Edinburgh Accies 24
STEPHEN BRUNSDON @ Philiphaugh
COLE IMRIE’s 78th-minute try helped Edinburgh Accies secure a dramatic last-gasp Premiership victory over in-form Selkirk at Philiphaugh. The visitors launched a sensational comeback to overturn a 14-point deficit at half-time to consolidate their third place in the table.
As clichéd as it sounds, this truly was a game of two halves, with momentum swinging wildly between each side either side of the break. Selkirk started the stronger of the two teams while Accies struggled to find any footing early doors, but the tide was firmly turned in the second period as the hosts began to tire.
“We just couldn’t get started in the first half – there was no intensity and there were a few choice words at half-time,” said Accies head coach Iain Berthinussen.
“But we fought back and took our chances in the second half, and I think what really made the difference was our game management in the closing stages.”
Despite both teams initially feeling the other out in the early stages, there was no doubt that Selkirk were the dominant side in the first half. They leapt out of the blocks in their attack, forcing Accies into scrambling defence which, at times, bordered on the chaotic.
The home side used its pack equally as well to force several first-half penalties from the scrum, leading to line-outs deep inside the Accies half.
But it was this area of the set-piece which left Scott Wight’s men wondering what might have been. On more than one occasion, the line-out misfired, as hooker Bruce Riddell couldn’t hit his man, gifting Accies an easy clearance.
There were also handling errors and cheap penalties which rendered the game scrappy, until prop forward Luke Pettie opened the scoring with a well-worked first try of the game just after 25 minutes. Selkirk used their superior territory and possession to get to within five yards of the Accies line and, burrowing underneath would-be tacklers, the captain touched down.
Full-back Matt Reid added the extras to give the hosts a 7-0 lead, with the visitors also down to 14 men after losing flanker Matt Walker to a yellow card. Such was the level of confidence in the Selkirk backline that it seemed more a question of when, not if, they would grab a second try before the end of the opening 40 minutes.
They duly did as well. Having coughed up a solid attacking position inside the Accies 22 following a probing kick behind the defensive line from winger Josh Welsh, Selkirk found themselves back in possession. A lovely looping pass from out-half Ross Nixon found Ryan Cottrell, and the centre fed the on-rushing Welsh down the line. In the clear, Welsh then sent the impressive Cottrell – who scored in the same fixture last season – towards the 22. He then gave his centre partner Ryan Godsmark space on the far-side to go in under the posts for the try.
Reid was again successful with the conversion, and the hosts led 14-0, with half-time approaching. Keen to get themselves back into the game after a sluggish start, Accies finally got on the scoreboard at the start of the second half, through second-row Jake Mills.
Selkirk infringed at a ruck shortly after the restart, which Hart kicked to the corner. From the resulting five metre line-out, Mills was handed a walk to the line after Selkirk fumbled what had been a steal. Hart’s conversion went wide of the posts, but Accies were suddenly back in the contest.
Proof of that, if any was needed, came via replacement winger Harvey Cameron-Barr, who very nearly touched down for Accies’ second following a Selkirk error in midfield. However, the young winger did then cross the line, twice in quick succession, to bring the visitors right back into the match proper.
Playing with a lot more ambition in attack, Accies were back in Selkirk territory, despite going down a man for the second time after Clem Lacour was sin-binned for a high tackle. Captain Ruairi Campbell took the initiative by running a quick tap penalty while Selkirk players were still retreating. Replacement scrum-half Sam Johnson then whipped the ball out to his backs, eventually finding Cameron-Barr who collected his own chip over the top of Lachlan Ferguson to score.
Barely two minutes later, Accies were level as Cameron-Barr intercepted a wayward Selkirk pass on the halfway line and made it to the line in the same corner he’d touched down for his first. With Hart misfiring from the kicking tee in his first two attempts, Ben Appleson slotted a sensational touchline conversion to make it 17-17.
Now the match hung firmly in the balance, and it began to show on a tiring Selkirk side who, despite re-taking the lead with a Reid penalty in the final quarter, looked vulnerable as Accies appeared to find that all important extra gear. Discipline, Selkirk’s forte and Accies’ bête noire in the opening 40, also started to slip as referee Grant Stephen pinged the hosts with alarming frequency in the final minutes.
This was exactly what Accies needed, and they used it to their advantage as prop Imrie scrambled over for the crucial try two minutes from time. Appleson’s conversion gave Accies a four-point margin which they maintained until the end.
“The reaction we had at the start of the second half was exactly what we were after,” Berthinussen added. “Harvey took his chances really well for those two scores.
“We managed to squeeze them and force them into mistakes, which they did to us in the first half.”
For Selkirk head Wight, it was a case of missed opportunities which left him frustrated come the end of the game. “We pressed the self-destruct button, really,” he said. “The first half we were playing really good rugby, controlling the game and then in the second half we just started trying to play out of our own half, which we weren’t doing in the first half.
“I don’t mind getting beaten, but it’s the manner of this defeat that is tough to take.”
Selkirk: M Reid; J Welsh, R Cottrell, R Godsmark, L Ferguson; R Nixon, J Hamilton; L Pettie©, B Riddell, Z Szwagrak, J Head, A Cochrane, A McColm, S McClymont, M Job. Subs: J Bett, K Thompson, C Turnbull, A McColm©, C Whyte.
Edinburgh Accies: B Appleson; M Wallace, R Kent, N Armstrong, M Wells; V Hart, B Grainger; C Imrie, H Campbell, C Lacour, R Thompson, J Mills, M Crowther, M Walker, R Campbell©. Subs: G Ratcliff, F McAslan, T Jones, S Johnson, H Cameron-Barr.
Referee: G Stephen.
Selkirk: Tries: Pettie, Godsmark; Cons: Reid 2; Pens: Reid 2.
Edinburgh Accies: Tries: Mills, Cameron-Barr 2, Imrie; Cons: Appleson 2.
Scoring Sequence (Selkirk first): 5-0; 7-0; 12-0; 14-0 (h-t) 14-5; 17-5; 17-10; 17-15; 17-17; 20-17; 20-22, 20,24.
Yellow Cards –
Edinburgh Accies: Walker, Lacour.
Man of the Match: Cameron-Barr scored two well-taken tries and Imrie’s last effort proved crucial but the architect of the swing in momentum in the second half was Accies captain Ruari Campbell. His decision to take a quick tap penalty led to Cameron-Barr’s first try and his ability to maintain calm in his troops while they were twice down to 14-men was exceptional. Particular mention also needs to go to 38-year-old replacement scrum-half Sam Johnson, whose poise and game management in the closing minutes was excellent.
Talking point: One pass was ultimately all it took for the momentum to swing Accies’ way. Before Cameron-Barr’s interception, Selkirk had stemmed the flow of the attacking onslaught and were back in possession. But it seemed this took the wind out of Wight’s men and made it a real contest thereafter. With Accies better drilled and more energised in the final quarter, there was only going to be one side in it.