Selkirk 26.......Peebles 27

Heartbreak for Selkirk as Peebles snatch late win

IF the actor Steve McQueen had shown up in person at Philiphaugh on Friday night, then in all probability none of the home supporters would have batted an eyelid. The reason? The crowd had just watched visitors Peebles filch a Border League victory which could easily have been dubbed “The Great Escape 2”. Even the visiting Peebles officials looked embarrassed to have come away with such an extraordinary win. Still, that’s rugby for you, and it is of little comfort to Selkirk’s gallant players knowing that the moral victory was most definitely theirs.
On a perfect night for rugby — a firm pitch with hardly a breath of wind — in the early stages of the contest it looked as though Peebles might run away with the match. Ex-Selkirk fly-half Scott (Squirre)l Nichol, who turned out at centre for the visitors, orchestrated a series of lightning attacks, and after three minutes he cut inside Selkirk’s stretched defence to score a blindside try following a scrum close to the home team’s line.
Two ruck infringements by Peebles lock Mark Smith allowed Scott Tomlinson to send over two successful penalty kicks, but tries by Bruce Hirstwood and Drew Moore gave the visitors a comfortable 15-6 interval lead.
Even so there had been signs in the first 40 minutes that Selkirk were really up for this match, and it was particularly pleasing to see Paul Lyons in the thick of the action after a three-week injury lay-off. However, with Darren Hoggan sidelined after dislocating his shoulder in training, the Selkirk scrum was clearly feeling the strain, although prop Lindsay Carrick put in a solid display in what was his first senior appearance of the season.
Shortly after the break, Selkirk’s other prop, teenager Grant Ruthven, was forced to leave the field with a neck injury. His place was taken by Dave Lithgow, who plays in the middle row, so for the rest of the match all scrums were uncontested. By now it was Selkirk who were calling the shots, skipper Cammy Cochrane making a series of penetrating breaks and Michael McVie hardly putting a foot wrong at scrum-half.
Another offside infringement allowed Tomlinson to convert his third penalty of the match, and in the 50th minute Selkirk took the lead for the first time when flanker Neil Darling finished off some superb leading-up work by Scott Tomlinson and Marcus Barnett to dive over for a try near the posts. Tomlinson’s conversion put the home side 16-15 ahead.
From this moment onwards Selkirk’s pack raised the tempo, and only some solid defensive work by Peebles skipper James White kept the Souters at bay. All this change dafter 56 minutes when Matt de Franck — playing his final game of the season for Selkirk before heading home to Australia — caught a Peebles 22 drop-out and burst clean through the visitors’ defence to score one of the finest solo tries seen at Philiphaugh this season. Tomlinson converted to stretch the home lead to 23-15.
Peebles hit back almost immediately when David Cassidy spilled the ball behind his own try line, and in a flash Peebles scrum-half Drew Moore had pounced for an opportunist touchdown, putting the visitors right back in the game. Even so a long-range penalty attempt by Tomlinson crept over the bar to open up a six-point gap, and with Selkirk continuing to press hard on the Peebles line, a famous victory looked on the cards.
With the game moving into injury time, Peebles played their ace card. Wing-forward Dan Kane somehow managed to slip through the clutches of a handful of drained Selkirk defenders to burst 70 metres upfield, neatly off-loading the ball to Dan Gordon when tackled for the replacement to score a stunning counter-attack try close to the posts. With Peebles still trailing by one point, fly-half Chris Evans kept a cool head to thump over the conversion kick, signalling a remarkable win for the division one side as referee John Hogg blew the whistle for no-side.
Full credit must go to both sets of players for giving their all in what was a thoroughly entertaining game, and Selkirk can take a good deal of encouragement from this heads-up, gutsy display as they prepare for their final two Border League games of the season away to Melrose and Berwick.

RUSH HOUR. Winger Allen Jamieson closes in on the Peebles try line, with team-mate Michael McVie in support. Unfortunately the Selkirk threequarter was stopped just short, and the danger was cleared

SELKIRK : D. Cassidy, C. Hunter (rep. N. Brown), C. Cochrane, M.
Jaffray, A. Jamieson, S. Tomlinson, M. McVie, G. Ruthven (rep. D.
Lithgow), P. Lyons, L. Carrick, M. Barnett, D. Jackson, N. Darling, M.
de Franck), A. Heatlie.

Referee: John Hogg (Hawick).