Ayr 47, Selkirk 17

 Selkirk players battle hard, but find it impossible to derail the Ayr bandwagon

SAFE PAIR OF HANDS. Selkirk skipper Neil Darling manages to secure clean line-out possession at Millbrae on Saturday.

AS expected, Selkirk found the going tough against defending champions Ayr at rain-lashed Millbrae, where the bigger and more aggressive home team crossed for a total of seven tries to run out convincing winners.

With Michael McVie and Gavin Craig both missing from the visitors' threequarter line through injury, wing Lee Jones was handed the number nine jersey to partner Michael Rutherford at half-back. Fraser Harkness, who had only returned from holiday the previous day, lined up on the left wing, while Edinburgh pro. player Jim Thompson started at full-back for the second successive week.

Bolstered by the previous weekend's victory over West of Scotland, Selkirk's players made a much more confident start to the match. Despite being at a considerable height and weight disadvantage, the visiting forwards gave as good as they got in the opening exchanges, with Rory Aglen and Andrew Renwick successfully disrupting the Ayr line-out, and skipper Neil Darling in typically feisty form in the loose.

It was Ayr who took the lead through a try by their massive lock Damien Kelly (the first of three he was to score in the match), converted by Frazier Climo. Selkirk hit back with an opportunist try by second row forward Rory Aglen, who charged down Climo's clearance kick on the 22-metre line, and quickly followed up to touch the ball down over the line. Rutherford's conversion tied the score at 7-7.

Another try by Kelly, followed by a try by John Crossan and a long-range effort from Climo, put the home side firmly back in the driving seat, although Selkirk's players didn't help their cause by trying to tackle their opponents round the shoulders and waist instead of round the ankles.

Just before the interval Rutherford cut the deficit with a well struck penalty, making the halftime score 26-10 to the Ayrshire team.

With the visitors tiring, Ayr put the result beyond doubt thanks to further tries by Kelly, Jamie Hunter and Gordon Sykes. Selkirk struck a defiant note in the closing minutes, when Jim Thompson crossed for the visitors' second try after a touchline break by Fraser Harkness had been carried on by Scott Hendrie, who then found Thompson up in support. Rutherford converted.

Selkirk replacement Darren Clapperton, who hasn't made a first team appearance since being injured against Edinburgh Accies at Raeburn Place, took the field at Millbrae for the final half hour of the game, and although largely confined to defensive chores, looks a welcome addition to the senior squad.

THREE'S A CROWD. Selkirk players Michael Rutherford, Rory Aglen and Callum Johnston combine forces to put the brakes on an Ayr attacker at Millbrae on Saturday. (Photos: Grant Kinghorn)

SELKIRK - J. Thompson, S. Hendrie, R. Armstrong, A. Dunbar, F. Harkness, M. Rutherford, L. Jones, G. Patterson, D. Grieve, D. Moussa, R. Aglen, S. Willet, A. Renwick, N. Darling, S. Tomlinson. Replacements: D. Clapperton, S. Forrest, C. Johnston, K. Connor, M. Murray.

Referee - C. Rudkin (Hawick)