ALAN LORIMER @Philiphaugh
A TRY in added time by centre Rory Marshall and the conversion kick into a stiff breeze from scrum-half Gary Munro earned Jed-Forest a draw in their Border derby game against Selkirk. But after finishing level on points, Selkirk and Jed have only six days to recover before playing each other again in the rearranged Tennent’s Premiership match at Riverside next Friday night.
A draw it may have been but this was a match from which Selkirk should have extracted double their championship points haul, such was their dominance for most of the second half. “This was definitely one that got away,” admitted the Selkirk coach Scott Wight. “We had most of the play in the second half and the stats will prove that. We had much the better of possession and territory but at the end of the day the scoreboard doesn’t lie.
“If we don’t take our chances that’s what happens. We had three or four opportunities to score but didn’t”.
On the other side of this stalemate game, Scott Tomlinson, the Jed coach, was thanking the rugby gods for good fortune. “We’re very relieved to get the draw. Fair play to the lads for getting the score right at the end. We probably didn’t deserve that draw but you need a little bit of that in rugby to change your season. It could be a turning point for us,” he predicted.
In many ways the strong wind blowing down the pitch was the leveller, the fast moving air causing handling errors and making the line-out something of a lottery. But it was the tightness of both defences that made this game such a low-scoring match. At times it looked at times like a training exercise in reorganising the defensive lines. What it needed was for either team to look at slightly different tactics, the little chip over the defence being the number one candidate.
This mutual cancellation meant that the first half hour of the game produced the grand total of zero points, the first activity on the scoreboard coming shortly afterwards when Munro kicked a penalty goal. Selkirk’s response was swift and decisive: a try by replacement hooker Peter Forrest from a penalty-created line-out and then several phases of pick-and-drive. Stand-off Calum Anderson, however, was unable to gauge the wind in his conversion kick.
Selkirk’s 5-3 half time lead looked secure at the beginning of the second half as the home side enjoyed the advantage the elements were bestowing on them. Yet it took until the last quarter before Selkirk could add a further score.
But it was worth waiting for and was the best piece of play in the match. From a ruck, scrum-half Jack Hamilton spotted space on the blind-side and quickly fed Ross Nixon, who delivered the sublimest of flat passes to Ben Pickles for the outside-centre to cruise over for an unconverted try.
The score appeared to be the green button for Selkirk as the home side pressed for a third try and they should have scored when Kieran Clark used skilful footwork to beat the Jed defences only for his potential try-scoring pass to Andrew Grant-Suttie to go astray.
Jed continued to turn the screw when they set up a driving maul and although they were unable to score it resulted in a yellow-card for Jed’s No 8 Ben McNeill.
Another score beckoned when Selkirk drove a line-out and appeared to be over only for referee Ross Mabon, after consultation with his assistant, to rule that no try had been scored.
Then, with a couple of minutes remaining Jed, down to 14 men, produced a heroic piece of play, working the ball from one end of the field to the other with clever handling and basic forward bashes before moving wide, allowing Marshall to side-step over for a try. But it still needed Munro’s conversion to earn the draw. The scrum-half succeeded with the kick to the huge relief of his team-mates, leaving both sides contemplating the return game next Friday.
Selkirk: K Clark; J Welsh, B Pickles, R Nixon, C McNeill; C Anderson, J Hamilton; L Pettie, J Bett, B Riddell, C Marshall, T Brown, R Cook, S McClymont, E MacDougall. Subs: R Reilly P Forrest, A Renwick, A Grant-Suttie, A Bulman.
Jed-Forest: L Young; M Cullen, Gregor Young, R Marshall, R Shirra-Gibb; R Nichol, G Munro; G Paxton, F Campbell, P Ferreira, D Wardrop, G Law, B Roff, C Cowan, B McNeill. Subs: F Scott, T Jeffrey, E Lauder, J Howe, M Russell.
Referee: R Mabon
Selkirk: Tries: Forrest, Pickles.
Jed-Forest: Try: Marshall; Con: Munro; Pen: Munro.
Scoring Sequence (Selkirk first): 0-3; 5-3 (h-t) 10-3; 10-8; 10-10.
Yellow cards –
Man-of-the-Match: Very difficult to nominate a man-of-the-match in a game that was all about the teams cancelling each other out. So it takes one special moment in the game to identify the awardee and in this contest that must go to Selkirk’s veteran centre Ross Nixon for his try scoring pass to Ben Pickles
Talking point: Selkirk will be disappointed at dropping a couple of league points but with players returning from injury the Philiphaugh side can now look to be more competitive. For Jed, the manner of their draw and and the arrival of the Edinburgh Rugby Academy stand-off Matt Russell, who looked useful against Selkirk when he came on as a replacement, could be a turning point in a season that thus far has been far from ideal.