Kelso through to first Border League final since 2009 after seeing off Selkirk

Kelso have made it to this year’s Border League final after brushing aside higher-league opposition in the form of Selkirk 20-10 last Friday night.

Kelso's Bruce McNeil on the ball against Selkirk on Friday night (Photo: Bill McBurnie)
Kelso's Bruce McNeil on the ball against Selkirk on Friday night (Photo: Bill McBurnie)

The Souters, already out of the running for the title, had nothing to play for at their Philiphaugh home ground other than pride and a chance to determine whether it would be their opponents on the night or Melrose facing Hawick in the final.

Kelso, on the other hand, were out to book a place in the final of the oldest league of its kind in the world for the first time in over a decade to vie for their sixth title in the contest’s 121-year history, and that proved to be enough of an incentive for them to come up trumps against their Tennent’s Premiership hosts.

The Tennent’s National League Division 1 side’s scorers were Archie Cowens and Mark Wilson, with Dwain Patterson adding two conversions and two penalties.

Kelso's Keith Melbourne being brought down by Selkirk's defence (Photo: Bill McBurnie)

A penalty try and a Callum Anderson penalty accounted for Selkirk’s 10 points, and that was enough to get them level 10 minutes into the second half, but that parity proved to be short-lived.

Kelso player-coach Bruce McNeil was delighted to see his side handed a chance to claim their first title since 1987, telling Borders Rugby TV: “I’ve always thought it was a really worthwhile league. Even when I was at Hawick, we always thought very highly of it.

“It means a lot to me and it means a lot to Kelso and I’m sure it does to all the other Borders teams.

“Hopefully next season we can get back on track and clubs and players really buy into it.”

Kelso's Robbie Tweedie in action against Selkirk (Photo: Bill McBurnie)

Andy Tait, the Poynder Park side’s captain, added: “This year especially, we’ve tried to mix up our game and play a bit of rugby and it didn’t change tonight.

“We knew we were coming here for a tough battle against a good Selkirk side. At the end of the day, they’re in the premiership, a league above us, and it’s a Border derby.

“We’re comfortable in the league – we’re not getting promoted, we're not getting relegated – so we’re in a competition, the Border League, and it’s all to play for.

“It’s just another step on the journey we’re on. We’re not getting ahead of ourselves. We’ve got a long way to go to reach the levels that we want to, but if we keep putting the hard work in, who knows? It’s a final. Anything can happen.”

Mark Wilson on the run for Kelso against Selkirk (Photo: Bill McBurnie)

Outgoing Selkirk captain Ewan MacDougall said: “We have done that a few times this year – started a game quite slow and invited the other team on top of us, but we responded well and there were a few younger boys in that squad.“All you can ask for from youngsters in their first Border derby is that stick in and the Selkirk boys certainly did that.

“Border derbies are something that we need to talk about, especially in the Borders, as they are definitely good to be involved in.”

Selkirk’s XVs season is now over, but Kelso, fifth in the league below with 53 points from 19 games, still have three games to go, all on Saturdays – at home to Watsonians on March 26, away to Melrose on April 2 and away to Stirling Wolves on April 16.

A date has yet to be set for their Border League final against 49-times winners Hawick.