Selkirk 12, Gala 3

Gritty win over Maroons helps keep Selkirk in Border League play-off picture

NO WAY THROUGH. It's difficult to discern the identity of Selkirk's ball-carrier, as Gala try to keep the Souters in check in Saturday's mud-bath conditions.

FIFTY-FIFTY BALL. Scrum-halves Michael McVie and Ian Ross both put the boot in during Saturday's Border League match at Philiphaugh. [Pictures: Grant Kinghorn]

THERE'S a saying that when the going gets tough, the tough get going, and this maxim certainly held true for Selkirk's players on Saturday. For with large areas of the Philiphaugh pitch transformed into expanses of slippery mud thanks to a series of heavy downpours before kick-off, the home team held its nerve to rise above the glaur and clinch a hard-fought victory over old rivals Gala.

Victory for the visitors would have secured them a place in this season's BSPC Border League play-off final, as outright winners of Pool B. However, Gala's defeat now opens up the section, so if Selkirk can defeat Hawick and Berwick in their remaining games, it will be the Souters who progress to the final.

Had the rain and wind not eased early on in Saturday's contest, there was a distinct possibility referee John Steele might have been forced to abandon proceedings long before the final whistle. As it was, the sun finally appeared 10 minutes after kick-off, and while conditions remained far from easy, both sides deserve credit for putting on an absorbing display of rugby that belied the atrocious underfoot conditions.

Playing against the strong wind in the first half, Selkirk managed to defend their try line in the face of sustained Gala pressure during the first quarter of the game. A superb break by full-back Fraser Harkness up the right-hand side of the field finally relieved the siege. His off-load to Ross Armstrong saw the centre take a Gala defender with him as he crashed over the line for what looked like a try. However, after consulting with his touch-judge the referee ruled that Armstrong had knocked the ball forward in the act of grounding.

Moments later Armstrong again received the ball close to the visitors' try line, and this time the ex-Greens player was able to ground the ball to referee John Steele's satisfaction to put Selkirk 5-0 ahead. This was the way the score line stayed until half-time, with Selkirk's forwards and backs getting through a power of work to keep the shackles on their Gala opponents - no-one doing more for the cause than Eddie Gauché, skipper Neil Darling and Scott Tomlinson.

With the gusting wind now at their backs, Selkirk made immediate inroads into the visitors' territory, and Martin Murray crashed over for the home team's second try after good build-up work and ball control by the Selkirk forwards. David Cassidy's successful conversion extended the Souters' lead to 12-0.

The Maroons - who had changed into fresh strips at halftime - finally managed to get some points on the board thanks to an Andy McLean penalty kick, but there was to be no further scoring in the match, leaving Selkirk deserved winners at the final whistle.

Afterwards Selkirk coach Rodney Pow said he was pleased by the way the home players had stuck to their task. "This win helps keep the momentum going as the build-up continues for our final Premier 2 matches. We have another testing fixture this Saturday in the cup against Haddington, and Kevin and I will be looking for the same level of discipline and commitment we witnessed today."

Later in the evening an elated Selkirk supporter surely echoed the feelings of the team's followers when she commented: "Wins over Gala and England on the same day - it doesn't get much better than that!"