Selkirk 55 GHA 24
A ribbon of tarmac meandering through the beautiful border hills of Sir Walter Scott countryside guided GHA safely to exquisite Philiphaugh , home of Selkirk RFC. Both sides took to the pitch in glorious sunshine as the crowd built up around all areas of the ground. In straight comparison it did seem that the home side had an advantage in both height and physique…an advantage which was to play a significant part in the subsequent events. GHA kicked off on a wide pitch in perfect conditions and immediately took the game to Selkirk. Early pressure by the visitors was relieved momentarily by Selkirk only to be reapplied by a clever break by Chris Binnie supported by Nigel Kelly whose passing movement was stopped just inside the 20m area.
GHA for the first seven minutes were exerting real pressure on a Selkirk side struggling to get out of their own half. However GHA pressure was failing to provide a deserved score due to a failure to retain the ball at the breakdown.As a result excellent approach play by the visitors was thwarted time and again by Selkirks ability to redeem the situation by comfortably securing possession at the breakdown.
There followed a period of ineffectual probing by both sides around halfway.However just after ten minutes GHA put a great spell of passing together which resulted in Chris Binnie chipping the ball through for Nigel Kelly to chase for the touchdown. It was adjudged that the ball had been held up and from the resulting scrum Ross Angus made a break for the line this time the ball was recycled and with a long pass which flat footed the home defence Nigel Kelly went over in the corner to score. Murray Houston converted and the score after 13 minutes was:
SELKIRK 0 GHA 7pts.
The game was delicately balanced GHA had the ascendency but there was a growing concern amongst the travelling support that good preparatory work was being nullified by the home sides ability to regain possession at the breakdown. This factor became the springboard for Selkirk who began to settle and indeed put some attacking moves together requiring resolute defence by the visitors. Selkirk continued to apply pressure and GHA were penalised (not for the last time on this day) for not rolling away and from just inside the visitors half Josh Welsh stroked a fine kick through the uprights. After twenty minutes the score was now : SELKIRK 3pts GHA 7pts.
Selkirk now took the game to the visitors and only desperate tackling prevented the home side scoring. GHA gave away a penalty for a scrum infringement and Josh Welsh made no mistake from in front of the posts. After 25 minutes the score was now: SELKIRK 6pts GHA 7pts.
This in hindsight would turn out to be a pivotal point in the match. GHA had been in the ascendency in the early stages but an inability to win the ball at the breakdown and the giving away of penalties helped Selkirk grow in confidence. From another penalty Selkirk moved deep into GHA territory and moved the ball across field with precision. At the resulting breakdown Scott Tough wriggled through to go over and give Selkirk the lead. The try was converted and after 28 minutes the score stood at SELKIRK 13pts GHA 7pts.
As we approached the half hour mark there seemed a deterioration in GHA organisation and confidence. Selkirk clearly sensed this and pushed hard for dominance. However despite pressure in the scrummage messrs Jamie Leslie,Dario Ewing and Michael Scott ably supported by the rest of the pack refused to buckle and GHA recovered their composure. In fact Selkirk seemed surprised by the resurgence in GHA play and struggled to stop GHA advancing. This time Selkirk gave away a penalty inside their own half and Murray Houston kicked the visitors a further three points.
The score was now SELKIRK 13pts GHA 10pts.
As we headed for the interval Selkirks Lwando Mabenge was yellow carded for foul play. GHA put together a superb break spearheaded by messrs Binnie and Goudie. Incredibly as GHA ran the ball towards the visitors 20m line Selkirk won the breakdown and from their own half ran the ball back at GHA for Scott Hendrie to finish the move under the posts . The try was converted and in time added on for injuries the score was now:SELKIRK 20pts GHA 10pts. In the dying embers of the first half Selkirk were finding gaps all over the pitch to the delight of the home crowd and in one lovely weaving move the home side struck again scoring under the posts . Again this try was converted and at half time the score stood at: SELKIRK 27pts GHA 10pts.
Half time accorded the visitors the opportunity to reflect on a first half in which for long spells they had more than held their own.The second half began with GHA defiantly trying to gain a foothold in this match against an opponent whose confidence had grown in the first half. For the first ten minutes of the half there was a bizarre seven a side look to the match as both sides through the ball about seeking a way through defences. Gradually Selkirk regained the ascendency and pressured GHA who were struggling to stem the home sides advances.Some sterling defensive work by Grant Mollison and Ben Addison prevented further defecit. Despite these efforts GHA were driven back deep into their own half as Selkirk continually ran different angles at the visitors and controlled the breakdown. In a clever set move Selkirk brought full back Darren Clapperton on to a crash ball from a scrum and he scored . The try was converted and the score was now: SELKIRK 34pts GHA 10pts.
The home side were enjoying running at pace at the tiring GHA defence and in another sweeping move the home side broke the visitors resistance to score again. With twelve minutes gone of the second half the score now stood at:SELKIRK 41 pts GHA 10pts. Both sides made changes as the temperature sucked energy from players on a very warm day. GHAs young side rallied again and with good interpassing worked their way into the home sides half. From a great drive in the loose by GHA Scott Carson went over to reduce the defecit. The try was converted and the score was now ; SELKIRK 41pts GHA 17pts.
Thomas Brown had been yellow carded for an infringement earlier and returned to the fray as the clocked ticked towards the half hour. As the physical superiority of the home side began to tell another try was gained by simply recycling the ball quickly before GHA had alligned their defence and this too was converted. The score now stood at SELKIRK 48pts GHA 17pts.
Desperate and brave attempts by the visitors to move the ball wide resulted in the ball carrier being isolated and turned over and it was no real surprise when the home side won the ball in the loose and in a well worked crash ball took out the GHA defence and scored from just over half way. The try was converted and as we moved towards closure the score stood at:SELKIRK 55pts GHA 17pts.
Once again a tired GHA side gathered themselves and bravely attacked the home side bringing appreciative applause from the home crowd as in the dying seconds great work by Chris Rome put Walker Graham in for a score which was converted. FINAL SCORE SELKIRK 55pts GHA 24pts.
Selkirk did most of their damage by being able to win the breakdown ball and set up their strike runners with good running angles.
Despite the margin of victory, opponents G.H.A. were no pushovers – a fact not lost on Selkirk assistant coach Michael Jaffray. “The first 15 minutes were very tough, with G.H.A. playing a high-tempo game which kept our players at full stretch,” the former Selkirk skipper told the selkirkrfc.com web site after the match.
“Eventually we began to settle, gaining territory and starting to dictate play on our own terms. Despite going behind to an early score we kept our composure, and as the confidence levels started to rise, so tries weren’t long in coming.
“Ciaran Whyte made some great breaks and also scored a cracker of a try, while I thought Sean Nixon was outstanding in his first game for us at number eight. After Scott Tough got injured, young Callum McEwan came on and had an outstanding match.
“It helped having Scott Hendrie and Darren Clapperton back in the threequarter line, with forwards and backs combining really well to score some well-executed tries.”
SELKIRK: D.CLAPPERTON, S.HENDRIE, L.MACLENNAN, R.NIXON, J.WELSH, C.WHYTE, S.TOUGH K.COONEY, R.WILSON, L.MABENGE, M.GORDON, S.NIXON, E.MACDOUGALL, M.ROBERTSON, A. RENWICK – Replacements: C.MCAULAY, M.WALDRON, P.FORREST, C.MCEWAN, C.MACDOUGALL
Scorers: T – CLAPPERTON (2), FORREST, HENDRIE, NIXON, TOUGH, WHYTE C – WELSH (5), HENDRIE (2) P – WELSH (2)
GHA: C.BINNIE, G.MOLLISON, B.ADDISON, T.BROWN, N.KELLY, A.GOUDIE, M.HOUSTON, J.LESLIE, D.EWING, M.SCOTT, R. JENKINS, J.AULD, P.HARKINS, W. GRAHAM, R.ANGUS – Replacements: L.BARRON, S. CARSON, S.PLUMRIDGE, J.PRESTON, C.ROME
Scorers: T – CARSON, GRAHAM, KELLY C – HOUSTON (3) P – HOUSTON
Referee: Mr Steven Turnbull SRU
Assistants: Mr Damian Timson, Mr Allan Parry.
Photo: Colin Robinson