Gala defend stoutly and take chances against spirited Kelso
For the first time this season, Kelso hosted a home game in poor weather conditions, reports Norman Anderson.
It was a key game for both clubs, with Gala striving to be in the league’s top six and Kelso trying hard to keep above the relegation waterline.
Both sides were also trying hard to get their best team on the field, as injuries seemed to be prevalent in both camps.
The game started with the forwards getting to know each other on the stand touch line with a bit of pushing and shoving.
There then followed a succession of line outs which must have had the coaches despairing, as the first four were either stolen or spoiled.
Kelso, as they did for a major part of the game, exerted pressure in the Gala 22 but resolute defence brought them nothing.
The first scrum of the game came after 10 minutes.
Gala popped a penalty into touch near the Kelso line and, from the driven line out, Jack Chambers was forced over for the first try after 12 minutes to the visitors. Ross Cooke converted.
Kelso lost Kevin Dryden to the bin after 20 minutes after a succession of offside penalties were conceded at line out time.
Unusually, they did not concede a single point while he was absent.
The penalties were coming thick and fast and referee Fergus Hollins was letting nothing go, much to the frustration of the players.
The hosts had a great passage of play where they recycled ball for many phases and they were almost over for a try by Craig Dods but they were let down by a stray pass.
Just before the interval, Gala had another visit to the Kelso 22 and, following a line out on the right, the ball was moved left and a deft chip by Simon Fairburn bounced up into Cooke’s hands and he was over at the posts to give himself an easy conversion.
It was hard to believe Kelso were 14-0 down, as they had put so much into the game but, on the stroke of half time, Kevin Wilson finished off a Kelso move for a try near the posts, giving Dods the opportunity to slot the conversion.
Kelso made a couple of replacements at half time and that seemed to galvanise the team. A burst by Derek Welsh took Kelso well upfield and the visitors transgressed and Dods chipped over the penalty, having previously failed with a long-range effort.
The most critical issue of the game came in the 56th minute when the referee, after a lengthy consultation with his assistant, decided to yellow-card Alan Emond for Gala for an off-the-ball incident.
More importantly, he also red-carded Derek Welsh for throwing a punch in retaliation. While the teams were both at 14 men, Dods slotted another penalty for Kelso to take them to a single-point deficit.
Emond’s return brought a new spring into Gala’s step and, with 10 minutes to go, Fairburn crossed for a try after a lengthy period of pressure. Cooke’s conversion took them eight points clear and that was how it stayed for a 21-13 win for Gala.
The game revolved around a few critical factors – Gala’s stout defence when Kelso were champing at their line, Gala’s ability to take their chances, and the red card.
The results of the day seemed to go in Gala’s favour but the same could not be said for Kelso, with wins for Cartha and Kirkcaldy.