Selkirk 38, West of Scotland 8

Selkirk rediscover their winning touch

SELKIRK jumped two places up the Division Two table after Saturday’s convincing victory over West of Scotland, but the Philiphaugh players know that if the club is to climb even higher, then they must turn in tenacious displays like this week in, week out, for the rest of the league campaign.
The selectors’ decision to recall Craig Hunter to the left wing certainly paid major dividends. The talented 19-year-old — relegated to the ‘A’ XV after Selkirk’s opening league fixture against Murrayfield Wanderers — has scored eight tries in his last three outings for the reserve side, and on Saturday staked his claim for a regular first team place by running in a hat-trick of tries.
Another player central to Selkirk’s improved showing was Guy Blair. In recent weeks the fly-half has struggled to find his goal-kicking touch, but against West he positively oozed confidence, posting a 100% strike rate by landing six out of six attempts at goal, as well as marshalling his backs with authority.
HAT-TRICK HERO. Selkirk wing Craig Hunter gets ready to touch down the first of his three tries in Saturday’s win over West of Scotland at Philiphaugh.
Up front number eight Alister Heatlie regularly gained big yardage from scrum pick-ups and drives in loose play, while the whole pack showed far more commitment and much better ball retention than had been the case at Inverleith last weekend.
To their credit West stuck gamely to their task, and it was unfortunate they lost the services of number eight Hamish Macpherson early in the game with a split eyebrow, which required eight stitches.
Even so, the burden of expectation appeared to hang heavy on the home team’s shoulders in the opening exchanges of the match, for with the newly promoted visitors yet to record a league win in six attempts, Selkirk started the contest as odds-on favourites.
West opened the more positively of the two sides, and denied the home team possession with a series of spirited drives. However, Kiwi fly-half Dean Moeahu failed to capitalise by missing a penalty after the Selkirk threequarters had been caught offside.
A turnover allowed Selkirk to penetrate deep into enemy territory, and when a West player was penalised for not rolling away after the tackle, Guy Blair stepped up to thump over a penalty kick from fully 40 metres.
This confident strike helped settle both the Selkirk team and the home supporters, even though Moeahu levelled the scores from a fifth minute penalty after Ewen Robbie was adjudged offside at a ruck.
The real breakthrough came in the 18th minute. Selkirk stole West’s line-out ball, and a superbly timed, flat pass from centre Alistair Lyall was taken at speed by full-back Fraser Harkness, who outstripped the visitors’ cover for a well taken try.
Ten minutes later Craig Hunter touched down in the same corner, after quick scrum ball had been switched right and then left, allowing Hunter to beat his opposite number with room to spare. Both of Blair’s conversions sailed over, giving Selkirk a deserved 17-3 halftime lead.
Within three minutes of the restart Hunter slipped his marker once more to dive over for his second score, and soon afterwards a powerful line-out peel by Martin Murray set up the teenager’s third try of the match, once again converted by Blair, to earn Selkirk a precious bonus point.
A series of personnel changes by Selkirk coaches Mick Craig and Denver Rumney saw Marcus Barnett, Ian Walling and Michael McVie replace Dwayne Jackson, Robbie and Lyall, and in the 64th minute Barnett burrowed his way over the line for a try following a spell of sustained pressure on the West line.
In the dying seconds of the game — with Selkirk down to 14 men after wing Neil Brown had been forced to leave the field with a calf strain — the visitors salvaged some reward for their efforts when full-back Andrew Park dived over for a try near the corner flag.
This was a game Selkirk simply had to win to get their season back on course, and the fact they did so with some panache will give both their players and supporters heart for this weekend’s tough fixture at Biggar.

SCORE SIGNALLED. Referee Alan Williamson is in perfect position to see Marcus Barnett dive over the line for Selkirk’s fifth try on Saturday.

SELKIRK — F. Harkness, N. Brown, A. Lyall (rep. M. McVie 64 mins), C. Cochrane, C. Hunter, G. Blair, S. Tomlinson, S. Renwick, E. Robbie (rep. I. Walling 63 mins), M. Murray, , D. Jackson (rep. M. Barnett 51 mins), J. Ross, A. Heatlie, M. De Franck (rep. G. Ruthven 71 mins).

Referee — Alan Williamson (Hawick).