Berwick 14, Selkirk 28

Selkirk tough it out to stifle Berwick comeback

WITH both clubs desperate to get a Premiership win under their belts, Saturday's division two game at Scremerston developed into a tense, nervy affair, with neither team playing to its full potential.

Ultimately Selkirk's three first-half tries proved sufficient to clinch victory, although the visitors had to withstand relentless pressure from a fired-up Berwick side in the second period, almost the whole of which was spent camped on or near the visitors' try line.

Playing with the wind at their backs in the first half, Selkirk opened the scoring with a Michael Rutherford penalty in the fifth minute. Berwick's restart kick went straight out on the full, allowing Rutherford to kick within inches of the left hand corner-flag.

A clean line-out take by Neil Darling soon afterwards was transferred to centre Ally Dickson who, after breaching the home defences, found Fraser Harkness up in support. The pacy full-back sidestepped his way past two Berwick defenders to touch down, with Rutherford converting.

More Selkirk pressure saw Berwick give away a penalty in the shadow of their own posts, and before anyone had time to react prop Martin Murray took a quick tap and bulldozed his way over for a try - his fourth against Berwick in the past three games. Rutherford's conversion put the visitors 17-0 up with 17 minutes on the clock.

Stung into action, Berwick capitalised on a missed tackle to launch a strong counter-attack through left wing David Jeffreys, and only a mighty fly-hack downfield by Selkirk skipper Darren Hoggan cleared the danger.

Berwick scrum-half Liam Cox then made ground up the middle, but when Ben McCreath was penalised for not releasing, up stepped Rutherford to kick another three points. He slotted another successful kick from the halfway line in the 32nd minute.

Seconds before the interval some good approach work by Murray and Ciaran Beattie led to Simon Murdoch diving over for a try in the corner - the Kiwi flyer having had a previous effort in the same spot ruled out, after being deemed to have knocked the corner flag in the act of scoring.

With the wind now behind them, Berwick hit back seven minutes after the restart with a try in the corner by flanker Gareth Riddell, majestically converted from the touchline by Matt McCreath.

A series of turnovers and handling errors by Selkirk saw the visitors put on the back foot, the situation being made more difficult by the retiral of skipper Darren Hoggan to the sidelines with an injury. Ewen Robbie took his place.

In the 50th minute Beattie's clearance kick was returned with interest by the home threequarters, and Matt McCreath was sent over for an overlap try wide on the right, which he converted with another finely judged kick.

As Berwick piled on the pressure Selkirk were reduced to increasingly desperate defence, and the visitors had a let-off when the referee ruled out a try by Berwick in the right hand corner, with the home bench giving full vent to their frustration.

Scott Tomlinson then replaced Beattie at scrum-half, and the final quarter had both sets of supporters on the edges of their seats. Selkirk were indebted to Denver Rumney and Alistair Dickson for several all-enveloping tackles as Berwick's players threw everything into attack, and the final whistle came as a great relief to the visitors' hard-pressed players.

BERWICK - B. McCreath, G. Hill, M. McCreath, C. Young, D. Jeffreys, A. Skeen, L. Cox, G. Holborn, M. Bell, J. Young, D. Watson, G. Younger, G. Riddell, P. Pringle, G. Watson.

SELKIRK - F. Harkness, S. Murdoch, A. Lyall, A. Dickson, S. Hendrie, M. Rutherford, C. Beattie (rep. S. Tomlinson 63mins), M. Murray, D. Hoggan (rep. E. Robbie 50 mins), B. Rawcliffe, N. Darling, S. Renwick, R. Crockatt, D. Rumney, A. Heatlie.

Referee - R. Henderson (Edinburgh Society).

TEDDY'S BALL. Selkirk lock Steven Renwick, who had a productive afternoon, stretches for line-out ball in Saturday's Premiership victory against Berwick at Scremerston.