Gala 24, Selkirk 5

Maroons prove too strong for error-prone Selkirk

GROUND CONTROL. Selkirk prop Martin Murray secures possession in Saturday’s league match against Gala at Netherdale, watched by team-mates Neil Darling and Ewen Robbie. Maroons player-coach George Graham prepares to close in.

AT the end of Saturday’s match both sets of supporters had cause to feel frustrated. The home crowd believed Gala should have exploited their superior possession to score more points, while Selkirk’s followers felt errors by their team at crucial moments in the game handed the Maroons the initiative. What could not be disputed, however, was that Gala’s players proved far more aggressive and fired-up in the opening exchanges than their Selkirk counterparts, catching the visitors cold to score two tries within the first 11 minutes. Any side allowing such an accomplished team as Gala this kind of flying start is guaranteed to be playing catch-up for the rest of the afternoon. And so it proved. For although Selkirk’s defensive bravery and organisation confined Gala to just two more touchdowns, the visitors’ inability to win set-piece possession meant that speedy young wings Fraser Harkness and Craig Hunter rarely got the chance to show their paces.
The withdrawal of Borders pro. team player Matt Taylor from the Selkirk line-up with a stomach complaint also didn’t help the visitors’ cause, for the Aussie flanker’s experience and leadership qualities were sorely missed. By contrast, the impact Gala player-coach George Graham had on the Maroons’ performance was enormous. Not only did the ex-Scotland prop wreak havoc in the scrums, his contribution as both battering ram and link man in loose play was equally impressive. Selkirk simply couldn’t contain him, or limit his influence on the home players, and ultimately paid the price. Visiting supporters knew it was going to be a long afternoon when Selkirk lost the first line-out and first scrum despite having their own put-in. Three penalties awarded against them followed in quick succession, before Gala opted for a scrum from the fourth, just five metres from the Selkirk try line. Although Selkirk managed to prevent a pushover score, they were powerless to stop Gala scrum-half Tim Stuck from picking up the ball and running over the line to touch down and put the Maroons’ first points on the board. Four minutes later Gala increased their lead. Selkirk skipper Scott Tomlinson failed to find touch from a penalty, allowing the home threequarters to launch a counter-attack, which left wing Lee Kibble finished off in style by scoring near the corner. Andy McLean’s conversion put Gala 12-0 ahead. Shortly afterwards Kibble had to leave the field injured, but Gala were still able to keep up the pressure thanks to a series of turnovers by the visiting team. A run and chip to the corner by Denver Rumney allowed Selkirk to set up camp just outside the Gala ‘22’, but two missed penalties by Guy Blair kept the visitors’ scoresheet blank. A sliced cross-field kick by Harkness proved costly when Hunter was adjudged offside, and Gala prop Alan Johnston won ball from the resultant line-out. After two phases the ball was switched right to Iain Berthinussen, and the young Maroons centre sliced through to score his team’s third try.
Just before halftime Selkirk reduced the deficit when Harkness jinked past two men in a blistering 60-metre run up the left touchline, and although stopped just short of the corner flag, Blair was up in support to hack the ball on and dive on it for a try. Five minutes into the second half Selkirk’s Steven Renwick was yellow-carded in what appeared to be a case of mistaken identity (Dwayne Jackson being the player who had not released at the bottom of a ruck). However, despite being reduced to 14 men Selkirk somehow managed to contain the bigger Gala pack in the Yarrow prop’s absence. Selkirk weathered yet more Gala pressure, before another great touchline break-out by Harkness was carried on by the tireless Matt de Franck. Unluckily the final pass didn’t go to hand, and the chance was lost. Shortly afterwards the home side put the issue beyond doubt when Blair’s pass was intercepted by Gala replacement Kevin Gallagher, and a slick handling movement by Gala ended when ex-skipper Alan Johnston crashed over for his team’s fourth and final score. McLean’s conversion kick flew over. In the final stages Selkirk’s only threat came from a neat break by Hunter, and the departure from the field of Neil Darling soon afterwards with an injured arm brought the curtain down on a depressing afternoon for Selkirk and their followers.

SELKIRK — G. Blair, C. Hunter, D. Rumney, A. Lyall, F. Harkness, M. Rutherford, S. Tomlinson, S. Renwick (rep. L. Carrick 70 mins), E.
Robbie (rep. I. Walling 70 mins), M. Murray, D. Jackson (rep. K. Connor 76 mins), N. Darling, J. Ross, A. Heatlie, M. de Franck.

Referee — G. Hannah (Kirkcaldy).