Selkirk 21, Edinburgh Accies 6

Forwards excel in monsoon conditions as Selkirk finally escape Prem. One drop zone

NO WAY THROUGH. Openside flanker Callum Johnston puts the brakes on an Edinburgh Accies forward in Friday night's Premier One match at Philiphaugh. Team-mates Alex Dunbar and Ross Armstrong provide back-up support.

TO preserve the club's Premier One status, Selkirk's coaches and players know that from now on every single home fixture falls into the 'must win' category. The side achieved that aim with a fine victory over Edinburgh Accies at Philiphaugh on Friday night - getting the second half of their league campaign off to a flying start.

The win moved Selkirk up to eighth place in the division, but less than 24 hours later the club slipped back to ninth after West of Scotland notched a bonus point win over Boroughmuir. Selkirk skipper Michael McVie told the web site after Friday night's game he was happy with the improvements shown by the team over the past fortnight.

"We were a lot hungrier tonight, and the players know they've got to bring this level of intensity to our remaining 10 league matches. It's helped that we've had almost a full squad of players at training these past two weeks, and the arrival of Jon Smyth and the availabilty of pros Sean Crombie and Jim Thompson for the Accies match gave everyone a big boost.

"Our set piece play was a lot more secure tonight, and that resulted in cleaner ball for the backs. Friday night games seem to suit us, and the players really appreciated the way the big home support got right behind us from the kick-off."

The only change in Selkirk's starting line-up from the previous week's draw at Myreside was at stand-off, where Gavin Craig replaced the injured Michael Rutherford. Accies won the toss and elected to play towards the Bannerfield end, and had the chance to take the lead in the seventh minute when David O'Hagen sent a penalty attempt wide of the posts.

Soon afterwards a typically sparkling break by Gavin Craig petered out because of lack of support, and in the 14th minute it looked as though the home team would score in the right hand corner, but Fraser Harkness' final pass to Scott Hendrie was just too high for the wing to control.

Selkirk drew level when Hendrie landed an excellent penalty kick from the 10-metre line, after Accies were penalised for not rolling away. Yellow cards were issued to Gordon Patterson and Accies lock Ed Stuart in the in the 30th and 34th minutes, and on the stroke of halftime Hendrie landed another penalty, following great work in the loose by Rob Taylor, to give the home side a lead of 6-3 at the interval.

The referee's halftime whistle was also the cue for the heavens to open, and the remainder of the game was played in heavy, persistent rain. Far from inhibiting play, if anything the monsoon conditions invigorated Selkirk's players, who visibly upped their work rate and began to take the game to their city opponents at every opportunity.

After three minutes O'Hagen had a chance to level the scores, but his penalty rebounded back off the crossbar and was caught by Alex Dunbar. The powerful centre (later named 'Man of the Match') burst 50 metres downfield, but the visitors' defences held firm to deny the Souters.

Five minutes later the triple substitution of Jon Smyth, Sean Crombie and Martin Murray for Simon Willet, David Grieve and Rob Taylor gave fresh impetus to the home side's efforts, with the combative Crombie reproducing the ball-carrying and defensive skills so characteristic of his nine games for the club last season.

On the 55-minute mark Jim Thompson replaced Fraser Harkness. Selkirk then gained a huge junk of territory when Martin Murray forced a turnover at a maul and Gavin Craig burst upfield, but Callum Johnston couldn't secure the final pass. However, Johnston made amends shortly afterwards, when Accies' scrum was wheeled by the home pack and as the ball squirted out Johnston snapped it up to sprint over for a try.

Although O'Hagen cut the deficit from a penalty on the hour-mark, Selkirk stretched their lead to 16-6 when a well controlled rolling maul following a line-out resulted in Martin Murray touching down wide on the left.

Accies had a let-off when Dunbar's interception was just halted five metres from their line, but in the closing stages Selkirk struck a killer blow when number eight Andrew Renwick skilfully controlled a scrum drive five metres out, picking up cleanly to crash over for his team's third try of the night.

WE HAVE TOUCHDOWN. Callum Johnston outstrips the Accies' defence on his way to scoring Selkirk's opening try on Friday night. (Photos: Grant Kinghorn)

SELKIRK - F. Harkness, S. Hendrie, A. Dunbar, R. Armstrong, L. Jones, G. Craig, M. McVie, G. Patterson, D. Grieve, R. Taylor, R. Aglen, S. Willet, N. Darling, C. Johnston, A. Renwick. Replacements: S. Crombie, J. Smyth, M. Murray, D. Cassidy, J. Thompson.

Referee - J. Matthew (Stewart's/Melville FP)