RBS NATIONAL LEAGUE
A LATE Kelso fightback was not enough to deny Selkirk an opening-day victory at Philiphaugh.
The home side failed to turn first-half pressure into points, and their profligacy almost cost them the match.
Both teams changed their line-ups, with Selkirk centre Scott Hendrie failing a late fitness test and being replaced by Lewis MacLennan, with Josh Welsh moving to the right wing.
The visitors showed four changes – forwards Kieran Cooney, Ian Wallace and Michael Robertson all dropping out, along with wing Jamie Pick.
It was Kelso who put the first points on the board – Murray Hastie kicking a 12th minute penalty – after Selkirk scrum-half Michael McVie had missed a similar award six minutes previously.
Throughout the opening exchanges, the Souters launched a series of attacks deep into the visitors’ half, but, through a variety of mishaps, failed to score.
The breakthrough finally came in the 16th minute when Gavin Craig’s clever sidestep opened up a gap in the Tweedsiders’ defence.
Forwards Angus Duckett and Matt Kissick kept the move alive, with Stuart Forrest’s angled run allowing the hooker to burst clear and dive over.
Soon afterwards, Duckett squirmed over the line for what he thought was a legitimate try, but after conferring with his assistant referee, whistler Lloyd Linton ruled the ball had not been grounded.
But Selkirk were not to be denied.
After a quick tap penalty by prop Catalin Graur resulted in a ruck close to the Kelso line, Duckett made certain of grounding the ball for his side’s second try, converted by Welsh.
Further pressure did not see Selkirk add to their 12-point tally and instead Hastie narrowed the gap to six points at the interval with another penalty.
Hastie proved influential in the second half with some accurate kicks pinning Selkirk back, while he added another three points.
Decisively, however, it was the Souters who were next on the scoreboard as breaks from Craig, Kissick and Graur set up Andrew Renwick to power over for his side’s third try. Welsh’s conversion stretched the home team’s lead to 19-9.
Despite losing prop Stuart Lowrie with a serious leg injury, Kelso’s players fought back and were rewarded in 77 minutes when their pack drove forward and after some wild passes the ball eventually ended up in the Selkirk try area for Gregg Minto to dive on.
Hastie’s conversion left Kelso just three points adrift, but it was a deficit which could not be overcome.
Selkirk skipper Craig was relieved to have survived the late Kelso onslaught.
He said: “Giving away so many penalties didn’t help our cause, but all credit to Kelso, whose blitz defence caused us problems. At the end of the day I’d say there were more positives than negatives for us, and when all’s said and done we achieved what we set out to do – win our first match.”
Selkirk: F. Harkness, J. Welsh, L. McLennan, R. Nixon, C. McColm, G. Craig, M. McVie, C. Lacour, S. Forrest, C. Graur, M. Kissick, A. Renwick, E. MacDougall, A. Duckett, R. Crockatt. Subs: M. Rutherford, P. Forrest, G. Patterson, N. Darling, F. Orr.
Kelso: M. Hastie, M. Wilson, R. Minto, F. Robson, G. Minto, W. Massey, A. Tait, P. Grahamslaw, C. Riddell, S. Lowrie, D. Seed, A. Wallace, J. Stewart, E. Ford, D. Gillespie. Subs: A. Frame, R. Henderson, J. Gray, A. Haig, K. Flannigan.