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
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