Tales of the expected in Border League clash

Kelso vs Gala RFC. Gala's Rex Jeffrey.
Kelso vs Gala RFC. Gala's Rex Jeffrey.

Kelso10

Gala38

After warm-up games against Watsonians and Boroughmuir, Gala had their first taste of genuinely competitive rugby this season in a Booker Border League match at Poynder Park.

And in the event the Maroons secured the expected victory over their national league opponents.

Only the most hard-hearted would not feel sympathy for Kelso, who begin this campaign minus 12 of last year’s squad – a huge turnover of players by any standard. Two of these, centre Frankie Robson and lock Callum Rowlandson were in Gala colours on Saturday. Others can be seen at several other Border clubs.

As a result Kelso have had to harvest their youth system and judging by the performances of the newcomers, the Poynder Park side may benefit from this.

“We had six boys from last season’s Quins playing today – there’s no point in having the youth system if you don’t use them,” suggested Kelso coach Adam Roxburgh.

“It’s been very frustrating losing so many players. You can’t blame guys for going elsewhere to further their careers, but would they be better playing guaranteed first team rugby here?”

But if Roxburgh needed a statement of intent from his reconstructed squad, then their performance against Gala provided it. Kelso, outpowered in the set-piece, made good use of limited possession and, against a side enjoying a huge supply of ball, defended well.

Stand-off Andrew Skeen again looked the classy player he is and his replacement, Ryan Ford, a cousin of Scotland hooker Ross Ford and a Quins player last season, looks to have considerable potential.

For their part Gala will take much from the return to form of winger Craig Robertson. The former New Year Sprint winner bagged a hat-trick of tries and made the running for fellow winger Keith Young to score in the corner.

Also impressive for the Maroons were centre Andrew Mitchell, who has just left Galashiels Academy, and former Gala Wanderers back row Liam Scott, who has gained from spending time in the Antipodes.

“It was a good work-out, but I was disappointed with the number of unforced errors we made,” said Gala coach George Graham.

“We were trying some new patterns, but Kelso made it a wee bit hard for us.”

Gala led 24-10 at half-time with three tries from Robertson and one from Young, and two conversions from stand-off David O’Hagan, Kelso’s points coming from a well-taken solo try by skipper and centre Dom Buckley, converted by Skeen, who also kicked a penalty goal.

Then in a scrappy second half Gala were awarded a penalty try after Robertson was taken out as he chased is own kick ahead. Replacement stand-off Rex Jeffrey converted and then added to his points tally with his side’s final touchdown, this time David O’Hagan adding the extras.