Gala 17, Selkirk 19

Selkirk complete rare double over old rivals in Netherdale nail-biter

LIFT-OFF. Selkirk lock Neil Darling heads skywards thanks to help from team-mates Martin Murray and Marcus Barnett in Saturday's Prem. 2 game at Netherdale. (Picture: Grant Kinghorn)

IN a game of ebb and flow that could have gone either way, Selkirk's players held their nerve in a pulsating second half to defeat Gala for the second time this season. Martin Murray's 69th minute try brought the scores level, with Michael Rutherford's successful conversion kick ultimately proving the difference between the two sides.

The result consolidates Selkirk's fifth spot in BT Premiership Two, but drops Gala perilously close to the relegation zone. After the game, visiting coach Brian Cassidy had nothing but praise for the way the Selkirk team had battled back to take the points.

"We knew Gala would be desperate to halt their run of home defeats, and were targeting this match as a 'must win' game. Our boys were equally determined to maintain their recent run of good form, and they deserve full credit for keeping their shape when the chips were down."

Saturday's fixture marked the return of Selkirk number eight Alister Heatlie to first team duty after 11 weeks on the sidelines with a dislocated elbow, and it says much for the former Selkirk Youth Club skipper that he stayed on the field for the full 80 minutes, playing a major role in the win.

Another key figure for Selkirk was lock forward Rory Aglen, who has been unable to turn out for the Souters so far this year because of work commitments in the Ipswich area. He came on as a replacement in the 26th minute, and helped steady the visitors' pack after openside flanker Denver Rumney was stretchered off just before halftime.

And while Gala's bigger forwards proved a hot handful for the visitors all afternoon, it was the superiority of Selkirk's back division which eventually proved decisive. Fraser Harkness, David Cassidy and young Scott Hendrie all showed flashes of brilliance in attack, with Harkness scoring his 13th try of the campaign and having a hand in both of his side's other touchdowns.

Playing with the wind at their backs in the first half, a penalty for not releasing the ball saw Gala concede territory up the left flank. Although Harkness managed to get over the home try line, the referee ruled that the ball had not been grounded. However, from the resultant scrum Heatlie picked up and drove, and a couple of phases later Martin Murray was able to power his way over for the opening score. Rutherford's conversion sailed over.

Selkirk had several chances to increase their lead following good runs by skipper Darren Hoggan, Heatlie and Murray, but the Maroons' defensive line stood firm, with Tom Weir and Mike Christie putting in crucial tackles.

A series of booming line kicks by home skipper Andy McLean saw Gala camp inside the visitors' 22, and when Selkirk were penalised in the 26th minute five metres from their try line, McLean took a quick tap penalty and burrowed his way over in the corner for an opportunist try

Back came Selkirk with a mazy, 65-metre run by Harkness, followed by more sorties from Blair and Hendrie, but Gala managed to weather the storm.

Shortly before halftime the game had to be stopped for several minutes when Denver Rumney was knocked unconscious in a tackle collision. His departure on a stretcher clearly unsettled Selkirk, and just before the interval Gala capitalised by driving over for a try - lock Chris Weir being credited with the score. Halftime score: Gala 10, Selkirk 7.

Although the Maroons kept up the pressure on the visitors after the break, Selkirk regained the lead in the 49th minute when Fraser Harkness jinked his way over the line for a superb try, after Hendrie had cleverly come off his wing to create the overlap.

A finely judged grubber kick to the corner by Jackson Berry then set up a promising platform for Gala, and the heavier home pack used a series of rolling mauls to put pressure on the Selkirk try line.

When Kiwi prop Ben Rawcliffe was yellow-carded for illegally pulling down a maul, Gala cashed in at the very next scrum, when a front row collapse saw referee Clark immediately run towards the posts to award a penalty try. McLean converted to put his side 17-12 in front.

Soon afterwards Rutherford's penalty kick bounced back off a post, and darting runs in quick succession by Hendrie, Harkness, Cassidy and Ali Lyall allowed Selkirk to remain in attack mode.

With Rawcliffe now back on the field, Harkness did well to stay on his feet to win Selkirk a scrum. The same player then repeated the feat, allowing Martin Murray to smuggle possession away from a maul and crash over for his second try. With the scores now level, Rutherford kept his nerve to send over the conversion kick and edge the visitors two points in front.

For the remainder of the match Gala's pack threw everything at their opposite numbers to try and regain the initiative, but in the process conceded a couple of crucial penalties, allowing Cassidy and Rutherford to kick for the corners and secure a hard-earned victory.

GALA - S. D'Agrosa, C. Lawson, C. Dalgleish, S. Chapman, A. Wood, A. McLean, J. Berry, A. Johnson, P. MacDonald, E. Johnstone, C. Weir, J. Anderson, G. Bryce, M. Christie, T. Weir. Replacements: R. Livingston, G. Frater, J. McEntee, A. Ballantyne.

SELKIRK - F. Harkness, G. Blair, D. Cassidy, A. Lyall, S. Hendrie, M. Rutherford, M. McVie, B. Rawcliffe, D. Hoggan, M. Murray, N. Darling, M. Barnett, S. Jeffrey, D. Rumney, A. Heatlie. Replacements: G. Patterson E. Robbie, R. Aglen, J. Ross.

Referee - I. Clark (Haddington).

SPOT THE BALL. Referee Ian Clark isn't the only person looking for the ball at this ruck in Saturday's local derby at Netherdale… Selkirk players Scott Jeffrey, Ben Rawcliffe, Michael McVie and Martin Murray are also trying to locate it! (Picture: Grant Kinghorn)