Aberdeen Grammar 10
JACK NIXON @ Philiphaugh
THE two basement sides in the Premiership, the top amateur league in the Scottish club game, have not enjoyed the best of luck in the first half of the season, winning only one game between them in the campaign to date, attributed to Selkirk when they beat Musselburgh in week two.
The bad luck endured by the two clubs has included both sides having two games postponed due to Covid, and numerous injuries to key players, so why then should the expectations be high for a quality game of rugby, especially after a week of rain in the Scottish Borders, reducing the normally excellent playing surface at Philiphaugh to less than a perfect playing area?
It was therefore to the credit of both protagonists that the game went ahead, given the poor quality weather and in Grammar’s case being made to play at such an early hour, requiring them to be on the team bus at the ungodly time of 6am, not that the northerners were complaining about the pressures of living outside the central belt.
In the event it was Selkirk who struck gold easing to a five point win on the back of six fine tries, leaving Grammar plumb bottom and staring relegation in the face.
After early sparring, the home team surged into a three try lead in 18 minutes, effectively putting the game beyond Grammar at 17-0.
Failure to secure their own ball at a line-out enabled Selkirk to spread possession wide to winger Kieran Clark, who swept over for a try which stand-off Scott Clark failed to convert. Selkirk’s confidence visibly was visibly lifted by this seventh minute effort, leading to second from their other live wire winger Callum McNeill. Clark was again off target with the extras but made amends when he successfully converted a try from centre Ben Pickles after a tap penalty taken by the alert Selkirk scrum-half Jack Hamilton.
At this point the Rubislaw side looked dead and buried but somehow found the energy and the will to hit back with a penalty from centre and captain Tom Aplin, followed on the stroke of half-time by a forwards try from hooker Glen Robertson. With Aplin kicked the conversion, the possibility of a Grammar comeback looked on the cards at only 17-10 down at the break.
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All such hopes were dashed in the second half when the Philiphaugh side took total control of the game, denying the Granite City outfit any significant possession. The only surprise was that it took the homesters until late in the game to secure a precious try bonus which came courtesy of the blinding pace of McNeill, who grabbed his second of the afternoon, and who was later denied a hat trick by a vigilant touch judge after the winger had apparently beat the Grammar cover defence.
Two late tries put a gloss on the win, attributed to hooker James Bett and flanker Scott McClymont, both converted by Callum Anderson, sending the northerners home to reflect on yet another defeat, their seventh in total.
Selkirk head coach Scott Wight was delighted and relieved in equal measure by the five point haul. “This was a massive win for us,” he said. “We have put behind us our poor run, and hopefully our run of injuries. If I could put out the same 15 every week, I would be a happy man.”
His opposite number Ali O’Connor was resigned to the reality of not having sufficient ball with which to really make any inroads. “We were on the back foot for nearly all the second half,” he reflected. “It was another difficult and frustrating afternoon. It’s no good us saying we are improving with every game. We need to start winning.”
O’Connor should take come solace from how many of his charges stood up to be counted especially after such an early start to their day out.
In particular, stand-off Sam Knudson demonstrated that with ball in hand he could be a threat to any defence. The problem for him and Grammar was the inability to get the ball to him. In fairness their organised pack competed well with the Selkirk eight but just didn’t have the firepower of the home team.
Selkirk: C Anderson; C McNeill, B Pickles, R Nixon, K Clark; S Clark, J Hamilton; L Pettie, J Bett, B Riddell, T Brown, C Marshall, R Cook, E McClymont, S MacDougall. Subs: P.Forrest, J.Anderson, A.Renwick, J.Welsh, A. Bulman.
Aberdeen: C Shepherd; N Brown, S Ryan, T Aplin, D Russell; S Knudson, A Addy; C Reddish, G Robertson, M Schosser, S Renfrew, T Morris, C Walker, B Inglis C Buchan Subs: L Buchan, A Robertson, R Cameron, P Ritchie.
Referee: Johnny Perriman
Selkirk: Tries: K Clark, McNeill 2, Pickles, Bett, McClymont; Cons: S Clark, Anderson 2.
Aberdeen Grammar: Tries: G Robertson; Con: Aplin; Pen: Aplin.
Scoring sequence (Selkirk first): 5-0; 10-0; 15-0; 17-0; 17-3; 17-8; 17-10 (h-t) 22-10; 27-10; 29-10; 34-10; 36-10.
Man-of-the-Match: It could have been anyone of a number from the winning side, including scrum-half Jack Hamilton and lock Callum Marshall, but the pick of them all was winger Callum McNeill who in difficult, heavy conditions proved to be an inspiration, capping his day with two blistering tries.
Talking Point: Was the idea of clubs having fixed times for games thrust upon them in the spirit of the game?