Selkirk 19 Biggar 14,
Revenge tastes sweet for Selkirk’s cup heroes
Even allowing for the absence of three key players on Saturday — Eddie Manawaitti, Quentin Sanft and Murray Thomson — the visitors were still expected to have too much firepower for the Souters. And when Biggar hooker Mike Rutherford bulldozed his way over for a try in only the third minute of the match (Alastair Browning converting), it looked as though the nightmare was about to return.
In fact worse was to follow, with Selkirk player-coach Denver Rumney limping from the field in the 10th minute, after aggravating his knee injury when attempting to tackle Warren Daley. At this point things were looking distinctly bleak for the home side.
However, since Philiphaugh was hit by flooding in May, ‘strength in adversity’ has become something of a club motto, and if anything this twin setback seemed to stiffen the home players’ resolve.
For the next 70 minutes the crowd was treated to a cup tie brim-full of passion and steely resolve, which would ultimately see this gutsy young
Selkirk side complete two consecutive match wins for the first time this season.
The loss of Rumney meant Guy Blair switched to inside centre, with replacement Allen Jamieson coming on to the wing and Fraser Harkness moving to full-back. A break down the left flank by Harkness, carried on by Craig Hunter, took play into the visitors’ 22, and for the next five minutes Biggar were forced into desperate defence.
The home side couldn’t turn this pressure into points, however, and a turnover allowed Biggar to escape up the field and set up camp in their opponents’ half. Solid defensive work kept the visitors at bay , and on the half-hour mark Blair thumped over a sweetly struck penalty from the 10-metre line to cut the deficit.
A similar attempt by Browning then slid by the posts, before Blair narrowed the gap further with another cracking penalty kick from fully 43 metres.
Before Selkirk had time to gather their thoughts, Biggar hit back straight from the restart. Prop Fraser Campbell gathered a ricochet, and the move was carried on by skipper Euan McAlpine. Eventually the ball was spun wide to Browning, who brushed effortlessly past his marker to score wide out. The same player’s successful conversion put the visitors back in the driving seat with a halftime lead of 14-6.
Unable to press home their advantage after the break, Biggar were penalised at ruck in the 46th minute. Once again Blair stepped up to take the penalty, and once again he bisected the posts with a kick of Jonny Wilkinson-like conviction.
The cup tie’s turning point came in the 55th minute, when Dwayne Jackson’s clean line-out take was followed by surging runs from teenagers Ryan Crockatt and Steven Renwick. As pressure built on the Biggar try line, it was prop Martin Murray who battled his way under the posts for a well worked score. Blair’s conversion put Selkirk ahead for the first time in the match at 16-14.
This try stoked up the home crowd’s fervour, and with the forward exchanges becoming increasingly fierce, suddenly we had a BT Cup thriller on our hands.
Browning had the chance to put the visitors back in front when Ewen Robbie was penalised for going over the top at a ruck, but his kick was again wide of the target. Biggar tried desperately to find a chink in Selkirk’s defensive armour, but with Matt de Franck and Alister Heatlie making a series of crunching hits, and the rest of the home pack refusing to give an inch, frustration began to spread in the Hartreemill side’s ranks. Yet another successful penalty from Blair five minutes from full-time gave Selkirk a four-point cushion, and for the rest of the match the 15 battling Souters defended as though their lives depended on it.
Neil Darling was particularly prominent as the seconds ticked by, and the lock from Lilliesleaf is now developing into one of Selkirk’s key performers. Some confident clearance kicks by young fly-half Michael Rutherford also kept the visitors at bay, while skipper Scott Tomlinson’s trusty left boot was also put to good use.
An injury time knock-on by Craig Whitefield in his own in-goal area meant there was no way back for Biggar, and on the final whistle the home supporters raised the roof in appreciation of an outstanding display by their team.
As well as putting Selkirk into the last 16 of this season’s BT Cup competition, Saturday’s win also preserves the club’s unbeaten record against Biggar at Philiphaugh — a fine achievement in a thrilling match which was a credit to both of these committed sides.
SELKIRK — G. Blair,
F. Harkness, A. Lyall, D. Rumney (rep. A. Jamieson 10 mins), C. Hunter M. Rutherford, S. Tomlinson, S. Renwick,
E. Robbie, M. Murray, D. Jackson, N. Darling, R. Crockatt, A. Heatlie, M. de Franck.