at half-back with Callum McColm, emerging as one of Selkirk’s key players on the day.

The home team started the match firing on all cylinders. A long kick by Josh Welsh took play to just outside the visitors’ 22, and when Watsonians spilled possession at the line-out, Selkirk’s Kieran Cooney was quick to gather the loose ball, with Jordan McGowan on hand to make further ground up the middle.

The ball was moved wide to Craig MacDougall, whose clever ‘flash’ pass behind Lewis MacLennan gave wing Darren Clapperton enough space to burst clear and sidestep full-back Gordon McGuire’s despairing tackle to score his ninth try of the season. Welsh’s conversion put Selkirk 7-0 ahead after just four minutes.

Although two penalties from the boot of Brian Walls cut the deficit to a single point, it was Selkirk who were making all the running. The home eight were giving the visitors a torrid time at the scrum, and strong runs by Angus Duckett, Clapperton and Jordan McGowan kept Selkirk on the front foot.

This pressure was turned into points on the 27-minute mark. Darren Clapperton fielded Walls’ deep kick to set off on a mazy run upfield, with the ball eventually reaching Rory Banks. The wing cleverly chipped the ball over the visitors’ try line, and just managed to beat centre Tom Hart to the touchdown for Selkirk’s second score.

Soon afterwards Watsonians lost the services of flanker Kaue Kaue with a leg injury, his place being taken by former Scotland skipper Jason White, who joined forces with fellow internationalist Simon Taylor in the visitors’ pack.

With halftime approaching Welsh increased the home side’s lead to 15-6 from a penalty, and in the fourth minute of time added on Selkirk struck a telling blow. Watsonians managed to hold up ball-carrier McGowan over their own line, and from the resulting scrum the home pack exerted enough control for number eight Callum Marshall to pick up and dive over for his team’s third try. Halftime score: Selkirk 20, Watsonians 6.

The visitors had clearly regrouped during the interval, and looked a far more potent force after the break. Wing Robbie Greenhalgh was just bundled out of play at the corner flag by Welsh and Clapperton to prevent a certain score, and centres Hart and Andrew Chalmers made a series of dangerous forays into Selkirk territory.

Selkirk weathered this onslaught thanks to some solid first-time tackling, with flankers Ewan MacDougall and Angus Duckett always in the thick of the action, and ready support coming from the rest of the home team. Selkirk then rang the changes to bring Ross Nixon, Ruairi Wilson, Gordon Patterson and Callum McEwan off the replacements bench.

The point of no return for Watsonians came in the 53rd minute. A Selkirk attack up the stand side forced the visitors on to the back foot, and when the ball was spun right it found props Patterson and Graur linking up to send Duckett sprinting down the opposite flank. The openside timed his inside pass to Welsh to perfection, and the full-back crashed over for his team’s bonus point try. Banks’ successful conversion put Selkirk 27-6 ahead.

To their credit Watsonians refused to throw in the towel, and late tries by Scott McKean and skipper Ross Aitken put a more respectable gloss on the scoreline, before the game was brought to a premature halt after Andrew Renwick sustained his leg injury.

The Four Seasons Forestry ‘Selkirk Man of the Match’ award went to Ewan MacDougall.

SELKIRK – J. Welsh, R. Banks, L. MacLennan, C. MacDougall, D. Clapperton , C. McColm, S. Tough, K. Cooney, J. Bett, C. Graur, J. McGowan, A. Renwick, E. MacDougall, A. Duckett, C Marshall. Replacements: R. Nixon, C. McEwan, G. Patterson, J. Everitt, R. Wilson.

WATSONIANS – G. McGuire, R. Cullen, A. Chalmers, T. Hart, R. Greenhalgh, R. Aitken, B. Walls, M. Christie, C. McKay, T. Gracie, T. Callander, S. Taylor, K. Kaue, J. Neary, N. Dennis. Replacements: C. Sheldon, D. Elkington, J. White, R. Steele, S. McKean.

Referee – Gary Gordon (Hillfoots).