BOOKER BORDER LEAGUE
FIONA SCOTT reports from Poynder Park
DESPITE winning the try count 2-1 against Premiership outfit Melrose on Friday night, Kelso were just squeezed out of this edge-of-your-seat derby clash.
Indeed, for most of the first half it was the hosts who dominated and they really should have been further ahead at the break.
As it was, the teams turned around with the hosts ahead 11-6 and the large crowd prepared themselves for a Melrose onslaught after the restart.
It didn’t come.
Kelso faced up to their opponents well, but at the end of the day the visitors’ forwards proved to be the difference with some staunch defending throughout.
It was with much relief that the Melrose contingent greeted the final whistle which put an end to their recent losing streak.
Melrose president John Reed had taken over the duties of cameraman for the evening and had mixed emotions over viewing the game through a two-inch by one-inch screen.
“You feel like you haven’t really been at the game at all,” he commented.
Talking of the game which saw his side sail to the top of Pool A in the Booker Border League Reed added: “A win is a win and, with a much-altered team, the players battled hard to overcome a doughty Kelso side.
“It was good to see some Storm players step up to the mark and equally it was good to have Richard Ferguson back on the pitch.”
Melrose grabbed early penalty points with two successful kicks from Joe Helps, but it was Kelso who had the better of the territory.
And on the 20th minute their perseverance paid off when Gregg Minto danced over for a close-range try.
Murray Hastie missed the conversion, but put his team in front minutes later with a penalty goal.
Kelso continued to enjoy most of the possession for the remainder of the half and, had it not been for a missed penalty, and then a spilled pass just metres from the Melrose line, the scoreline could have been verging on the embarrassing for the visiting Premiership side.
As it was, Hastie slotted a penalty right on the whistle to put his team 11-6 ahead at the break.
One could only imagine what John Dalziel was saying to his team at half-time, but whatever it was looked to have worked as ’Rose came out flying, with replacement winger Bruce Colvine running half the length of the pitch to touch down and Andrew Skeen making the conversion to edge the black-and-golds back into the lead.
With half an hour left, Donald Seed was given 10 minutes in the sin bin, during which time Skeen notched a penalty to stretch the Melrose lead to five points.
The Tweedsiders continued to lump the pressure on, however, and, following a lengthy spell camped out on the Melrose try line, Darren Gillespie forced his way over to tie the scores and leave the game hanging in the balance with 10 minutes remaining and the score at 16-16.
With five minutes left, Helps banged over another penalty for Melrose and still Kelso refused to give up. One of their final surges towards the line saw Adam Alexander brutally stopped in his tracks by one of the Melrose forwards, and still they charged.
This was an admirable performance by the home team and Border League rugby at its best.
Kelso: W. Massey; A. Haig, C. Brown, A. Alexander, G. Minto; M. Hastie, F. Strachan; K. Cooney, C. Riddell, A. Marsh, D. Seed, J. Stewart, M. Robertson, E. Ford, D. Gillespie. Subs: D. Redstone, A. Wallace, S. McColl, D. Buckley, T. Wilson.
Melrose: A. Skeen; L. Mallen, J. Murray, J. Helps, U. Kalamafoni; R. Mill, S. McCormick; C. Keen, R. Ferguson, G. Holorn, R. Ovens, R. Miller, C. Wilde, D. Crawford, A. Nagle. Subs: W. Mitchell, C. Arthur, M. Stewart, B. Colvine, S. Chalmers.