Selkirk 17, Edinburgh Accies 22

Spirited Selkirk unable to derail Accies' bandwagon

THREE ON ONE. Alistair Dickson, Michael Rutherford and Alister Heatlie wrap up an Accies player in Saturday's league encounter at Philiphaugh, with Ben Rawcliffe arriving on the scene to lend support. (Picture: Grant Kinghorn).

LEAGUE leaders Edinburgh Accies maintained their unbeaten record at Philiphaugh on Saturday, with Selkirk having the consolation of securing a losing bonus point thanks to Michael Rutherford's 80th minute penalty.

However, this plus-mark was more than cancelled out by a serious injury sustained four minutes from time by Selkirk forward Alister Heatlie. The number eight, who had been in impressive form, suffered a dislocated elbow and later had the injury reset at the BGH, where he was detained overnight. He is expected to be out of action for at least two months.

It had all started so promisingly for the home side, with full-back Ciaran Beattie's deep positional kick setting up an attacking platform. Strong runs by Heatlie and Denver Rumney kept Accies on the back foot, with new hooker Ryan Crockatt confidently finding his target men at the line-out.

This pressure paid dividends for Selkirk after 17 minutes. Neil Darling secured possession in the loose to cut short an Accies attack, and from the next scrum Heatlie picked up and drove up the left flank. The ball was switched right, and Rutherford's long, floated pass found Scott Hendrie, who released Simon Murdoch on a curving, 30-metre run to touch down near the posts. Rutherford converted.

The home team continued to set the pace, with skipper Scott Jeffrey cleverly turning his man to win back ball and a cracking tackle by scrum-half Michael McVie forcing an Accies' knock-on. However, a penalty for offside allowed Gavin Douglas to land the kick and cut the deficit to 7-3.

With replacement prop Gordon Patterson off the field having stitches inserted in a facial cut, Selkirk went further ahead. Visiting full-back Matthew Coupar failed to gather cleanly, and Heatlie was up to charge down his clearance kick and hack the ball towards Accies' 22. Rutherford picked up and fed Rumney, who sprinted under the posts for his first try of the season. Rutherford converted.

Just before the break Douglas had the chance to land a penalty, but his kick drifted wide, leaving Selkirk 14-3 in front. Halftime saw Selkirk introduce ex-Hawick player Darren Vevers in place of lock Steven Renwick, and the utility forward had a steady senior debut for his new club.

The home side had a golden chance to open up a significant gap early in the second half. A 70-metre counter-attack sparked by Alistair Lyall and continued by Murdoch almost brought a third touchdown, but the visitors somehow managed to keep their line intact. This let-off proved a turning point for the city team.

With fly-half Ross Brown thumping huge touch-finders down the field, and the Accies' pack putting Selkirk's eight under huge pressure at the scrums, the Souters found themselves starved of possession and pinned deep in their own half for lengthy periods.

After 51 minutes Rutherford had a kick charged down, allowing Luke McCann to score on an overlap down the left, with Douglas' conversion narrowing the gap to just four points.

For the next 10 minutes Accies had Selkirk under the cosh, and the city men took the lead for the first time when McCann burst between two defenders to score under the posts. Douglas landed the conversion to put his side 17-14 ahead.

To their credit Selkirk never stopped battling, with Alistair Dickson putting in some big hits in midfield, and Rumney and McVie both making telling breaks up the right touchline.

The point of no return came 10 minutes from time when Selkirk failed to clear their lines properly, and a series of Accies scrums five yards out allowed visiting scrum-half Mark Best to pick up and crash over for his side's third try.

Douglas failed to land the conversion, as well as a subsequent penalty attempt, and when Scott Hendrie bravely broke upfield in the dying seconds of normal time, referee David Changleng penalised the visitors at the ensuing ruck.

Rutherford kept his nerve to land the penalty kick to earn a bonus point, and for the next five minutes of injury time Selkirk's weary troops threw everything at Accies in a desperate attempt to claw back an equalising try.

However, the league leaders kept the door firmly shut, so maintaining their 100% record and preserving their position at the top of the table.

SELKIRK - C. Beattie, S. Hendrie, A. Lyall, A. Dickson, S. Murdoch, M. Rutherford, M. McVie, B. Rawcliffe, R. Crockatt, M. Murray, N. Darling, S. Renwick, S. Jeffrey, D. Rumney, A. Heatlie. Replacements (all used): G. Patterson, E. Robbie, D. Vevers, C. Hunter.

Referee - D. Changleng (Galashiels).