FIONA SCOTT reports from Netherdale
WITH their undersoil heating going full blast, the Maroons were able to offer Kelso the chance to play a Border League match and supporters the opportunity to watch a long-awaited for competitive local fixture.
The scoreline came as no surprise considering the league positions of the two teams, but the game was a lot closer than the 16-point margin suggests and one could argue that the visitors should have won.
Unfortunately, the match failed to provide much in the way of entertainment or excitement.
Missing three key forwards, the hosts were on the back foot during the early stages. Kelso, on the other hand, had put out a reasonably strong squad and throughout the game looked the hungrier of the two teams.
Gala backs coach Scott Nichol certainly thought so. Speaking after the game he said: “It wasn’t pretty. Kelso bossed us for long periods in that game, but we pulled away at the end. It’s good to get a win, even when you are playing poorly, and we will have to try and keep the momentum up now to the end of the season.”
Kelso skipper Kevin Utterson had mixed feelings about his side’s performance. “It was disappointing not to get the win, but we showed today how well we can play as a unit so I don’t want to be too negative about the game. We will just take all the positives from it and be thankful that we now have a good, hard game under our belts.”
Greg Ponton’s penalty in the fifth minute saw the Tweedsiders hold an early lead. Lee Miller scored an equaliser in the 12th with a similar effort, but Kelso continued to dominate possession. They got the try they had been striving for as proceedings moved into the last 10 minutes of the opening half when the ball was shipped wide to the right for Steph Carnegie to go over in the corner.
It was Gala, however, who ended the half on a positive note, having spent the remainder of the time pushing towards the Kelso line, when Miller slotted a second penalty to close the gap to two points.
The Poynder Park men played the first 10 minutes of the second half without lock Na Ioane, who had been involved in an altercation right on the whistle, but were undaunted by their lack of numbers and continued to drive towards the home line.
But it was Gala who secured the points when, following a spell of shockingly poor play from both sides, Miller slotted a penalty. From that point onwards the hosts continued to pile on the pressure and, following a lengthy spell in the Kelso 22, were rewarded with a try when David Marshall crashed over the line. Miller missed the difficult conversion, but made amends minutes later by adding his fourth penalty.
Touch judge David Changleng had the final say in the match when, following a melee on the far side of the pitch, he awarded an injury-time touchdown that mystified both players and spectators to the point that nobody actually knew who scored it. Following a meeting after the game it was decided to attribute the score to George Graham, but there was no doubt about Miller’s conversion which left a rather generous looking victory for the home side.
Gala: C. Dods; G. Young, M. Walton, A. Emond, R. Livingston; L. Millar, G. Graham; E. McQuillin, L. Roden, C. Hogg, G. Graham, D. Marshall, G. Haurua, S. Cairns, T. Weir. Subs: B. Murray, M. Welsh, P. Stewart, F. Hunter, S. Chapman.
Kelso: N. Osman; G. Ponton, M. Hartley, K. Utterson, A. Haig; P. Hume, A. Tait; F. Young, C. Riddell, B. Lyburn, S. Carnegie, N. Ioane, L. Mitchell, G. Riddell, I. Moody. Subs: D. Cowan, C. Keen, S. Patterson, A. Riley, D. Buckley.