LEWIS STUART @ Riverside Park
SELKIRK kept themselves in touch with the mid-table group by going away from home and winning handsomely against a Jed side surely destined for relegation. The visitors had the bonus point in the bag within minutes of the second half starting and if their discipline had been better could have won by more.
That string of penalties against them and playing 30 minutes a man short were the only worries for Gordon Henderson, the Selkirk coach, as he explained his delight at the performance and result.
“You get out of the game what you put into it; we know the discipline wasn’t the best and we need to sort that but for work-ethic, work-rate off the ball, we were really strong,” he said.
“We took the emotion out of the game for Jed, after their good start. So, every time they scored we got one back to keep the scoreboard ticking over. I’m really proud of the guys. We had to chop and change as we kept going down to 14 and that is hard work but the guys just rolled up their sleeves and got on with it.”
The root of Selkirk’s discipline particularly was in the tackle where the players seemed to have forgotten all their lessons in going low. The penalties they gave away kept Jed in the game and would have been punished more severely by a better side.
“We need to realise what the referee is looking at and deal with it,” Henderson accepted. “We need to be watching our tackle height.
“Being down men takes a lot of work and discipline to keep your shape, so credit to the players, they did really well there.”
It was a different story for Jed-Forest, who showed in flashes of what they are capable of but made too many mistakes to keep the pressure on.
“We didn’t start well enough and were always chasing the game,” admitted coach David Grieve. “We had pressure early on but the first two times they made it into our 22, they scored each time, that’s the difference, teams are not being made to work hard enough to score against us.
“Maybe we ran out of steam a wee bit as well. It’s becoming a theme for us that we have good spells but the bad spells are really bad. Maybe it is experience as well, we are making a lot of silly mistakes and when we make one, we make another and another, so they come in clusters.”
It is already looking as though the second half of their season will be more about rebuilding for life in the national leagues than about any real chance of avoiding relegation and Grieve is realistic about the challenge even that could pose.
“The top four or five teams there are easily good enough for the Premiership,” he pointed out. “We will have to get a bit of pride back and give ourselves something we can build on in the summer for next season. It will be just as tough as this season has been.”
Despite all that, it was a surprisingly entertaining game, though the weather made sure it was never going to be a repeat of the 100-point scorefest their clash earlier this season had been.
The pitch was wet and greasy while occasional heavy squalls made it tough for both sides though they did a good job of making light of the conditions. Early on, however, it was obvious there was not a lot Jed could do about Selkirk’s scrum power, which wreaked havoc for most of the game.
The home side had had most of the early pressure but failed to make any inroads when the first scrum saw their Borders neighbours drive hard to win a penalty. They kicked to midfield and released their backs, where centre Ross Nixon sent wing Jon Welsh on a race down the touchline. He kicked ahead and Mason Cullen, the Jed full-back, covered but was penalised, and from the resulting line-out maul, hooker James Bett put the visitors ahead.
Almost straight from the restart, Selkirk were back on the attack with a scrum five giving the visiting pack the position to show off its pushing power with No 8 Andrew McColm touching down as they drove over the line.
The scoring spree continued and Callum Anderson, the Selkirk full-back, was released for a surge down the wing. Though he was held short, the ball was recycled for centre Ben Pickles to make a half-break and offload to wing Finlay Wheelans, who stretched out to reach the line.
With scrum-half Hugo Alderson converting the latter two and it was looking easy for Selkirk until the home team managed to get a handle on how to deal with the scrum and momentum turned full circle. Suddenly, it was the visitors giving away penalties and Jed making the most of them until flanker Elliot Lauder drove his way over after scrum-half Lewis Elder had taken a tap penalty.
Jed continued to dominate to the interval as the penalties against Selkirk mounted, ending with prop Luke Pettie being sent to the sin-bin, but they struggled to take the advantage and pressure pay.
Instead it was Selkirk who came out firing after the break, recycling the ball between backs and forwards after wing Wheelans had made he initial break until fly-half Aaron McColm wrong-footed the defence and put Anderson in for the bonus point try.
Jed again responded in style, helped by another string of penalties against Selkirk and a yellow card for Nixon, but when the visitors stopped Jed getting the ball down after driving over the line, you felt their last chance had gone.
As long as Selkirk continued to give away as many penalties as they were conceding, with replacement hooker Bruce Riddell the third to head for the sin-bin, Jed still had an outside hope, and as the sanctioned player was still making his way round the field, Jed took the line-out and hooker Harry Meadows went over in the usual guddle of bodies.
At last, however, Selkirk lowered their tackle height and finished the game in complete control with Ben Pickles sidestepping his way through the scattered defence to add the final touchdown of the game.
Jed-Forest: M Cullen; G Young, R Marshall, O Cranston, R Shirra-Gibb; D Buckley, L Elder; J Ferguson, H Keith, H Meadows, C Skeldon, D Wardrop, E Lauder, B Roff, B Fotheringham. Substitutes: H Stenhouse, N Bates, G Law, B Howe, B Irvine.
Selkirk: C Anderson; J Welsh, B Pickles, R Nixon, F Wheelans; Aaron McColm, H Alderson; L Pettie, J Bett, Z Szwagrzak, C Turnbull, A Cochrane, K Westlake, S McClymont, Andrew McColm. Substitutes: B Riddell, J Millburn, L Cassidy, M Job, C Easson.
Referee: Gordie Reid
Jed-Forest: Tries: Lauder, Meadows; Con: Cranston.
Selkirk: Tries: Bett, McColm, Wheelans, Anderson, Pickles; Cons: Alderson 4.
Scoring sequence (Jed-Forest first): 0-5; 0-10; 0-12; 0-17; 0-19; 5-19 (h-t) 5-24; 5-26; 10-26; 12-26; 12-31; 12-33.
Yellow cards –
Selkirk: Pettie (37 mins) Nixon (49 mins), Riddel (61 mins)
Player-of-the-Match: The unit of the match was undoubtedly the Selkirk scrum, by far their most potent weapon, but you can’t single out one of the eight, so the award goes to Ben Pikcles in the backs for being a constant threat with the ball and solid in defence.
Talking point: Early in the season, it seemed the discipline on tackle height had got through to the payers but it all seems to have slipped again. Selkirk put themselves under needless pressure when they failed to go low which must have frustrated their coaches, but when the message did get through they proved they could do it when they wanted.