Melrose 48, Selkirk 12

Melrose take Border League title, but Selkirk go down fighting

GIVEN all the blood, sweat and tears it took to get Friday night’s final Border League match of the season actually played, both clubs deserve credit for fulfilling their obligations when considerably under strength through injury. No-one can deny that Melrose were the hungrier and
slicker team on the night, clinching their 10th Border League title as expected, but Selkirk certainly made the home team fight all the way, and in particular can take heart from the gutsy displays of Youth Club duo Fraser Harkness and Ryan Crockatt.
On a perfect evening for rugby, it wasn’t hard to see why the Greenyards has a reputation for being one of Scotland’s most picturesque grounds. The Eildon Hills rose majestically against a bright blue sky, their lower slopes ablaze with yellow gorse, while at the north end of the ground the gentle slopes above Gattonside were a patchwork of green and ochre.
Not surprisingly, given the fact Selkirk’s last 15-a-side game was played on March 28th, the visitors were caught cold by their title-chasing hosts, who went 15-0 ahead in the opening 19 minutes through tries by Scotland u-21 number eight Kelly Brown, Kiwi flier Geoff Caldwell and one of the stars of the night: 3rd XV tighthead prop Robbie Robinson, whose bulldozing runs tied up at least three visiting defenders each time he got the ball.
Ironically Melrose’s fourth score - which sealed the championship by dint of securing a bonus point for the Greenyards side - came after a 50-metre counter-attack launched by Selkirk’s Guy Blair (and carried on by David Cassidy) had split the home defences and taken play deep into Melrose’s 22. However, a turnover allowed the home side to regroup, and within minutes ex-Philiphaugh player Graham Thomson had touched down at the other end.
Thomson was involved in the next score, only this time it was Selkirk who put points on the board. A break up the touchline by the scrum-half was halted by a cracking tackle, and when Thomson spilled the ball it was immediately fly-hacked up the field by Selkirk wing Bruce ‘Jeep’ Armstrong, who gathered cleanly to dive over near the corner. Just before the interval Laing Robson touched down for ‘Rose, putting them 29-5 ahead at the break.
Selkirk looked a different side in the second half, keeping their opponents on the back foot for the opening 10 minutes. This pressure was rewarded when Youth Club skipper Fraser Harkness - who emerged as one of the visitors’ most impressive performers - gathered a loose ball inside his own half, jinked past a couple of would-be tacklers, before neatly chipping ahead, then picking up the ball to touch down under the posts. Blair converted to reduce the deficit to 29-12.
Sadly this was to be the last time Selkirk would trouble the scoreboard boys, and tries by Steven Broom, Jonathan Bradburn and Graham Shiel (playing his final game for Melrose before departing to Inverleith as player/coach for Stewart’s/Melville FP) put the issue beyond doubt. Shiel had earlier added four conversions, and received the biggest cheer of the night when he collected the Border League trophy from league president Alan Beveridge at the end of the match.
Selkirk suffered a number of injuries during the contest, but luckily these were not as bad as at first feared. Lock Neil Darling required four stitches in a cut above his left eye after a clash of heads with Robinson, while Ryan Crockatt took a heavy bang on his nose at a restart kick, while Allen Jamieson was forced on to the sidelines after taking a knock to the ear midway through the first half.
Next up for the majority of Friday night’s team is the club’s three-match tour to Canada. We wish all the players and supporters a highly successful and enjoyable time. Go you Souters!

MIND THE GAP. Selkirk scrum-half Fraser Jack cuts between the Melrose centres in Friday night’s Border League match against Melrose at the Greenyards.

SELKIRK : D. Cassidy, N. Brown, M. Jaffray, D. Cassidy, A. Jamieson, G.
Blair, F. Jack, G. Ruthven, G. Rees, D. Lithgow, M. Barnett, N.
Darling, C. Forster, F. Stevenson, A. Heatlie. Replacements (all used):
J. Ross, B. Armstrong, M. McVie, C. Crockatt, E. Robbie, G. Jeffrey.

Referee: John Hogg (Hawick).