Kelso just hold on to retain Ballantyne Memorial Cup

editorial image

Kelso17

Jed-Forest14

After a run of five successive defeats, this was a must-win match for Kelso, especially as the two teams were so close in the league, writes Norman Anderson.

They also welcomed back a few of their injured players, with new player coach, Gary Holborn, returning.

The Tweedsiders had a chance to take the lead as early as the second minute, but Kieran Wilkinson hacked the ball over the Jed try line in his race to get the touchdown.

The first score was not long in coming, though. After the home side won a penalty at a scrum, Andrew Skeen opted for the kick to touch and from the resultant line-out, the ball was whizzed along the line with Liam Tait going over between the posts, allowing Andrew Skeen to make an easy conversion.

Jed’s response was immediate, but David Gobby was bundled into touch as he was about to score, before Donald Grieve’s penalty hit the post.

Kelso went through a sticky patch with firstly Richard Minto retiring injured and Gareth Riddell meeting with the referee’s displeasure and spending 10 minutes cooling his heels in the bin.

As half-time approached, Jed missed another two penalties and then hooker David Batey was sin-binned for a late tackle on Skeen.

At the start of the second half, Kelso’s Kieran Wilkinson sent a long-range penalty effort wide of the mark, before the visitors lost another man to the bin – full back Fraser Harkness judged to have deliberately slowed the ball down.

Over-eager rucking by Ian Wallace levelled the sides up as he was also invited by referee Craig Clark to have a breather.

Jed created chances, but they were repelled by the keen Kelso defence until the hour mark, when a ball was spilled by Jed in the tackle and Frankie Robson hacked on and won the foot-race for an opportunist try at the posts. Skeen converted to take Kelso 14-0 ahead.

Jed had a passage of superiority when initially Scott Raeburn had a try disallowed after a forward pass, but, after several phases of play in the Kelso 22, prop Matt Meek scored a try for Daniel Ritchie to convert and reduce the gap to seven points.

That gap, however, was widened straight away by Skeen, who kicked a penalty after a high tackle.

With just over five minutes to go, the scene was set for a frantic finish, and this situation was made more tense as centre, Declan Wallace, raced clear for a fine individual try, with Ritchie converting to close the gap to three.

Inevitably, Jed spent the last few minutes throwing everything at the Kelso defence, which held firm until a much-relieved home support heard the final whistle.

For Jed, the securing of a losing bonus point was vital in the quest for survival in what is a very competitive bottom end of the league.

For Kelso, the result of the match meant the retention of the Kenneth Ballantyne Memorial Cup and just a little bit of clear water as they move into fourth position.