Hawick, 22, Selkirk 23

Never-say-die Selkirk clinch place in Border League play-off final

COMEBACK KINGS. Former Hawick threequarter Ross Armstrong dives over for a first half try against his ex-team-mates at Mansfield Park on Tuesday night.

NIXON TOUCHDOWN. Selkirk centre Ross Nixon scores the Souters' second try, which paved the way for Selkirk's remarkable victory over Hawick at Mansfield Park on Tuesday night. [Pictures: Grant Kinghorn]

SELKIRK staged a remarkable second-half comeback to defeat Hawick at Mansfield Park on Tuesday night in a stirring local derby. The prize for the 23-22 victory is a place in the BSPC Border League final against either Jed-Forest or Melrose.
The Souters enjoyed the early pressure and former Hawick player Ross Armstrong broke through a couple of tackles for a fine opening try after only seven minutes. David Cassidy's conversion attempt just drifted wide, but it was a promising start for the visitors who, realistically, had to win the game to reach the final in successive seasons. The score stirred Hawick into action and a successful Craig Neish penalty narrowed the deficit.

A combination of powerful scrummaging and willingness to attack from their own territory saw Hawick gain the upper hand and slick transfer of the ball out wide gave the speedy Steven Anderson room to touch down in the corner. Craig Neish struck a fine conversion and the home team deservedly went ahead 10-5.
At this stage, Selkirk's possession was limited and ball retention was hampered by the eagerness of the marauding Hawick challenges. It was Steven Anderson, again, who added a second try for the Greens after smart handling allowed him to squeeze over at the corner. Neish brought out full points with a magnificent touchline conversion.
Hawick were certainly up a gear on Selkirk in most aspects of play and it looked all over for the Souters when Neil Renwick, with the minimum of space to move, scampered up the touchline for Hawick's third try. Suddenly it looked a distinct possibility that the Teries would be capable of reaching the required 35-point winning margin and bonus point fourth try to edge out Gala for a place in the Border League final. The half-time whistle saw Hawick 22-5 ahead on the Mansfield Park scoreboard and things were looking bleak for the visitors.
However, the Souters have displayed a never-say-die attitude all season, and a winning mentality has become a habit for the Philiphaugh lads. Pride is never far away from the surface and early in the second half they started to gain territorial advantage. The ability to exert a bit of pressure on their opponents paid dividends in the shape of a couple of successful penalty kicks from the trusty boot of David Cassidy, and the turning point came when fly-half Gavin Craig made a stunning break from mid-field and left the Hawick defences in tatters. Craig beat several air tackles before feeding the scoring pass to left wing Ross Nixon.
Gavin's incisive run must have reminded the Selkirk faithful of days gone by, when John Rutherford ghosted through the opposition with regularity. Their tails were now well and truly up, and Scott Hendrie finished off a slick handling move with Selkirk's third try which Cassidy converted. The final 15 minutes were quite frantic with Hawick looking capable of scoring from deep.
However, the Selkirk defence was up to the task and Craig almost added a fourth try before being scythed down with a brave last gasp tackle. Referee, Andrew McMenemy signalled full-time with the Souters victorious by the narrowest of margins.

The match was a perfect example of the type of spirited rugby Borders folk want to see. Two talented teams, with mostly local lads, playing for the jerseys of their respective towns. It was refreshing entertainment where the game of rugby was the winner. Club rugby is certainly still alive and very much kicking in these parts. G.T.