Three-try burst in first half sets up Selkirk for historic Border League title win

STRONGY' TO FORE. Centre Ross Armstrong sprints over for Selkirk's opening try at Poynder Park on Monday night, watched by team-mate Fraser Harkness.

BREAK-OUT. Selkirk scrum-half Michael McVie spots a gap in the Jed defence during Monday night's Border League play-off final at Kelso. [Pictures: Grant Kinghorn]

IF actor Tom Cruise is looking for ideas for the fourth instalment of his 'Mission Impossible' film franchise, then he might care to have a chat with Selkirk coaches Rodney Pow and Kevin Barrie. Two weeks ago at Mansfield Park, the club's Border League title hopes looked all over, as the Philiphaugh team turned round at halftime trailing Hawick 22-5. Some well-chosen words from Pow and Barrie at the interval helped transform the team's fortunes, with the never-say-die Souters staging a sensational comeback to win the game 23-22, and book a place in the play-off final.

After falling behind to a fifth minute Seb Trotter penalty in Monday night's BSPC Border League final against Jed-Forest at Poynder Park, Selkirk's supporters could have been forgiven for wondering if the tide was about to turn, just as their team was bidding to land yet another glittering prize from the club's amazing 2007/2008 campaign.

They needed have worried. Fifteen minutes later a break by Michael McVie - who along with half-back partner Gavin Craig had an excellent match - was carried on by Rory Aglen. The rangy lock sprinted clear down the left flank and was stopped just short of the try line. The ball was recycled and switched right to Gordon Patterson and Scott Tomlinson, the latter having returned from a family holiday especially to play in the game. He quickly spun out a long ball to Ross Armstrong, and the centre needed no second invitation to sprint over for a try.

Six minutes before halftime Tomlinson again proved the lynchpin for Armstrong's second try. After Jamie McCraw had been bundled into touch five metres short of Selkirk's try line, a bulldozing run by Jed prop Gary Holborn kept play perilously close to the Selkirk line. It looked as though something in the Selkirk defence would have to give.

From the ensuing scrum, however, Fraser Harkness burst clear on a lung-bursting 60-metre break up the centre of the field. When tackled he slipped the ball to Scott Hendrie, who found Neil Darling up in support. The Selkirk skipper made ground before off-loading to Tomlinson. With Jed's defenders now re-grouping, the Selkirk number eight spotted an empty area near the left corner-flag, and calmly sent a cross-field kick into the space. Armstrong was once more in the right place at the right time, gathering cleanly to crash over for a fine touchdown. David Cassidy's conversion sailed over from wide out to increase Selkirk's lead to 12-3.

Jed reduced the deficit from a second Trotter penalty, but a minute before halftime Selkirk stretched further ahead thanks to an unexpected piece of good fortune. Fraser Harkness' speculative kick up the right touchline appeared to pose little danger to Jed, but on landing the ball took a wicked bounce infield - straight into the hands of the chasing Scott Hendrie. Hardly believing his luck, the blond wing raced for the line and, when tackled, managed to off-load to Harkness. The full-back, as he has done all season, made the most of this chance and raced over for the try. Cassidy's conversion took the halftime score to19-6 in Selkirk's favour.

Despite having the breeze at their backs in the second period, Selkirk were unable to add to their tally. Indeed for much of the second half Jed looked the livelier outfit, with Clark Laidlaw and Gary Hill making inroads behind the scrum, while only a superb last-ditch tackle by Harkness kept Jed centre David Gobby from scoring in the left-hand corner.

Selkirk's cause wasn't helped when flanker David Gray was helped from the field with ruptured ankle ligaments, to be replaced by Ryan Crockatt. The Souters survived another close shave when McCraw was stopped inches short of the line after a powerful break down the right. Selkirk's players continued to defend as though their lives depended on it, however, while Martin Murray and Neil Darling forced vital turnovers as the Royal Blues tried to build momentum close to their opponents' 22.

With the seconds ticking away, a timely interception by Scott Hendrie stopped yet another promising attack, and soon afterwards referee Iain Heard blew for no-side, so ending a hotly contested and thoroughly entertaining match. Full credit must go to both sets of players for putting their tired bodies through yet another 80 minutes of intensely competitive rugby, following such a hugely demanding season. Their efforts were undoubtedly appreciated by Monday night's bumper crowd of 1,500 rugby diehards.

SELKIRK - F. Harkness, S. Hendrie, D. Cassidy, R. Armstrong, L. Jones, G. Craig, M. McVie, G. Patterson, I. Walling, M. Murray, R. Aglen, E. Gauché, N. Darling, D. Gray, S. Tomlinson. Replacements: A. Lyall, A. McDowall, S. Forrest, A. Renwick, R. Crockatt, C. Johnston.

JED-FOREST - S. Trotter, J. McCraw, D. Gobby, G. Hill, R. Hogg, C. Laidlaw, R. Goodfellow, G. Holborn, D. Grieve, N. Bates, L. Patton, N. Cook, R. Ferguson, B. Graham, S. Laidlaw. Replacements: J. Hogg, G. Walker, M. Graham, P. Thompson, D. Grieve, M. Weekley, C. Laidlaw.

Referee - I. Heard (Gala).