1st XV vs Selkirk: Match Report
So, at the half way stage in the National League, Stewart’s Melville have played 9, won 4, lost 4 and drawn 1. On reflection, how many of the losses could we have won? Probably – if we had played to our potential and approached each game with the correct mental attitude – we could have won them all. We certainly could have won on Saturday, when, in an open and entertaining game, Selkirk beat us by four tries to three.
The game started with McVie – about whom more below – missing two kickable penalties for Selkirk. Then, with us playing towards the castle, Richard and Liam both rounded off chances on the opposite side from the stand to give us a ten point advantage.
Both moves came as a result of slick inter-passing between backs and forwards, and showed what we are capable off.
Just as we needed to quieten things down and play with a little control, Dave Hampton found himself without support and was forced to concede the ball around the half-way line. Craig, the opposing number 10, sensing nobody was at home at full-back, chipped into space, allowing Clapperton to hack on and touch down. It has to be said: a well-worked try.
Mike Hanning increased our lead with a couple of nicely taken penalties, but back came Selkirk to score in the north east corner through the tidy Banks.
In this campaign, there seem to be a lot of tries scored around half time as players tire and lose concentration, and that was again the case in this game. After a couple of missed clearances to touch by us, Banks again rounded off some effective back play to give Selkirk a 22-16 lead at half time.
The second half was an altogether tighter affair, but, when Hayden stormed through the middle to score after a pass that Selkirk supporters claimed ‘wiz a yaird forrit’, we looked to have regained the initiative – and the conversion took the score to 23-22.
Selkirk then regained the lead with a penalty and Mike had an opportunity to reply. The distance was, however, at the edge of his range. It must be difficult, when faced with such a kick, because the natural reaction is to try to hit the ball harder when, probably, like a golf shot, concentrating on a sweet contact is the answer.
Without putting ‘the mockers’ on Mike – he has been very accurate since he took over the goal kicking duties and now looks a more convincing kicker, always getting the ball on target even when he misses – it is the contact that is wrong.
If our try ‘wiz a yaird forrit’ … so was Selkirk’s winning try – but Andy Ireland refereed the match sympathetically, and players and spectators alike prefer a game that is allowed to flow. So what if not every technical penalty is awarded? It is much better to award the blindingly obvious then, within reason, let the boys play rugby. As both sides were keen to spin the ball, the result was a great spectacle.
The breakaway try, finished by replacement flanker Johnston, meant we had to score twice in the last few minutes – and that was not going to happen, although to emerge with nothing from such a close game was hard to bear.
Selkirk are, without doubt, a decent side. McVie was a thorn in our side and an old fashioned terrier round the base of the scrum, disrupting our ball. We fared better in the line-out than the scrum, although our front row continually popped up to good effect in loose play – in fact, Shannon, Cringle and Durrant all deserve a mention.
Selkirk’s half backs just had a little more experience and control than ours. Fraser Harkness, as so often in the past, was a threat with ball in hand, but I’ll wager our defence was happier to see him in the centre than counter attacking from full-back.
Selkirk have a strong back row (particularly Duckett) that competed well with ours, although Phil ripped the ball ‘Ross Rennie’ style on several occasions. On his introduction after the break. Angus Lean again offered something different, and we are not far away from having a really good, mobile pack.
Next week, then, sees the first of the return fixtures, and what price the third draw in a row against Hawick?
What happens at the end of the National Leagues? The winner of the National League gets automatic promotion, and, at the moment, Watsonians are in pole position. The runners up are involved in a playoff against second bottom in the Premier League. Two sides are relegated to the Championship – East and West.
John Rutherford (Selkirk, Scotland and Lions)
‘It was anybody’s game. Four tries to three – a great game. I was very impressed by Stewart’s Melville – like us, you are not a big side, but you can certainly play rugby. We were very pleased to get the win’.
‘Absolutely cracking game … came down to a few errors on first phase ball that we really should have secured. We fall into the Scottish curse of kicking for touch when we should be asking the opposition to clear their lines. The All Blacks aim to put the ball 5 metres from the opposition posts and ask the opposition to deal with that ball. We (Scots) never use that part of the field. We also tried to play too much rugby in our own half. The back 5 in our scrum played well.’
Selkirk match report here