Never-say-die Souters get season back on track

Jed-Forest 16 Selkirk 17

IT may have been 11 years coming, but Selkirk’s Premiership victory over Jed-Forest at Riverside park on Sunday was worth the wait. For despite the narrow margin of victory, and the heart-stopping moments when it looked as though unforced errors might yet cost them the match, Selkirk’s players showed enough passion and pride to suggest that reports of the club’s demise have been greatly exaggerated.
No-one typified the visitors’ new-found resolve better than loosehead prop Scott McColm. Having officially retired from senior rugby several seasons ago, the former Philiphaugh skipper had no hesitation in answering the Selkirk selectors’ SOS call when Iain Purves dropped out of the side with a leg injury.
McColm brought all his experience to bear in the set pieces, shoring up the visitors’ scrum while also making his presence felt in the loose. His recall helped Selkirk rediscover the confidence so noticeably lacking at Murrayfield the previous Saturday, and if there had been a man of the match award then Scott McColm’s name would have been first in the frame.
Another plus-point for Selkirk was the debut of Borders pro. player Jono Stuart in midfield. The 27-year-old ex-Leicester player impressed everyone with his commitment and affability at training, and in the game itself showed both strength and penetration when hitting up the middle. Sadly an ankle knock saw him replaced in the second half, but his presence alongside teenage centre Alistair Lyall will have boosted the youngster’s confidence no end.
Pack leader Matt de Franck had another good day at the office, tackling himself to a standstill and putting his body on the line whenever the need arose. Back row colleague Alister Heatlie was another influential performer, driving strongly from the base of ruck and scrum, while Dwayne Jackson turned in a typically solid display and remains one of the Selkirk team’s key figures in.
Skipper Scott Tomlinson’s booming left boot kept the Royal Blues pinned back in their own half for long periods, while Guy Blair gave a much more assertive showing, with his goal-kicking once again eventually winning the day for the visitors (although he will expect to improve on a 4/9 strike rate in the weeks ahead).
As to the match itself, Selkirk could hardly have made a more dispiriting start. A penalty by Chris Richards in the opening seconds was followed 10 minutes later by a try from Scott Laidlaw — the result of clinically driven line-out ball, after Selkirk had conceded their fifth penalty in about as many minutes.
Blair and Richards then swapped penalties, before Selkirk finally managed to prise open the home defence. After two wheeled scrums had shown Selkirk’s pack to be in the ascendancy, crisp interplay on the left between Jono Stuart and David Cassidy allowed Michael Jaffray to squeeze over at the corner for a well worked try. Blair’s conversion drifted wide, and just before the interval Richards slotted his second penalty to put Jed 16-8 in front.
With the wind at their backs, Selkirk began to take the game to the home side, and a surging run by Heatlie in the 51st minute allowed Blair to cut the deficit from a penalty, the same player adding another soon afterwards to leave Selkirk just two points adrift at 16-14.
On the hour-mark Allen Jamieson replaced the limping Stuart, and shortly afterwards Jed launched a swift counter-attack which saw left wing Roy McFarlane round opposite number Fraser Harkness, only to be stopped just short by Cassidy’s tackle.
Selkirk had to wait until the 71st minute to take the lead for the first time in the match, Blair sending over his fourth penalty kick of the afternoon to edge the visitors 17-16 ahead.
A triple substitution by Selkirk followed — Craig Forster, Steven Renwick and Ian Walling replacing Marcus Barnett, Scott McColm and Ewen Robbie respectfully.
Within seconds Cassidy had set Selkirk supporters’ pulses racing when his monstrous clearance kick went straight over the dead-ball line, taking play back to the visitors’ 22. Luckily Heatlie managed to steal Jed’s throw at the next line-out, and when Walling took a strike against the head it looked as though it was going to be Selkirk’s day.
Jed suffered a further blow when skipper Gary Hill was sin-binned by referee Peter Carruthers for not releasing the ball, and although the resultant penalty kick by Blair drifted wide, the damage had been done, and Selkirk were home and dry at Riverside for the first time since 1992.

SELKIRK — D. Cassidy, F. Harkness, A. Lyall, J. Stuart (rep. A. Jamieson 60 minutes), M. Jaffray, G. Blair, S. Tomlinson, S. McColm (rep. S.
Renwick 74 mins), E. Robbie (I. Walling 74 mins), M. Murray, M. Barnett (rep. C. Forster 74 mins), D. Jackson, M. de Franck, N. Darling , A. Heatlie.

Referee — P. Carruthers (Boroughmuir).

FINAL PUSH. Selkirk lay siege to the Jed try line early in the first half, but

the home defenders kept the Philiphaugh players at bay.

MISSION ACCOMPLISHED. Selkirk coaches Mick Craig and Denver Rumney
debrief their players after Sunday’s hard-earned victory over Jed-Forest
at Riverside Park.