Selkirk 22, Currie 42

No hiding place as Currie turn up the heat in march towards Premier One title

WITH Selkirk's last two Premier One games being against title contenders Ayr and Currie, the road to this season's Scottish Hydro Championship was always destined to pass through Philiphaugh. And on Saturday night the Selkirk faithful were treated to a contest worthy of deciding any league competition, with the home players fighting tooth and nail to halt the Currie juggernaut.

Although ultimately failing to match the visitors' physicality, Selkirk showed enough pride, passion and perseverance over 80 bruising minutes to give the home supporters real hope for a positive outcome in Wednesday's Border League play-off final against Melrose at the Greenyards.

With prop Gordon Patterson and centre Scott Hendrie failing late fitness tests, Steven Renwick and Jason Hendrie were drafted into the home line-up as replacements. Selkirk were boosted by the appearance of Edinburgh pro. Simon Cross (making his first 15-a-side appearance of the season), with Alex Dunbar also available after last turning out for Selkirk against Langholm three weeks ago.

Having scored 17 tries in their previous two matches, any hopes Currie's supporters might have harboured that Selkirk would prove yet another lamb to the slaughter only lasted for the first three minutes of the game. That's how long it took Fraser Harkness to scamper over for a try near the right-hand corner, after Michael McVie's box kick had bounced awkwardly, and been missed by, Currie wing Dougie Fife.

Although Rory Banks' conversion attempt went wide, the teenage stand-off made amends after 17 minutes when he stretched his side's lead from a sweetly struck penalty close to the halfway line. Moments earlier Selkirk had shown incredible resilience to withstand a series of six five-metre scrums on their own try line - a feat which had the large home crowd roaring their appreciation from the packed stand touchline.

Finding themselves under so much pressure, Selkirk's discipline was beginning to show signs of strain, and two successive penalties for not releasing allowed visiting full-back Johnny Smith to close the gap to 8-6. The same player then side-stepped his way under the posts after a series of forward drives had again had the home pack at full stretch, putting Currie 13-8 ahead.

This was the way things stood at halftime, and with Selkirk's players beginning to tire from the sustained onslaught of Currie's massive pack, the visitors increased their lead to 27-8 with tries by skipper Andy Adam and his second row partner Ryan Wilson, both converted by Smith.

Far from raising the white flag, Selkirk stunned the league leaders with a try out of the top drawer. A typically silky break by Gavin Craig took play deep into Currie territory, but the chance appeared to have ben lost when Selkirk were penalised at a ruck close to the visitors' try line. Turnover ball then allowed Alex Dunbar to burst through the Currie defence on a blistering run, and the supporting Fraser Harkness was on hand to take the offload and send Darren Clapperton sprinting under the posts for a great score. McVie's conversion closed the gap to 27-15.

Currie then showed the steely resolve which has kept them at the top of the Premier One table all season by redoubling their efforts to secure the vital bonus point thanks to a try by Willi Moala, with Dougie Fife adding a fifth to put the game beyond Selkirk's reach and keep the Malleny Park bandwagon securely on track. The final try of the night came from Andrew Renwick, while Johnny Smith kicked a penalty in the dying seconds to set the seal on Currie's victory.

Openside Callum Johnston was named Selkirk's 'Man of the Match', but in truth every member of the home team deserved a mention for contributing to such a competitive contest. Currie take on Ayr this Saturday in a game that will go a long way to deciding the destiny of the Premier One title, with the Millbrae men coming to Philiphaugh on May 15 for Selkirk's final league fixture of the season.

SELKIRK - F. Harkness, D. Clapperton, G. Craig, A. Dunbar, L. Jones, R. Banks, M. McVie, R. Taylor, D. Grieve, M. Murray, J. Smyth, R. Aglen, S. Cross, C. Johnston, S. Tomlinson. Replacements: J. Hendrie, S. Forrest, S. Willet, S. Renwick, A. Renwick.

Referee - A. Healy.