Selkirk 23, Murrayfield Wanderers 7

Selkirk dig deep to dash Murrayfield hopes

HANDS-ON APPROACH. Selkirk’s two-try hero, Fraser Harkness, is flanked by team-mates Jono Stuart (left) and Jim Ross as the players clap opponents Murrayfield Wanderers from the field on Saturday.

THIS might have been Selkirk’s third victory in a row, but the home team were made to battle every inch of the way by a Murrayfield Wanderers side whose big pack had the home eight in all kinds of trouble at the set pieces. Both sides deserve praise for managing to serve up an absorbing, no-holds-barred contest in filthy conditions. The gusting wind and driving rain increased in intensity as the match wore on, reaching monsoon proportions for the final 10 minutes. Luckily for Selkirk’s diehard supporters, the home team weathered the storm every bit as effectively as the new Philiphaugh pitch.
Once again Selkirk’s defensive qualities were tested to the limit, as the visiting pack put the home eight through the ringer at both scrum and line-out. Indeed Murrayfield’s coaches were left wondering how their charges had managed to gain so little reward from so much possession. The answer lay in some rock-solid tackling by the Selkirk back row of Ryan Crockatt, Alister Heatlie and Matt de Franck, while the centre pairing of Jono Stuart and Denver Rumney proved equally impenetrable. And whereas the home team lost a large amount of set piece ball, the visitors turned over an equally significant quantity of possession in open play, where Selkirk’s incessant harrying an uncompromising hits forced a steady stream of errors.
Ultimately, however, the difference between the two sides boiled down to Selkirk’s superior finishing in the threequarters, with talented youngsters Craig Hunter and Fraser Harkness showing an unerring eye for the gap, and enough genuine pace to make any scoring opportunity count by putting points on the board. A slow start by the home team was exacerbated by a string of penalty awards against them, but Selkirk managed to keep their line intact. Some superb driving runs up the middle by prop Martin Murray relieved this pressure, and when a neat Stuart break sent Harkness on a powerful burst down the right flank, only a last-ditch tackle by Henderson forced the former Youth Club skipper into touch at the corner flag. With the game entering the fourth minute of injury time before the interval, Guy Blair managed to land a well struck penalty to put Selkirk 3-0 in front at the break.
Facing the wind in the second half, Selkirk took the game to Murrayfield straight away. After Harkness had forced a turnover, the ball was taken on by Murray before being fed out to Rumney, whose early pass to Hunter gave the wing enough room to round opposite number Adam Broatch and dive over for the first try of the match. Blair’s conversion increased Selkirk’s lead to 10-0. Stung by this reversal, the visitors set up camp on the home try line, but a combination of handling errors and stout defending allowed Selkirk to clear their lines through Blair. However, this respite was short-lived.
A rolling maul was set up by the Murrayfield pack from a tap penalty on the home 22, and prop Louis Fourie was credited with the touchdown as sheer weight of numbers drove him over the line. Replacement Stephen Threadgall added the conversion to cut the deficit to three points.
In the 64th minute Ryan Crockatt (who had suffered a badly bruised sternum earlier in the half) was replaced by Jim Ross, and a concerted drive by Murray and de Franck allowed Blair to kick his second penalty when the visitors strayed offside at a ruck.
The turning point came four minutes later, when a de Franck pick-up was switched blind by Scott Tomlinson, who then sold two quick dummies in succession and cut up the stand side. The skipper’s pop-up pass was gratefully taken by Harkness, who positively steamed up the touchline for a well worked try.
The same player repeated this scoring feat two minutes from the end, this time Heatlie acting as the provider, with Harkness sprinting through the horizontal rain to leave two defenders trailing in his wake — finishing the move with a sliding dive to score, Jason Robinson-style, in the corner.
Moments later the referee blew for no-side, allowing players and spectators alike to run for cover as sheets of rain whipped across Philiphaugh. Selkirk were home, if not dry.

SELKIRK — G. Blair, F. Harkness, D. Rumney, J. Stuart (rep. A. Lyall 75 mins), C. Hunter M. Rutherford, S. Tomlinson, S. Renwick, E. Robbie, M. Murray, D. Jackson, N. Darling (rep. L. Carrick 75 mins), R. Crockatt (rep. J. Ross 64 mins), A. Heatlie, M. de Franck.

Referee — K. Montgomery (Dollar).