Aberdeen Grammar 12 Selkirk 29 (Sat.Jan 26th 2008)

BREAK-OUT. Fly-half Gavin Craig sprints upfield as Selkirk turn the screw on opponents Aberdeen GSFP in Saturday's excellent 29-12 victory at Rubislaw.

Selkirk faced the long trip to Aberdeen on Saturday in a determined mood to dim the northern lights and gain their eighth successive league victory in Premier Division 2. Aberdeen GSFP were equally determined to repel the challenge of the Souters and revive their flagging league campaign. The Rubislaw pitch was in reasonable condition for the end of January and earlier strong winds had abated by kick-off time. Encouraged by a large travelling support, Selkirk hardly sniffed the ball in the opening five minutes as the physical Aberdeen pack dominated early play. After weathering the initial storm Selkirk turned the pressure on their opponents and captain, Neil Darling showed clinical finishing skills to drive forward and dive over the line for the first try of the afternoon. With ten minutes played, centre David Cassidy added a fine conversion to give Selkirk an unlikely 7-0 lead based on the pattern of play.
The game entered a spell where mistakes by both teams spoiled several potential opportunities to change the score line. However, at the end of the first quarter Aberdeen stormed back with a pulsating try from hard running centre, Ewen Campbell. A long miss pass put Campbell in the clear and he sprinted into the corner for a fine touchdown. The conversion was missed and Selkirk retained a narrow two point lead. Selkirk have scored some enterprising tries this season and soon after this reversal of fortunes winger Scott Hendrie finished off another smart bout of handling to score close enough to the posts to give Cassidy an easy conversion. The penalty count against Selkirk was embarrassingly high as Kiwi referee, Rupert Henderson continually penalised them for transgressions. The visitors were playing with wind advantage and it was evident that a half time lead of 14-5 might not prove to be enough to prevent Aberdeen from staging a winning comeback. On the stroke of the interval, stand-off Gavin Craig split clean through the defences with an excellent break and it took a brilliant last gasp tackle by Aberdeen fullback Andrew Ritchie to save the day.
Selkirk pressure continued to be thwarted by the high penalty count against them and the home supporters voiced their consternation that the referee was keeping the yellow card in his pocket. Some great defensive work by the Souters kept Aberdeen at bay and Cassidy, Fraser Harkness, Michael McVie and Craig put in some telling clearance kicks to bring welcome relief. In the forwards, Eddie Gauche, Rory Aglen, Martin Murray and Neil Darling were working tirelessly against a formidable Aberdeen unit. Indeed, the entire pack of Selkirk forwards deserved plaudits for performing well in loose and tight play. Selkirk's third try was neatly worked as Hendrie placed a deft kick to the corner where centre Ross Armstrong gathered and finished well. Cassidy's touchline conversion just failed. This setback stirred Aberdeen into action and their midfield breaks were causing problems. A yellow card was dished out to prop Gordon Patterson and the cheers rang out at Rubislaw when winger Ally Robertson charged down a Cassidy clearance kick to score near the posts for Ritchie to add a simple conversion. Cassidy soon made amends with an excellent penalty kick to put Selkirk 22-12 ahead with ten minutes to play. With time running out Aberdeen mounted another attack deep into the Selkirk 22 and they looked to be certain to score. Somehow, Cassidy managed to scramble possession and darted into the clear before releasing to Scott Hendrie who outpaced the despairing defence runners from mid-field to notch up Selkirk's important bonus point for scoring four tries. Another Cassidy conversion brought the final score to 29-12 in Selkirk's favour.
This was a well deserved victory against a strong Aberdeen side somewhat lacking in confidence after a mediocre season by their standards. The Selkirk success story rolls on and a playing record of Played 19 Won 16 has surpassed the expectations of many of the faithful down Philiphaugh way. The prospect of promotion is now a real one, although West and Biggar will probably fancy their chances more in the final push for honours. Selkirk may have the harder fixtures to fulfil with Jedforest (A), West of Scotland (H) and Biggar (A). However, the winning mentality of the Souters cannot be underestimated and the coaching duo of Kevin Barrie and Rodney Pow will make sure that there charges are well prepared for "three cup finals". Whatever the outcome by the end of March, season 2007/2008 is shaping up to be the most successful on record for a number of years. It is a tribute to Selkirk rugby that such success is primarily being achieved by a bunch of talented local lads.

STEADY EDDIE. Selkirk lock Eddie Gauché gets ready to jump at a line-out in Saturday's match at Rubislaw, flanked by Alan McDowall (left) and Martin Murray. (Pictures: Grant Kinghorn)