Melrose 38, Selkirk 3

Melrose's power play too much for injury-hit Selkirk

OUTMUSCLED by Melrose's bigger pack in the set piece, Selkirk's unbeaten run in the "Southern Reporter" Border League came to an abrupt end at The Greenyards on Tuesday.

The visitors' cause wasn't helped by a string of injuries, the most serious of which saw lock Neil Darling taken to the Borders General Hospital with shoulder damage, while second row colleague Steven Renwick had to helped from the field after aggravating a knee knock.
Quicker to the breakdown and more aggressive in the loose, Melrose always had the edge up front, where ex-Selkirk player Richard Higgins was inevitably in the thick of the action. As a consequence the visitors' pacy young back division was starved of possession for long periods of the contest, but showed plenty of resilience in defence.
The match marked the comeback appearance of Selkirk hooker Ryan Crockatt who, despite not having played no rugby for 10 weeks, managed to last the full 80 minutes and never gave less than 100 per cent.
A series of crunching tackles by Alistair Dickson kept Selkirk in the game as Melrose made all the early running, but in the 16th minute the dam finally burst when home skipper Wayne Mitchell was driven over for the opening try following a line-out close to the Selkirk line. Scott Wight added the conversion.
Soon afterwards a textbook sidestep and burst of acceleration from Kiwi threequarter Karne Kaufana saw the former Christchurch player sprint over for his side's second try, again converted by Wight.
On the half-hour mark Ciaran Beattie cut the deficit with a well struck 30-metre penalty, but any hopes Selkirk's supporters might have harboured of seeing a revival by their team were dashed moments later. Mitchell broke clean up the middle and found Andy Thomson in acres of space, and the flanker could hardly believe his luck as he ran under the posts without a hand being laid on him.
Just before halftime Ally Dickson was replaced by the evergreen Michael Jaffray, who was making his 418th senior appearance for the visitors, while minutes earlier skipper Darren Hoggan's place in the back row had been taken by Scott Tomlinson.
The second half started more promisingly for Selkirk. A counter-attack by Fraser Harkness and David Cassidy took play up to the halfway line, and when the ball reached Ciaran Beattie the 19-year-old wing made a searing break, linking up with Michael McVie just yards from the try line, but the final pass didn't go to hand and 'Rose cleared the danger.
Soon afterwards a Wight penalty put Melrose 24-3 ahead, and the result was put beyond doubt by a try from Melrose wing Mark Robertson, after Selkirk's tiring defensive line had been stretched first left and then right.
Further calamity struck the visitors when, in the space of four minutes, they lost the services of Darling, McVie and Renwick, forcing Selkirk to play the final 12 minutes of the match with only 14 men.
Melrose's pack took full advantage of their superior numbers, pushing the visitors' scrum back at a rate of knots to allow number eight Ross Miller to pick up for his team's fifth and final try. The conversion kick was added by Border Reivers player James King, bringing the curtain down on a convincing victory for Melrose, who must now be odds-on favourites to qualify for the Border League play-off final in April.

MELROSE - J. King, D. Whiteford, J. Murray, K. Kaufana, M. Robertson, S. Wight, G. Thomson, N. Beavon, W. Mitchell, R. Higgins, J. Bradburn, G. Broomfield, A. Thomson, M. de Franck, R. Miller. Replacements (all used): G. Innes, I. Cornwall, S. Johnson, S. Ruthven.

SELKIRK - F. Harkness, C. Beattie, D. Cassidy, A. Dickson, A. Lyall, G. Craig, M. McVie, B. Rawcliffe, R. Crockatt, G. Patterson, N. Darling, S. Renwick, , D. Hoggan, S. Jeffrey, A. Heatlie. Replacements (all used): S. Tomlinson, R. Taylor, N. Darling, M. Jaffray.

Referee - D. Dodds (Gala).

NO-GO AREA. Scott Tomlinson, Michael McVie and Alister Heatlie join forces to put the squeeze on Melrose's Andy Thomson in Tuesday's Border League match at The Greenyards. (Picture: Grant Kinghorn)

SCORE GIVEN. Referee David Dods signals a try has been scored by Melrose skipper Wayne Mitchell following a line-out drive close to the Selkirk line. (Picture: Grant Kinghorn)