The second round of the BT Cup brought the perfect competition scenario for steely-nerved rugby supporters at Poynder Park on Saturday afternoon.
The higher ranked team was at home, but recent form was not in their favour, and the lower ranked team, by two divisions, was going through a purple patch in terms of a run of eight wins in their 10 league games so far this season.
The banana skin for Kelso was quite apparent.
Short of a few key players through injury, the hosts made a cracking start to the game. A line-out won by Donald Seed produced a good ball for Tony Wichary to come off his wing and score a try, after only three minutes, close to the posts. Andrew Skeen converted and increased the lead with a penalty after the visitors were caught offside.
Kelso’s line-out again functioned well and, from a short throw, the ball was passed along the line for Kieran Wilkinson to take his opposite winger on and he raced over for a try in the corner. Skeen converted well from the touchline.
Shortly after, some weak tackling by Kelso allowed the PL prop, Paul Dixon, to go over for an unconverted try to take the score to 17-5, which was still the score at half-time.
Whatever was said at the midway team talk seemed to work well for the visitors, who came out of the blocks after the break with a storming 20 minutes. Tries were scored by Nathan Ross, converted from far out by Graeme Patterson, and hooker Raymond Mackie, after Blair Cowan won a clean line-out ball and the PL pack piled in for an effective drive.
Two penalties by Patterson for an offside followed by a scrum offence took the visitors into a 23-17 lead with 20 minutes to go. Kelso’s woes increased as Dom Buckley, resuming play after injury and his recent wedding, was yellow carded.
Skeen narrowed the gap with a penalty on 63 minutes following an offside after a good forward drive and, with time running out, replacement Mark Wilson won the race to the line after Murray Hastie charged down a PL clearing kick. Andrew Skeen converted to take Kelso home by 27-23.
A hard-fought win was what Kelso took from the day and a place in the last 16 of the BT Scottish Cup, a tie which will be played on January 3.
The statisticians amongst you will recall that the last time Kelso beat Preston Lodge in the cup, they went all the way to the final.