SELKIRK ended their BT National League 1 campaign on a winning note on Saturday, just managing to edge out a determined Hamilton side who battled the Philiphaugh men every inch of the way.
Despite the glutinous, energy-sapping conditions, both teams endeavoured to play open, attacking rugby, and with a total of nine tries being scored throughout the contest, there was plenty to entertain the sun-soaked spectators.
Ahead 21-8 at halftime, it looked as though the Souters were on course to record a comfortable victory. Hamilton had other ideas, however, and the visitors - who along with Howe of Fife will play their rugby in BT National League 2 next season - fought tooth-and-nail to come within a point of eclipsing Selkirk’s total.
Hamilton opened the scoring in the second minute from an Andy Wilson penalty, but after the home pack had pushed the visitors off their own scrum ball, Ross Nixon took advantage of Hamilton’s overstretched defence to cut through and score the game’s first try.
Darren Clapperton stretched the home lead with a well-executed try after clean line-out possession allowed the speedy centre to crash through the visitors’ defence. Ciaran Whyte added both conversions to put Selkirk 14-3 up.
A try by visiting full-back Ross Jamieson kept Hamilton in the hunt, but Josh Welsh replied in kind for the Souters just before the break. Whyte’s conversion saw the sides turn round with Selkirk 21-8 in front.
Throughout the second half Selkirk’s coaches made a string of substitutions to allow several ‘A’ XV players to get a taste of senior rugby. For their part Hamilton introduced replacement stand-off Owen McLeish, whose excellent distribution and positional kicking gave the visitors fresh impetus.
A try by Selkirk utility threequarter Callum McEwan was answered by scores from Hamilton’s Ross McQueen, John Rogerson and Taz McLaughlin, leaving the match balanced on a knife-edge at 28-27.
With just minutes to go, Ross Purves’ crucial turnover allowed Selkirk to escape their own ‘22’ as Hamilton went all-out for the winning score. Moments later Ross Nixon latched on to Frazer Anderson’s inside pass to score his second try to seal the win. Ciaran Whyte maintained his 100 per cent kicking record by landing his fifth conversion.
Selkirk coach Michael Jaffray told the selkirkrfc.com after the final whistle: “It was important to finish the season with a good performance, and despite the horrendous conditions, I thought we managed to achieve that. The young players we brought in all showed a lot of character, which bodes well for next season.”
One of the top displays of the day for Selkirk came from young lock Jack Houston, whose high tackle count and prodigious work rate earned him the Four Seasons Forestry ‘Selkirk Man of the Match’ Award.
Selkirk: C. Whyte, C. McEwan, D. Clapperton, R. Nixon, J. Welsh, C. McColm, M. Davies, C. Graur, J. Bett, B. Siyothula, J. Houston, P. Forrest, E. MacDougall, M. Robertson, A. Renwick,. Replacements: F. Anderson, L. MacLennan, G. Craig, C. MacDougall, R. Reilly, B. Riddell, R. Purves.