Friday 27 April 2018

Match Report NL1 19: Selkirk v Accies (rescheduled)

Selkirk 7-52 Accies

Well, there we were after 21 games played out of 22 in the National 1 season and we hadn’t shaken Jed. We had both won 20 games, both with 19 try bonus points, both with 99 points and we were only ahead on our better scoring and our superb defensive record.

Who would blink first?

We started Saturday’s game with the best XV we could pick, with our three young age group internationals, Shaun Gunn, Finlay Richardson and Jack Mann, all injured and Conor Hirini, having gone back to the Southern Hemisphere to support his fiancée, Sarah, as she captained the New Zealand Silver Ferns to gold at the Commonwealth Games women’s sevens.

Nerves abounded on a glorious sunny afternoon, although most were probably in our large travelling support and some of our coaching team, as Selkirk kicked off into the wind.

We started well with Lawrie Seydak breaking tackles and play moving rapidly to Selkirk’s 22. However, we then lost the ball and for the next 10 minutes could not regain possession. Then a squint lineout gave us a scrum, from which a Luther Hirini kick put play 15m from their line.

Selkirk won their line but careless placement of a foot on one of our players at the ensuing ruck gave us a penalty. We kicked to touch, won the lineout, worked our way towards the line and Robin Snape scored near the posts for Richard Mill to convert: 0-7, 12 minutes gone.

From the Selkirk restart Mill put us deep into their 22, where we were given a scrum for a knock on. We drove Selkirk back and they were penalised for standing up. We took another scrum and they were penalised again though play went on. A Mill cross kick to the corner was pounced on by Matt Coupar but Robbie Chalmers following up did not manage to score.

Unfortunately, Matt Coupar had to leave the field early in his last game, with what turned out to be two fractured ribs and a lacerated kidney, resulting in a three-day stay in the Western General Hospital back in Edinburgh.

Play was brought back for another penalty and we settled for a scrum by the posts, which we drove back at some pace and Lawrie Seydak scored, just as the ref was about to give a penalty try. Mill converted: 0-14, 20 minutes gone.

For the next 18 minutes both sides were playing attacking rugby, but neither looked like scoring. Then we kicked to the corner following a penalty against Selkirk for holding on to the ball on the ground. Callum Black threw in to Ronan Seydak, down to brother Lawrie, who passed to Black in the ‘tram lines’ for Black to score the third try: 39 minutes gone and 0-19.

We were on the front foot straight from the restart, with Lawrie S knocking player after player off as he made 20m, quickly move the ball across the field for Neil Armstrong to also break through three tackles. Jamie Sole then took the ball and made ground to 15m from the Selkirk line. We then worked the ball up to their line, where Snape went over for the fourth and invaluable bonus point try next to the posts, which Mill converted. The score was now 0-26 with 43 minutes played and the half time whistle went shortly after.

It was an opportune time to get the bonus point, as the news from north of the Tay was that Jed had already got their bonus point too.

The second half started with us well on top and play mainly in the Selkirk half. After a long period of possession Hirini made a break down the right wing, Chalmers moved the ball to Mill, Mill to Ronan S who committed two defence and offloaded in the tackle to Snape coming back against the play. Snape made 15m, beat one defender and carried the Selkirk fullback over the line to score his hat-trick. Mill converted: 0-33, 11 minutes gone and a dawning realisation that we would probably win the league!

Seven minutes later, with Selkirk fighting to clear their line, James Pearse charged down a clearance kick and was first to pounce on the ball to score. Mill’s conversion took the score to 0-40.

With Selkirk a man down for 10 minutes, for a reckless tackle on Hirini, we made quick progress down to their line where we were awarded a scrum 10m out. We drove them back easily and were awarded a penalty try as their scrum disintegrated and they stood up just short of their line. No conversion needed and 0-47 with 15 minutes gone.

Selkirk then had a good period of play. After a couple of good forays into our 22 they managed to finish one off when their out-side centre, Darren Clapperton, went over and Josh Welsh converted: 7-47, but only three minutes to go.

From the restart we were attacking the Selkirk line. Following a good break by Rory Simpson, Max Love whipped the ball to Hirini, on to Mill, who threw a long miss-out pass to Callum Ramm on the wing. Ramm beat the first tackler, out paced his opposite winger and sublimely stood their full back up, going outside him to score a fine try in the corner. The conversion was missed and the whistle went, with the final score 7-52 and Accies winning the league.

We well deserved our win. Eight tries at Philiphaugh takes some doing and we gave Selkirk their biggest beating of the season. It was a nervous start but once we got going we were well on top. With the pack dominating Selkirk at the scrums and breakdown, we were well on the front foot.

Some of our play reflected the weather, which was hot and sunny - what a change from our previous game at GHA where it rained ‘cats and dogs’ all game - and every player, starters and finishers, played their part.

As mentioned earlier it was Matt Coupar’s last game, as he is retiring after many years playing for the Club (except for a couple of years in South Edinburgh!). It was also Luther Hirini’s last game as he returns to the North Island of NZ. We wish them both well and thank them for their services.

Man of the Match was a difficult one to call, as everyone played well, but the coaches’ choice went to Neil Armstrong, not least for some great tackles to contain Selkirk’s speedy South African.

So, finally, to answer my question at the start of this piece: who would blink first? Well, in the end, neither Club – we both played 22, won 21, got 20 try bonus points and finished up with 104 league points. These are outstanding records for any club, but for two to achieve it in the same season is exceptional.

It was our 730 points differential that put us on top, with 976 for and 246 against, compared to 898 and 432 for Jed, resulting in automatic promotion to the Premiership next season for us and a play-off at Lasswade on 5 May against Glasgow Hawks for Jed, for which we wish Jed the best of luck. They deserve their chance in the Premiership after their great season.

Tries: Robin Snape (3); Lawrie Seydak; Callum Black; James Pearse; Callum Ramm; penalty try.
Conversions: Richard Mill (5)

Video highlights, courtesy of Scottish Rugby TV.

Onward and upwards!


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