Selkirk 22, Melrose 45

Selkirk still looking for answers as defensive frailties again cost McVie's men dear

UNDER PRESSURE. Stand-off Gavin Craig manages to get the ball away despite being tackled by a Melrose player, as centre Alex Dunbar awaits developments.

MELROSE gained emphatic revenge on Saturday for last season's defeat on the same ground, outscoring the home side by five tries to one in what proved a convincing 45-22 win. Despite extending their lead to 22-15 just after halftime, Selkirk found themselves pinned in their own half for long periods thanks to the unerring boot of 'Rose skipper Scott Wight, with the relentless pressure resulting in a further three tries for the visitors.

This result gives even greater significance to the Souters' next match against fellow strugglers Stewart's/Melville FP at Inverleith, where anything less than outright victory will transform the difficult fightback already facing Michael McVie's troops into an escape act of Houdini proportions.

Playing with the breeze at their backs in the first half, Selkirk made a positive start, and David Cassidy put his side's first points on the board with a third minute penalty. Four minutes later Scott Wight had the chance to draw Melrose level, but his penalty attempt was hooked just to the right of the posts.

A good line kick by McVie took Selkirk deep into Melrose territory, but two penalties in quick succession allowed the visitors to advance back up the field, where a sharp break by James King down the right flank after 11 minutes created enough space for full-back Fraser Thomson to touch down close to the corner flag. Wight's conversion drifted wide, but it was to prove the stand-off's last goal-kicking miss of the afternoon.

Selkirk regained the lead soon afterwards, when a break by Gavin Craig was kept alive thanks to Scott Hendrie's support play and Daniel Moussa's tenacity when under pressure, and when Melrose were penalised at a ruck Cassidy was able to slot his second penalty.

Hardly had the applause died down than the visitors were back in front. A Wight kick took Melrose to the edge of Selkirk's 22, and when the Greenyards threequarters spun the ball along the line, Callum Anderson capitalised on a well executed loop move to score close to the posts. Wight's conversion put Melrose 12-6 ahead.

On the 23-minute mark a textbook number eight pick-up by Scott Tomlinson and blindside breenge from scrum-half Michael McVie allowed Selkirk full-back Fraser Harkness to cut inside the visitors' cover and score his first try of the season. Cassidy's conversion was followed shortly afterwards by his third successful penalty, after good work in the loose by Rory Aglen.

Before the interval Wight and Cassidy swapped further penalty kicks, while Selkirk had a lucky escape when Fraser Thomson knocked on with the try line at his mercy. A mazy run by Lee Jones down the left touchline had the crowd on its feet, but the wing's chip ahead was too strong and crossed the dead-ball line.

The interval score stood at 19-15 in Selkirk's favour, but it was now the home side's turn to play into the breeze. Despite stretching their lead to 22-15 with Cassidy's fifth successful conversion of the afternoon, it was now that Scott Wight's siege-gun line kicks really started to hurt, and it became increasingly difficult for Selkirk to clear their lines.

A try from close range by former Selkirk prop Richard Higgins saw Melrose draw level at 22-22, before the visitors turned the screw tighter by punishing Selkirk's indiscipline with three booming penalty kicks by Wight for a 31-22 lead. With the home side visibly tiring, two further tries by Thomson and Anderson put the result beyond any doubt.

A special mention must go to the efforts of blindside flanker Neil Darling who, despite being out injured since March, still managed to last the full 80 minutes of a punishing encounter. Such stamina and commitment will be needed by the bucket-load in the weeks ahead if Selkirk is to have any chance of escaping the drop zone.

SPEED MERCHANT. Selkirk wing Lee Jones leaves a Melrose defender in his wake as he bursts for the try line in Saturday's match at Philiphaugh. (Photos: Grant Kinghorn)

SELKIRK - F. Harkness, S. Hendrie, D. Cassidy, A. Dunbar, L. Jones, G. Craig, M. McVie, G. Patterson, D. Grieve, D. Moussa, R. Aglen, A. Renwick, N. Darling, D. Gray, S. Tomlinson. Replacements: S. Forrest, R. Taylor, K. Connor, S. Willet, R. Nixon.

Referee - Andrew McMenemy (Gala).