Selkirk 28-14 Ellon

Underdogs take credit

Having won the BT Cellnet Bowl at Murrayfield last April, Ellon can now contemplate further glory in the Plate competition. For it is the Plate in which the Aberdeenshire club will now be involved after their Cup run came to an end at Philiphaugh yesterday. It was not a shuddering halt, however.
Ellon played like a side who believed they could defeat Selkirk and in the end the 4-2 try score illustrated the none too big gap between the two sides. Ultimately, as the Selkirk coach Mick Craig noted, the home side's ability to increase the pace and intensity of the game at crucial stages unhinged the ambitions of Ellon. Still, considering that Ellon are playing their rugby four divisions below Selkirk, this was a commendable effort by the visitors.
'We told the team to play with spirit, endeavour and passion, and they did just that,' said Ellon coach Alex Duncan, who considered yesterday's game to be important for more than just Cup implications. 'We've won seven out of seven league games this season and, with six teams to be promoted, it has become almost too easy for the boys. The Cup game was a real test for us,' said Duncan, who added: 'If we were playing this pace of rugby every week then I'm sure we would be better.'
Ellon's upward mobility, mirroring that of Stirling County, has been achieved on the back of successful youth system that has produced such players as the Glasgow flanker Andrew Wilson, and recent Scotland age grade players Stuart Noble and John Cox. Yesterday they were given a taste of what lies in store for them further up the ladder and, in the event, they coped well with encouraging displays from winger Drew Drummond, centre Eddie Addie and the front rowers Bob Kenny, Steven Park and Greg Allanach.
For Selkirk there was always the potential outcome of an embarrassing defeat on home turf. But the Philiphaugh men were wary of being complacent, as their coach Craig acknowledged. 'We knew from their reputation that they were always going to be tough opponents. They were certainly dangerous when they got close to the line. In the end, we are pleased to have won,' said Craig.
Selkirk, to their credit, took the risk of blooding several youngsters from last season's successful youth team. In the event, Neil Brown, Craig Hunter and Mike McVie all played their part in the Selkirk victory. But it was the experience of stand-off Guy Blair, lock Marcus Barnett and Scott Tomlinson that guided Selkirk to their win, Blair in particular showing good goal-kicking skills with four conversions from four attempts in addition to kicking astutely from hand as a ploy to break up Ellon's defensive patterns.
Ellon's resistance in the opening quarter was impressive but inevitably unsustainable against a Selkirk side used to higher division rugby. Blair created the initial breakthrough for Selkirk with a long kick into the Ellon 22m area that forced the north-east side to concede a lineout. Selkirk were able to attack off the lineout to set up camp in front of the posts from where former Hawick No 8 Alistair Stevenson claimed the first try with a dynamic burst off the back of a scrum, leaving Blair with an easy conversion kick.
Ellon quickly regrouped to produce a score of their own made from a clever kick by centre Ross Lines that gave the visitors a throw-in 10 metres out from the Selkirk line and a try by hooker Steve Park from the resultant drive. From the touchline, stand-off Kerry Williams added the conversion to level the scores.
It seemed that Ellon might retain parity until half-time but it was not to be, and largely because of the quick footwork of scrum half Fraser Jack, who pirated possession from his opposite number to create a try for flanker Matt De Franck, Blair adding the conversion.
The crucial period of the game was the third quarter, as Ellon coach Duncan conceded. He said: 'We couldn't get possession for about 20 minutes.' He was accurate in this assessment. Selkirk turned this advantage into points with a fine try from quickly delivered lineout ball, a midfield surge by Stevenson and then a pass at pace to lock Marcus Barnett, who thundered over for a great score, converted by Blair for a 21-7 lead.
Blair was the architect of Selkirk's final contribution, the stand-off making a half break before flipping the ball, one-handed, to centre Karl Saunders to give the powerful New Zealander a clear run to the line. Blair converted to bring his tally for the match to eight points, but if Selkirk had signed off then Ellon still had the appetite for a further score, a try from a tap penalty for centre Addie converted by Williams to emphasise that the Aberdeenshire men are competitive to the last.

Selkirk - N Brown; A Jamieson (M McVie 62), K Saunders, S Tomlinson, C Hunter; G Blair, F Jack; P Lyons (M Murray 60), D Hoggan, J McDonald, D Jackson, M Barnett, M de Franck (A Heatlie 75), C Forster (N Darling 67), A Stevenson.

Ellon - J Royan; D Drummond, E Addie, R Lines (S Clark 62), D Rouse; K Williams, B Norris; B Kenny, S Park, G Allanach, G Webster, S Bucknall, C Nicol, D Timms, I McDade (N Henry 40).

Referee I Heard (Gala).

Report : Bruce Gilmour