ALAN LORIMER @ Riverside Park
JED-FOREST kicked off 2020 with a much needed win by defeating their Border rivals Selkirk with a performance that proved the Riverside men are not just a top-of-the-ground sevens team playing fifteens rugby.
In what could kindly be stated as difficult conditions, both sides did their best to adapt their playing style to the unwelcome combination of wind, rain and mud that inevitably produced a plethora of handling errors, miscued kicks and difficulties in the set-piece.
Selkirk seemed to have mastered the conditions better, testified by their territorial domination for much of the second half, but against a determined Jed defence, the Philiphaugh men had only a single penalty to show for their gains and in the event were overtaken in the final ten minutes after a late surge by Jed.
“Selkirk have shown good form this season and we were conscious of that. We looked at them over their last two games and knew they would finish strongly. It was encouraging for us to finish the stronger and that’s what we have to take forward into the next few games,” said Gavin Kerr, the Jed coach.
“In the first half we gave them too much ball in terms of coughing up possession. We gave away cheap yards and too many penalties. We’ve got to sort that out. But I was pleased with the fight the boys had in them for the whole 80 minutes. I thought our set piece was pretty good and especially in the scrums where our front row went well.
“We showed too that we can play in these conditions. We knew it was going to be a tight game but we were still able to throw the ball around. It’s encouraging but there are big games coming up.”
On a difficult surface, both sides showed skill and guile in the opening minutes of the game. It was Selkirk, however, who made the first breakthrough after a clean break by their lively scrum-half Aaron McColm.
When he was stopped, Selkirk recycled the ball and used their forwards to pummel the Jed line before releasing the ball for the backs to carve out a try, made by an astutely executed cut-out pass from stand-off Callum Anderson, which gave centre Josh Welsh an easy touchdown.
McColm missed the conversion but at the other end Robbie Yourston ate into the Selkirk lead with his first success from the tee. Minutes later, Jed roared into the lead when Gary Munro finished off the hard yards gained by the home forwards with a try under the posts leaving Yourston with a simple conversion.
Selkirk, however, quickly countered with a spell of massive pressure on the Jed line by the forwards and then a release of the ball along the backs which gave hooker James Bett a try in the corner to level the scores at 10-10 going into half time.
After a stalemate third quarter in which the visitors had by far the better territorial stats, McColm broke the deadlock with a penalty goal, rewarding the pressure exerted by the Selkirk forwards on the Jed line.
Jed, however, quickly replied with clever handling that put Lewis Young into space, forcing Selkirk to concede a penalty, converted into points by Yourston to level the scores at 13-13.
Jed’s late surge appeared to have resulted in a collective forwards try only for the ball to be judged as ‘held up’. But the Royal Blues were not to be denied and when their forwards gained a significant advantage from a five meter scrum, a penalty was awarded.
Gary Munro, taking over from Yourston, who had picked up an injury, held his nerve to kick the winning game leaving Jed celebrating their rugby New Year with a precious victory.
Jed-Forest: L Young; C Young, R Marshall, R Yourston, J Laing; G Munro, J McGough; P Ferreira, F Campbell, H Meadows, B Saxton, G Law, G Young, M Weekley, D Buckley. Subs: G Paxton, E Lauder, D Grieve, N Stingl, M Mitchell.
Selkirk: H Bithray; C McNeill, J Welsh ,R Nixon, F Anderson; C Anderson, A McColm; L Pettie, J Bett, B Riddell, P Forrest, S Rankin, J Mackay, S McClymont, E NacDougall Subs: Andrew McColm, A Mackay, H Borthwick, L Berte, R Cottrell
Referee: J Perriam
Jed-Forest: Try: Munro; Con: Yourston; Pens: Yourston 2, Munro.
Selkirk: Tries: Welsh, Bett; Pen McColm.
Scoring Sequence (Jed first): 0-5; 3-5; 8-5; 10-5; 10-10 (h-t) 10-13; 13-13; 16-13.
Man-of-the-Match: In a tight game, it was leadership that mattered and notably in the forward pack. This was supplied in bucketloads by Jed’s second-row Gregor Law, who complemented a fine individual effort in the set-piece with inspirational generalship.
Talking point: Jed needed to make a solid start to 2020 and they achieved this aim, opening up a seven point gap on their relegation rivals, Musselburgh. The two sides meet at Stoneyhill next Saturday in a match that could well settle who stays up.