Boroughmuir coach Bruce Aitchison admitted to a mix of emotions after his side moved to within touching distance of the RBS National League title when they squeezed past Selkirk 20-17 at Meggetland on Saturday.
While delighted with the determination his players had shown to snatch an injury-time try that finally saw off a Selkirk side needing a win to remain in the race for the silverware, he also had reason to feel frustrated.
Aitchison’s men have been a model of consistency throughout the campaign and went into the match needing a bonus-point win to clinch the trophy. And, after bagging the vital try in injury time, ’Muir had one final opportunity to launch an attack and chase the crucial fourth score against a tiring Selkirk defence. So the coach was left bemused at the decision to boot the ball into touch and end the match.
“I’m frustrated that we kicked the ball out when we had a chance to win the league, at home. In some ways things are on hold until March 1 when we go down to Biggar,” said Aitchison. “It’s an odd feeling because we’ve just won, coming from behind against Selkirk in difficult conditions. We’re top of the league by 15 points and I’ve got a sense of disappointment.”
The league trophy, which had been delivered to the club on Friday, remained in its box at the back of the stand as a subdued ’Muir squad huddled on the pitch for the post-match chat from skipper Andy Rose. His massive tackle count was again a feature as Selkirk displayed their determination to spoil the party.
Dave Reekie landed an early penalty for ’Muir and Rory Banks responded in kind for the visitors who struck with tries from Darren Clapperton and Gordon Patterson, both converted by Banks, to leave the hosts struggling.
A penalty try just before the break was converted by Reekie to offer ’Muir hope as they turned round with the elements in their favour. And, although they dominated for lengthy periods, lack of composure at key moments together with a well organised Selkirk defence kept them at bay until the 55th minute when Iain Moody atoned for squandering an earlier scoring opportunity when he touched down to leave the hosts two points adrift.
The momentum was firmly in ’Muir’s favour but, despite numerous opportunities, the score line remained unchanged and their desperation increased as the clock ticked past 80 minutes. Then Moody became the match winner when he crashed over for a second time. That left Selkirk shattered and turned Aitchison’s thoughts to the possibility of a fourth try with the final play of the game.
But, when Reekie played safe and despatched the ball into touch, celebrations were placed on hold. While ruing that decision, Aitchison also acknowledged the battling qualities of his players in posting the win seven days after recording a more stylish success against Watsonians.
“Sometimes it’s hard to follow up what was almost a cup final and the way we went about our chores against Watsonians. The effort that was expended in that, and the high of that, to try and get up again for this game was maybe a bit difficult. A few of them under performed and we haven’t done that at any point this year,” he said. “I’m pleased with the way the boys stuck to it. They kept going and kept working and we got our score.”
The result means that the single automatic promotion spot remains up for grabs, although it rules out Stewart’s Melville whose only route into the Premiership is now by way of the play-off. The issue could be settled in a variety of ways. ’Muir must take one point from their match at Biggar or the fixture at home to GHA on March 22. However, they could be handed the title as early as Saturday if Watsonians fail to take all five points against Kelso at Myreside.
’Muir director of rugby, Malcolm Clapperton, has stressed the importance of an instant return to the top flight, saying: “Obviously priority number one after last season was to bounce straight back. We’ve put ourselves in a great position to do that although we’ve still got two very tough games to come. I’m pleased with the win but disappointed we didn’t get over the line,” he added.
“It was just a slack performance. When there are things like leagues at stake, you shouldn’t need to get players up for it. We need to remind them every now and again that a good performance last week isn’t enough.”
And Clapperton insists that the club’s ambition goes beyond simply securing a berth at the top table. “We don’t just want to get there but we want to be competing in that league again.”
Boroughmuir: Tries: penalty, Moody (2). Con: Reekie. Pen: Reekie
Selkirk: Tries: Clapperton, Patterson. Cons: Banks (2). Pen: Banks.
Boroughmuir: C Marshall, S Johnson, A Cox, S Wilson, J Edmunds, D Reekie, J Adams, R Wilson, C Davies, J Latta, A Best, T Sutton, J Hare, A Rose, I Moody. Subs used: S Laird, G Scott, N Rodger.
Selkirk: J Welsh, R Banks, R Nixon, C McDougall, D Clapperton, G Craig, F Harkness, G Patterson, J Bett, C Graur, R Fluhler, A Renwick, E McDougall, A Duckett, C Marshall. Subs used: C McEwan, R Wilson, C Elliott, J Everitt.
Referee: M Adamson.