Mediocre Kelso must try harder

Kelso's Andrew Skeen, former Melrose player from Berwick.
Kelso's Andrew Skeen, former Melrose player from Berwick.

Kelso 25 Marr 25

NATIONAL DIVISION ONE

After last week’s heroic performance against Hawick, Kelso slipped back to mediocrity, especially in the second half, against their relegation rivals, Marr, who were making their first appearance at Poynder Park.

The game earlier in the season resulted in a resounding victory for Marr so they were not to be taken lightly at all.

Their form of late had been good and they have a reputation of scoring tries for fun. Kelso were well warned!

It was a glorious early spring day in Kelso. With the pitch in excellent condition, Kelso kicked off and early ball retention allowed them to force a position for Andrew Skeen to attempt a drop goal. Although, that was not successful, a couple of minutes later he slotted a penalty for a Marr offside at a ruck.

Marr had a good passage of play when only a brave Murray Hastie tackle prevented Marr standoff, Colin Sturgeon, from scoring. Marr’s first score was only delayed as Sturgeon was soon on the score sheet after Kelso had been penalised for a high tackle.

A Skeen penalty three minutes later, from in front of the posts, regained the lead for Kelso. Kelso had some good pressure but a handling move broke down due to a knock on wide out. An all-in dust up produced a lecture for both captains and a Marr penalty, which was kicked to touch. From the ensuing line out and a half break by Sturgeon, Kelso were caught offside allowing Sturgeon to draw Marr level at 6-6.

A quickly taken tap penalty by Andy Tait took play deep into Marr territory. Although they defended well, a resulting scrum allowed Number 8, Ali Grieve, to pick up and force his way over. Skeen converted. This seemed to be the start of a purple patch for Kelso as their second try followed quite quickly when a succession of penalties resulted in a line out close to the Marr line. Kelso drove, after Ian Wallace secured the line out ball, and prop, Chris Keen, eventually crashed over, with Skeen adding the extras.

Just on half time, Kelso ran a penalty and Skeen chipped over the defence and regathered. The ball was moved on to Richard Minto whose scoring pass to Frankie Robson was knocked back by the last Marr defender. No try, but a 20-6 lead at half time.

The second half could not have started in a worse manner for Marr as the kick off went dead and Kelso had the scrum put in on half way. A couple of fairly ordinary kicks by Kelso, however, resulted in a Marr line out. The ball came back on the Kelso side but a kick and chase by Marr took the ball up to Kelso line. The last Kelso defender was somewhat dilatory in getting down to the ball and was, in fact, beaten to the touch by a determined flanker, Fraser Grant. Sturgeon converted but worse was to follow for Kelso when Gary Holborn was yellow carded for a technical offence and, from the resulting penalty, Marr drove their captain, Stephen Adair over for the try which again Sturgeon converted. So we were all square with 25 minutes to go!

Kelso needed to get some urgency into their game and it appeared to be going that way when they pressurised the Marr line. Knowing that a penalty was to follow, Skeen chipped the defence for Richard Minto to almost reach the line. No joy there, but again knowing a penalty was coming, Skeen tried the same chip, but again with no success. The try, however, was only delayed as Kelso scored a great team try when the ball passed through several pairs of hands with play going back and forward across the pitch eventually for Murray Hastie to be on the receiving end of an Andy Tait pass to crash over. The conversion was missed.

It was now Kelso’s turn to defend as if their lives depended on it. They conceded a series of penalties and, with Marr going for the try, the ball was popped into the corner. Ian Wallace took the visitors’ jumper out in mid air and was yellow carded. The Marr forwards rumbled over from the ensuing line out for a try by Angus Johnston. Thankfully for Kelso, the conversion was missed.

With the score at 25-25, Kelso tried hard for the winning score but as time ran out a Kelso penalty was kicked into touch for the draw, which was probably more use to Marr than Kelso in view of the games still to be played.

It was not quite a case of shooting themselves in the foot, but, on the day, Kelso conceded two yellow cards and 15 penalties with some of the handling errors proving costly.

Whereas Marr have two home games remaining against Biggar and Hillhead/ Jordanhill, Kelso have to go to GHA, Jed-Forest and Biggar and face a home game against the runaway league leaders, Selkirk, in the last game of the season. It looks like a mini league at the bottom with Kelso, Marr, Biggar and Jed-Forest fighting to avoid the relegation spot.