Slender win concludes Selkirk’s campaign

Selkirk 13, GHA 12

Tuesday, 10th March 2020, 9:25 am
Sean Rankin makes a charge for Selkirk (picture by Grant Kinghorn)

Selkirk’s players finished their Tennent’s Premiership regular-season campaign on a winning note, following a narrow, hard-fought win over a gritty GHA side at windswept Philiphaugh on Saturday.

In contrast to the team’s impressive victory over Edinburgh Accies at Raeburn Place the previous weekend, this was a far more subdued performance by Ewan MacDougall’s men.

In fact, the Glasgow visitors dominated possession for almost three quarters of the 80 minutes and, had it not been for Selkirk’s outstanding defensive work – allied to some off-target goal kicking by GHA – the outcome could have been very different.

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Because of results elsewhere, the visitors’ losing bonus point was enough to guarantee the Braidholm club a place in next season’s Tennent’s Premiership, so the cloud under which the GHA players left the pitch at the final whistle turned out to have a silver lining after all.

“It was just one of those days,” said Selkirk head coach Scott Wight. “The players had a massive high last week when they cemented a top four place and played brilliantly against Accies.

“We never really turned up today and didn’t look to have a lot of shape. However, our defensive effort was through the roof.

“I thought GHA looked after ball really well. They kicked four penalties but also missed two which would have given them the opportunity to win the game. They put us under a lot of pressure but our players stuck in really well and secured the win.

“There’s still obviously plenty for us to work on as we prepare for our play-off semi-final against either Marr or Currie on April 4. The four weeks we have until then gives us a good chance to look at ourselves and refine our plays.

“We have to make sure all the players will be fully fit so, for the next two weeks, we’ll probably switch to a sevens focus but then end each session with some 15s work, so we can keep everybody’s minds on the play-off picture as well.”

Playing with the wind at their backs, GHA went ahead through a Jamie MacKinnon penalty. Soon afterwards, Selkirk took the lead. A quickly-taken penalty saw the ball switched left and Aaron McColm’s floated pass to Callum McNeill allowed the wing to run in for a try – his fourth in six games.

A second MacKinnon penalty edged the visitors back in front at 6-5 and this was the way things stood as the players headed for the dressing rooms at half time.

After the break, a third MacKinnon penalty put the visitors 9-5 up but, on the hour mark, a GHA handling error inside the ‘22’ allowed Selkirk’s replacement wing Frazer Anderson to hack the loose ball towards the corner flag and score his side’s second try.

Aaron McColm and MacKinnon then exchanged penalties, leaving the contest balanced on a knife-edge.

In the game’s final stages, both sides came close to scoring (through Aaron Purewal and Luca Berte) but rock-solid defending by Selkirk and another MacKinnon penalty miss meant it was the home team who took the spoils.

For Selkirk, the tackle count of forwards Sean Rankin, Peter Forrest, Bruce Riddell and James Bett must have been off the scale, while in the threequarters, Aaron McColm and Ross Nixon put in a power of work. Selkirk’s 18-year-old loose head prop, Moray Haldane, was making his first Premiership start for the club.

The Four Seasons Forestry ‘Selkirk Man of the Match’ award went to Aaron McColm.

Selkirk: H. Bithray, C. McNeill, R. Cottrell, R. Nixon, J. Welsh, A. McColm, L. Merolle, M. Haldane, J. Bett, B. Riddell, P. Forrest, S. Rankin, A. Mackay, S. McClymont, E. MacDougall. Replacements: J. Mackay, A. McColm, F. Anderson, C. Anderson, L. Berte.