Derby-day defeat by Gala knocks Kelso off top spot in NL1

Kelso haven’t beaten Gala at Netherdale for a decade and a half and that winless run will now extend into another season at least after their hosts knocked them off the top of Tennent’s National League Division 1 with a 22-14 beating on Saturday.

Monday, 20th September 2021, 4:05 pm
Updated Monday, 20th September 2021, 6:17 pm
Fergus Johnston on the ball for Gala against Kelso at Netherdale on Saturday (Photo: Bill McBurnie)

Their visitors could have been forgiven for heading to Galashiels with a bit of a spring in their step after opening the new season with back-to-back wins against Cartha Queen’s Park and Highland, but a third victory on the bounce proved to be beyond them.

That defeat sees them tumble from the top to fourth place with 10 points from three games. That’s five behind second-placed Melrose, level on 15 points with league leaders Biggar, and one ahead of sixth-placed Gala.

Fergus Johnston claimed first blood for the hosts with a try converted by Craig Dods, with Stevie Cairnsadding another, also with extras from Dods, to take the scoreline to 14-0 at half-time.

Kelso's Bruce McNeill being put under pressure by Gala No 15 Scott Peffers (Photo: Bill McBurnie)

An unconverted Marius Tamosaitis try in the second half extended that to 19-0.

A Euan Knox try, converted by Dwain Patterson, got the visitors back into it, however, and it was game on again after a follow-up effort by Bruce McNeil, also converted.

Terry Logan’s sending-off hampered that fightback, though, and the only further score came from Dods’ boot.

Gala captain Liam Scott was pleased with the performance his side put in to emerge victorious at the end of a hard-fought derby, telling Borders Rugby TV: “I think we showed a bit of character.

Kelso Ladies No 12 Jenna Fenwick scoring against Ayr (Pic: Bill McBurnie)

“A side like that, they’re going to come at you with everything. They’re physical, they’ve got some big boys like McNeil and stuff like that, and I think we fronted up well.

“They’re definitely a threat. You can never write them off. They’re that kind of team. They’re scrappy and they’re physical and they come at you with everything they’ve got.

“We totally expected that in the second half, to have to front up, and there were points when we had to kind of compose ourselves and just try and organise it, and I think we did that towards the end. I think we were convincing towards the end.

Player-coach McNeil was also pleased with his side’s efforts even if they weren’t rewarded with points, saying: “The pleasing thing is there we went 19-0 down and we came back. We stayed in the fight and with a couple of minutes to go, we were still there, which is all we can ask.

“Netherdale’s a hard place to come. There aren’t many teams that will come here and get the win. We knew that and we knew we had to be on point.

“I think in the first 25 minutes we weren’t quite there. That was maybe a wee bit of shellshock because the first couple of games, we’d controlled it from the first to the last minute. Today we never did that.

“Credit to Gala, they came at us and they put us under a lot of pressure.

“We’re on a journey at Kelso and we’re not the finished article. The main thing is that we learn from that.”

Next up for Gala is a trip to Edinburgh on Saturday, September 25, to play Heriot’s Blues.

Kelso, meanwhile, are at home to Stirling Wolves.

Both those games kick off at 3pm.

Kelso’s ladies’ team enjoyed better fortune at the weekend, coming from 14-0 down at home to Ayr to notch up their first-ever win at NL1 level.

Their try-scorers in that 30-14 victory were Shania Dalgliesh, Emma Bree, Barbara Watson, Nicola Turnbull, Jenna Fenwick and Sarah Hope.