Selkirk 6, Hawick 15

Selkirk unable to weather the storm as Hawick strike first blow in race to play-off final

NO WAY THROUGH. Former Greens threequarter Ross Armstrong makes a break for Selkirk in Saturday's 'Radio Borders' Border League fixture at Philiphaugh. Team-mate Callum Johnston looks keen to lend support. (Photo: Grant Kinghorn)

ANY hope Selkirk might have harboured of bagging a hat-trick of Border League titles looks to have evaporated, following Saturday's defeat at the hands of a fired-up Hawick team at Philiphaugh. The home side's below par performance was in stark contrast to the team's display against Hawick in last season's corresponding Prem. One fixture, when Selkirk had recorded an emphatic win.

For despite being without the services of experienced trio John Coutts, Bruce McNeil and Danny Landels, the visitors always looked the hungrier side throughout the contest, and will now be odds-on favourites to win Pool A and progress to the play-off final in April.

Saturday's match was played in continuous rain, except for a 10-minute lull midway through the second half. However, this should have held no fears for Selkirk's players, who eight days previously had excelled in just such conditions against Edinburgh Accies.

Playing towards the Bannerfield end, it was Selkirk who made the early running, with breaks from Fraser Harkness, Ross Armstrong and Gavin Craig putting the Greens on the back foot. This pressure resulted in David Cassidy kicking a fifth minute penalty to put the home side 3-0 ahead.

Ten minutes later Hawick took the lead when Craig failed to tidy up scrappy possession on the 10-metre line, and Greens back row player Ross Gibson hacked the ball over the home try line before diving on it for a try. Ali Weir missed the conversion, but two minutes later stretched his team's lead to 8-3 from a penalty, after Harkness was penalised for a high tackle on flanker David Lowrie.

On the 20-minute mark a penalty attempt by David Cassidy rebounded off the right-hand post, but Selkirk kept up the pressure through a couple of penetrating runs down the left touchline by Lee Jones. Just before halftime the wing took a quick tap penalty outside Hawick's 22, and despite a couple of solid breenges by Rob Taylor and Dan Moussa, the visitors' defence held firm. Halftime score: Selkirk 3, Hawick 8.

Gordon Patterson replaced Dan Moussa and Rory Aglen came on for Simon Willet at the start of the second half, and some good pick-and-drives by Andrew Renwick and Neil Darling kept the home side in the hunt. However, Hawick's powerful scrummaging was beginning to take its toll, with the home eight being pushed off their own ball on more than one occasion.

Selkirk's best chance of scoring came in the 50th minute, when Fraser Harkness burst up the stand touchline with team-mate Scott Hendrie right up in support. However, the full-back elected to chip the ball over the Hawick line, being beaten to the touchdown by Michael Graham.

This let-off appeared to galvanise the visitors, who piled on the pressure and kept Selkirk pinned in their 22 for long periods. The home supporters finally had something to cheer about when David Cassidy sent over his second penalty of the afternoon to cut the deficit to 8-6, but within minutes Hawick had hit back in decisive fashion.

Home skipper Michael McVie's clearance kick from a scrum in front of his own line was charged down by opposite number Bruce Campbell, and when McVie was adjudged to have illegally obstructed Campbell as he tried to touch down the ball, referee Gareth Fairbairn awarded a penalty try which Weir converted to seal the visitors' victory.

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

Referee - G. Fairbairn (Royal Navy).