Haddington16, Selkirk 15

Selkirk pay penalty for not turning pressure into points

THIS was yet another close encounter of the frustrating kind for Selkirk’s players and supporters, with an injury time penalty allowing Haddington to snatch victory from under their opponents’ noses.
Selkirk have only themselves to blame, however. Time and again the Souters would work their way into a promising position close to the home team’s try line, only to throw away the advantage by conceding either turnovers or penalties.
Winning consistent line-out possession also remains a major stumbling block for the Philiphaugh side, in sharp contrast to Haddington, for whom Lawrence Lappin had a highly profitable afternoon up and down the touchlines.
A plus-point for Selkirk was an improved showing by the pack, who competed well against a gritty, physical Haddington eight.
Much attention centred on the return of Selkirk player-coach Denver Rumney, who has been sidelined by a knee ligament injury for the past 10 weeks. The inside centre made a number of telling breaks in the first half, and should prove a big asset once back to full match fitness. Playing with the breeze at their backs in the first half, Selkirk went ahead after only three minutes. Dwayne Jackson won quick line-out ball, and full-back Fraser Harkness burst into the line, When stopped just short of the posts, the ex-Youth Club skipper gave a scoring pass to Craig Hunter, who dived over for a try. Michael Rutherford added a drop-kick conversion.
Seven minutes later the fly-half added a penalty to stretch the visitors’ lead, before calamity struck. With Selkirk pressing hard for a second try, a mix-up between Rutherford and Rumney just metres from the Haddington try line saw the home team launch a swift counter-attack up the right hand touchline. With Selkirk’s defence stretched to bursting point, Donald Snodgrass was able to romp over near the corner flag for a stunning try. Scott Brownlee’s conversion cut the deficit to three points.
Selkirk hit back within minutes of the restart. David Cassidy’s outside break was finished off in style by Matt de Franck, who burst through the Haddington cover to touch down for his first try of the season. With Cassidy’s booming line kicks and Harkness’s blistering breaks keeping the home team on the back foot, it looked as though Selkirk would add some extra points before the interval. Sadly it was not to be, with Rutherford’s penalty miss from close range right on the whistle leaving the visitors just 15-7 in front.
Haddington’s fiery pack came more into the game after the break, but Selkirk’s defence was equal to the task. Borders pro. player Matt Taylor was giving a good lead up front, while on the hour mark Scott Tomlinson came off the bench to direct operations behind the scrum. Even so, Selkirk were still finding it difficult to turn pressure into points, and after the visitors had been marched back a further 10 metres by referee Norman Imlach for back-chat, Brownlee took advantage to thump over a penalty.
Soon afterwards lock Neil Darling was sin-binned, and during his enforced absence Brownlee kicked a second penalty to leave Haddington just two points adrift. Two penalty misses by the same player allowed Selkirk to regroup, and a great break-out from his own half by Harkness almost produced a score — the young full-back just failing to gather up his own kick-ahead cleanly with the try line beckoning.
With time running out and a hard-fought Selkirk win in prospect, the referee spotted a holding offence at a line-out, and Brownlee coolly stepped up to send over the winning kick... and break Selkirk hearts.
Another loser’s bonus point was scant reward for the visitors’ efforts.

SELKIRK — F. Harkness, C. Hunter, D. Cassidy, D. Rumney, A. Jamieson, M. Rutherford, M. McVie (rep. S. Tomlinson 58 mins), S. Renwick, E. Robbie, M. Murray, D. Jackson, N. Darling, M. de Franck, A. Heatlie, M.Taylor.

Referee — N. Imlach (Grangemouth).