Jed-Forest 23 Selkirk 30 (Sat 9th February 2008)

GOTCHA! Selkirk fly-half Gavin Craig puts the brakes on Jed-Forest wing Roy McFarlane in Saturday's match.

A sun-bathed Riverside was not the place for the faint-hearted on Saturday when Selkirk were shaken and stirred into action by a determined Jed side playing with the same pride and passion that had sunk Biggar the previous week. Selkirk were 17-0 down a few minutes before half-time; they led 30-20 with seven minutes left; and they were left hanging on in injury time and with only 14 men. All part of a normal Saturday afternoon for Selkirk - and their anxious coaches, Kevin Barrie and Rodney Pow - not to mention their fantastic bunch of supporters.
This was an exciting game of rugby which saw Selkirk take another important step towards promotion and set up a superb dual "duel" versus West of Scotland and Biggar respectively at the end of next month. The conditions were deceptive and the steady breeze and strong sun favoured Jed in the first half. David Cassidy missed an early opportunity when he failed to gather an awkward hack ahead and the Selkirk defence was caught napping when a blind-side move from a five metres scrum saw scrum half, Ross Goodfellow sail in at the corner without a hand touching him. Centre, Seb Trotter added a superb touchline conversion. Selkirk were threatening on occasions but it was nervy play where they were giving up possession far too easily to the opposition. Jed grabbed any 50/50 ball on the ground and things soon got worse for the Souters. The wily Clark Laidlaw kept Selkirk on the retreat and the stand-off's subtle chip was collected on the full and at pace by Trotter who raced clear from a bewildered Selkirk defence to score between the posts. The centre converted his own try and increased the Jed lead to seventeen points when he kicked a penalty for a Selkirk offside. The game seemed to be lost for Selkirk but a Cassidy penalty on the stroke of half-time gave them a crucial lifeline.
The second half started with a bang. Within four minutes, winger Guy Blair sped in from a clean break by Gavin Craig and Cassidy converted. Three minutes later, Cassidy banged over another penalty and in 52 minutes, centre Ross Armstrong powered his way over from a Michael McVie break. Cassidy's second conversion of the afternoon put Selkirk in front for the first time. It was now Jed's turn to feel the pressure and ten minutes of play had seen their lead vanish into thin air. Trotter and Cassidy exchanged penalties before Fraser Harkness broke Jed hearts - again from Craig's break and Ali Lyall's support. Cassidy brought out full points. Selkirk tried desperately to secure a 4th try to earn a vital bonus point and Harkness appeared to have done just that before it transpired that referee Andy Ireland had already blown his whistle and awarded a penalty to Selkirk. Trotter gave the Souters a few anxious moments with a penalty three minutes from time but the visitor's defence held firm despite Eddie Gauche being yellow-carded.
This match must have been like a breath of fresh air to any neutrals in the crowd - entertaining, fast, furious and skilful - a great advert for Borders club rugby.
Selkirk's never-say-die attitude shone through yet again. Fraser Harkness was immense at full-back, his intrusions into the line crucial; David Cassidy was sure and certain in the midfield and accurate with the boot; Gavin Craig and Michael McVie provided an excellent link at half-back; and the forwards were well led by captain Neil Darling. Martin Murray, Eddie Gauche, Rory Aglan, Gordon Patterson, Alan McDowall and Scott Tomlinson all looked menacing with ball in hand. It is perhaps unfair to single out individual players because this victory was down to a solid team performance, particularly in the second half.
Selkirk know that 160 minutes of rugby now lies between them and a possible return to Premier 1 rugby. Importantly, they remain in control over their own destiny which is a real bonus. This was their 8th victory away from home this season and their 9th successive league win. West of Scotland and Biggar will be difficult opposition but no more difficult than a fired-up Jed-Forest team playing a Borders derby on their home patch. Two more "cup finals" to go and everything to play for!

MEANING BUSINESS. Selkirk prop Martin Murray hands off Jed front row man Russell Holborn to spearhead another attack for the visitors at Riverside on Saturday. [Pictures: Grant Kinghorn]