2002/2003: Scottish Premiership Two



D. Cassidy15A. Scott
S. Murdoch14R. Watson
M. Jaffray13R. Armour
S. Tomlinson12A. Gibbon
C. Hunter11J. Fitzpatrick
G. Blair10J. Noonan
F. Jack9S. O’Donnell
J. McDonald1R. Nolan
D. Hoggan2G. King
P. Lyons3G. Walsh
M. Barnett4N. Tuwhangai
D. Jackson5T. Carmichael
M. De Franck6E. Smith
F. Stevenson7G. Howieson
C. Forster8A. Plastow
N. Darling16D. Jamieson
G. Lyall17S. Unkles
18B. Edgar
19A. Menzies
Blair (5)Pen Noonan (3)
Mr T. Chrisp (Heriot-Watt University)

Coming into Saturday’s match as firm favourites, not to mention having the chance to wrap up promotion to BT Premiership Division One, high-fliers GHA were brought down to earth in no uncertain terms by a never-say-die Selkirk team at fortress Philiphaugh. 

That no tries have been scored in over 170 minutes of rugby between the two teams gives an indication of how little separates these sides, and once again it was the defensive skills of the players that came to the fore. Quicker on the break and with more penetration behind the scrum, the visitors simply couldn’t find any gaps in Selkirk’s armour. By the same token, midway through the first half GHA had four scrums slap-bang on the Selkirk try line, yet came away empty-handed after failing to break the home side’s rock-solid resistance.

However, what ultimately gave Selkirk the upper hand was the unerringly accurate goal-kicking of Guy Blair. Earlier in the week the fly-half had been working with ex-Scotland stand-off John Rutherford to refine his kicking technique, and the new style paid handsome dividends. “Basically I’m getting more weight through the ball by using a higher kicking tee and also by changing the ball’s angle of address,” Blair said after the match. “I was very pleased with the way things worked out today, with the whole team digging deep to get the result everyone wanted.”

Back in the starting line-up after injury, hooker Darren Hoggan epitomised Selkirk’s gutsy approach and turned in a typically passionate display. No less committed was lock Dwayne Jackson, a player always in the thick of the action, while Matt de Franck again ruled the line-outs and props Paul Lyons and John McDonald both raised their game in the absence of injured front row colleague Martin Murray. Behind the scrum, Scott Tomlinson battled through the pain barrier after aggravating his knee injury, maintaining his recent rich seam of form, while Simon Murdoch continues to defy medical science and made one
shuddering tackle on his opposite number late in the game to save a certain score.

It was GHA who made by far the more positive start to the match, however – helped, it must be said, by a string of Selkirk turnovers. Skipper and number eight Andrew Plastow led from the front in some tousy forward exchanges, and Selkirk found themselves on the back foot for long periods. GHA deservedly took the lead from a James Noonan penalty, but two similar efforts from Blair edged the home team in front. Just before the interval de Franck was penalised at a ruck for not releasing and Noonan sent his kick between the posts to make the halftime score 6-6.

After the break Selkirk’s pack gradually began to take control of the forward exchanges, and wing Craig Hunter was just squeezed out at the corner flag in his comeback game. With tempers beginning to rise (more in frustration at the lack of a breakthrough than skulduggery), John McDonald was spoken to by referee Tom Chrisp following some over-enthusiastic rucking. Again Blair and Noonan exchanged penalties, but with Selkirk winning the territorial battle, two more unanswered penalties from the sure-footed Blair swung the contest decisively in Selkirk’s favour. Home fans then had to endure six torrid minutes of injury time, before the final whistle: the signal for a long night of celebration in the Philiphaugh clubhouse.

Source: Selkirk Rugby Club, The Scotsman & The Glasgow Herald, Monday 20th January 2003

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