COLIN RENTON @ Stoneyhill
SELKIRK bounced back from a humbling loss seven days earlier to produce a gutsy performance that yielded all five league points and saw them take possession of the Bill McLaren Shield. The Borderers were transformed from the side that had surrendered meekly against Kelso, delivering a solid, streetwise showing that left them worthy winners.
It was little wonder that the Borderers’ coach Gordon Henderson was full of praise for the way his men had gone about their task.
“We said all week that the game couldn’t come quick enough. It didn’t matter who we were playing. The Kelso game has now been put to bed. Today we attacked really well, but I think it was our defence that got us over the line,” he said. “It was simple things done really well. The intensity was there and the work ethic was there.
“It’s a better version of Selkirk than last week. The boys wanted to come out and put 80 minutes in. The result would be the result, as long as they were able to say that we had done what we could do.”
Naturally, his Musselburgh counterpart Derek O’Riordan was disappointed to have lost the game, but more notably he was dejected at the manner of the defeat.
“Rory Watt [the Musselburgh captain]summed it up pretty well when he said that was an empty performance from our perspective,” said O’Riordan, whose influence in driving progress at the club has led to raised expectations. “We were second best to get round the corner, we were second best to clear balls on the floor, we were second best when it came to line-speed, and I felt that Selkirk had the jump on us.
“They had us worked out, recognised who our big ball carriers were and took them out of the game. When that happened, everybody was looking to everybody else for a spark or a bit of energy, and we really lacked that. But we learn from it and move on.”
The hosts started as favourites and were quick to make an impression on the scoreboard, opening their account in three minutes when Fionn Call fired out a long pass which was flicked on to Michael Maltman who dotted down in the corner. Matthew McMillan banged over the conversion.
Selkirk responded with a similar move and Hugo Alderson provided the scoring pass for Finlay Wheelans to plunge over at the corner for an unconverted score.
It was end-to-end stuff and Musselburgh extended their advantage when Colin Arthur made ground and stretched the Selkirk defence before his pass was shifted out to Sandy Watt who finished off the move.
Selkirk were clearly determined to show that they are a better side than recent results suggest and they cut the deficit to two points with Wheelans turning provider for Ben Pickles to finish off in the corner.
The Borderers seized the lead shortly before the break. A tap and go penalty caught the hosts off guard and the ball was moved wide to Wheelans who bagged his second touchdown of the afternoon. Alderson’s conversion concluded the first half scoring, although the home side ended the period strongly and had both Darren Miller and Michael Badenhorst held up over the line.
Selkirk resumed with confidence, and they ensured they would not be leaving empty handed when Callum Anderson claimed the bonus point try after Luke Pettie and Zen Szwagrzak did the spadework. Alderson was on target with the conversion.
Musselburgh have exhibited a new found steel this season and that again came to the fore as they enjoyed a spell in the ascendancy that ended with Badenhorst crashing over and Danny Owenson adding the extras.
Selkirk’s response came in the shape of another try that ended when Bruce Riddell was last man to emerge from a heap of bodies following a powerful drive.
That left the gap at 10 points and with game drifting from their grasp, the hosts applied relentless pressure. However, there was no way through a solid Selkirk defence and that spell on top ended with a penalty to the visitors, who returned downfield to see out the game and secure an impressive success, as well as gaining the coveted shield that they will now seek to defend at Philiphaugh.
Musselburgh: P Cunningham; R Hindhaugh, R Watt©, R Smith, S Watt; M McMillan, F Call; C Owenson, D Miller, C Arthur, J Arnold, M Badenhorst, M Maltman, M Crawford, P Bogie. Subs: R Brown, E Bonthron, J Haynes, D Owenson, B Heber.
Selkirk: C Anderson; F Wheelans, B Pickles, R Nixon, J Welsh; Aaron McColm, H Alderson; L Pettie, J Bett, Z Szwagrzak, Andrew McColm, A Cochrane, L Cassidy, S McClymont©, K Westlake. Subs: B Riddell, J Millburn, C Turnbull, A Grant-Suttie, B Cullen.
Referee: C Stark
Musselburgh: Tries: Maltman, S Watt, Badenhorst; Cons: McMillan, D Owenson.
Selkirk: Tries: Wheelans 2, Pickles, Anderson, Riddell; Cons: Alderson 2.
Scoring sequence (Musselburgh first): 5-0; 7-0; 7-5; 12-5; 12-10; 12-15; 12-17 (h-t) 12-22; 12-24; 17-24; 19-24; 19-29.
Man-of-the-Match: Selkirk’s experienced men were at the heart of a performance brimming with character, and no one epitomised that more than Zen Szwagrzak, who performed his set-piece duties well, and grafted in open play, producing an underarm scoring pass for the bonus point try. The prop’s contribution earned him the nod ahead of Finlay Wheelans, who posed a constant threat and also weighed in with a try double.
Talking point: This is a highly competitive Premiership, and this match – as well as results elsewhere – showed once more that virtually any side can beat any other, regardless of recent form.