Kelso go from not at the races to being firm favourites

Kelso 27

Stewart’s Melville 26

PREMIER GROUP C

LAING SPEIRS reports from Poynder Park

AFTER watching only six penalties up to half-time a few spectators looking for something more in the way of excitement drifted off to catch the closing races at the Kelso meeting.

It’s to be hoped they found some winners there, but they would certainly have enjoyed themselves just as much if they had stayed with the rugby.

A second half that contained five tries and a Kelso performance that was one of the best of the season made for an outstanding 40 minutes.

With some blistering running from captain Kevin Utterson and a totally committed effort from the pack, the Tweedsiders looked far too good a side to be still struggling for survival in Division Two.

The Edinburgh opposition played their part in the second-half revival. Even when down to 13 men they hung in well and indeed scored the final try, running out of time after the successful conversion.

Kelso have made a habit in the last couple of seasons of running it close to avoid the drop. If the style and confidence they showed in the second half on Saturday could be turned on every week they could spare their supporters a lot of anxiety.

Director of rugby Bob Monaghan singled out Utterson for special praise, and said he would be a real loss to the club if he retired.

Yellow cards played a big part in the game. Kelso’s Ian Wallace was off for a while in the first half, around the time that the powerful boot of Nick McCashin put Stewart’s Melville into a six-point lead.

But when the city side lost two men in quick succession in the second half Kelso saw an opening and were never going to miss it.

Not for the first time this season the home back row were matchwinners.

And in Frank Young, looking happier at prop than in the second row, they had another outstanding player.

A new sense of maturity showed in the Kelso back division, with Gregg Minto back from his travels in Australia and linking well with Utterson, especially when they recovered their poise in the second half.

The first half saw a rash of penalties, mainly for forward offences in the rucks and occasionally for offside. Greg Ponton had an early success, with McCashin responding with three penalties in the first half hour. Ponton got one back, McCashin landed another, and a dreary first period ended with Kelso trailing 6-12.

But any late arrivals who had seen enough at the races came to the rugby at just the right moment. Within minutes of the restart Utterson carved up the visitors’ defence, and rounded off the next phase with an individual try, Ponton converting.

It was the Kelso captain again who set up a drive which ended with Iain Moody scoring, Ponton adding the extras. But one major blemish by the Poynder Park men ended with them conceding a penalty try converted by McCashin after an infringement far out on the touchline.

But Kelso were not to be denied and Gareth Riddell found a gap on the blind side as the home pack powered forward. Ponton again converted, and the tension built once more with a try for the Stew/Mel sub Rob Patterson, McCashin adding the points as the final whistle went.

Then all that the spectators, whether racegoers or not, had to wait for was the final pay-off with the Riverside Park result giving Kelso another lift towards survival, despite Kirkcaldy’s late bid.

Kelso: G. Ponton; A. Riley, G. Minto, K. Utterson, Andrew Haig; D. Buckley, A. Tait; F. Young, C. Riddell, B. Lyburn, N. Ioane, I. Wallace, L. Mitchell, G. Riddell and I. Moody. Subs: D. Cowan, P. Hume, L. Tarry and C.Keen.