In some of the worst rugby conditions seen at Philiphaugh, players were forced to battle the elements as well as the opposition in Saturday’s wild and wind-swept Regional Cup match.
With the ferocity of the gale increasing as the game wore on, it spoke volumes for the commitment and courage of both sides that each ruck and maul was contested as though the players’ lives depended on it, in spite of numb fingers and heavy, rain-saturated jerseys.
Selkirk head coach Ally Dickson commented: “It was a great effort by both sides.”
Having won the toss, Melrose skipper Fraser Thomson elected to play against the strengthening wind in the first half. Although not obvious at the time, the game’s turning point came as early as the second minute.
A misdirected pass by Selkirk on the halfway line was hacked upfield by visiting fly-half Richard Mill, who skilfully controlled the ball before diving on it to score close to the posts. Joe Helps converted.
The home side cut the deficit to 7-3 thanks to a Scott Hendrie penalty, but shortly afterwards home skipper Andrew Renwick received a yellow card, to be followed into the bin two minutes later by Melrose prop Gary Holborn.
In the 22nd minute Scott Hendrie saw his penalty attempt rebound back off the left-hand post, a scenario which was to be repeated just before the interval. Half-time score: Selkirk 3 Melrose 7.
Both teams retreated to their dressing rooms at the break to gain brief respite from the wind and rain, and on their return it wasn’t long before the visitors had Selkirk pinned deep inside their own 22. Given the horrendous conditions, it was often the team without the ball who looked to have the advantage. Time and time again Selkirk defenders would stop Melrose attacks at source with thumping tackles, and Melrose’s players were happy to repay the compliment whenever the home team won back possession.
The only scoring came from Joe Helps penalties in the 43rd and 68th minutes, putting Melrose two scores ahead, and very much in the driving seat given the colossal effort it was taking the Souters to make the hard yards back to Melrose’s try line.
The whistle finally sounded to end a match in which each side had shown extraordinary resilience. Selkirk may have relinquished their grip on the RBS Border Regional Cup, but they certainly put up one heck of a fight.