Melrose still on top of NL1 after bonus-point win but Kelso throw away 14-point lead

Melrose remain top of rugby’s Tennent’s National League Division 1 after seeing off Cartha Queen’s Park 34-22 at home at the weekend.

By Darin Hutson
Monday, 11th October 2021, 6:47 pm
Updated Monday, 11th October 2021, 6:47 pm
Biggar's Davie Reive trying to get to grips with Kelso's Bruce McNeil (Photo: Bill McBurnie)
Biggar's Davie Reive trying to get to grips with Kelso's Bruce McNeil (Photo: Bill McBurnie)

Kelso missed an opportunity to do their fellow Borderers a good turn, however, and allow them to move further ahead of second-placed Biggar after a late-second-half collapse saw them beaten 32-20 at home at Poynder Park by the South Lanarkshire side.

That means Melrose will have to settle for being four points clear at the top, on 25 points from six games, though both Biggar, unbeaten on 21 points, and third-placed Ayr, on 20, have a match in hand on them.

Kelso are seventh in the 12-team table, with 14 points from six games, and Gala, out of action at the weekend due to positive Covid-19 results among prospective opponents Dundee’s squad, are in fourth place, with 19 points from five matches.

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Ethan McVicker on the ball for Melrose against Cartha Queen's Park (Photo: Bill McBurnie)

A 20th-minute Roly Brett penalty opened the scoring for Melrose and Sam Derrick added a try, converted by Brett, six minutes later, but it was the Glaswegians that went in ahead at the break, by 15-10.

The visitors stretched that lead to 12 points five minutes into the second half, but that spurred their hosts at the Greenyards into action and they hit back with an unconverted Derrick try on 48 minutes, a Jack Dobie try 10 minutes later, converted by David Colvine, and two Lewis Mallin tries, the first of them with extras added by Colvine.

Melrose head coach Bruce Ruthven was pleased to see his side get back to winning ways after their 20-5 battering by Biggar seven days earlier, telling Borders Rugby TV: “We got there in the end. We made life pretty difficult for ourselves in the first half an hour, but the belief was there.

“The boys really fronted up and we got into our stride in that last half an hour.

Melrose loosehead prop Ruiradh Lindsay on the break against Cartha Queen's Park (Photo: Bill McBurnie)

“We knew, trying to keep the tempo up throughout the game, that Cartha would tire and that proved to be so

“I’m delighted with the five points and it’s good to get a win after that loss last week. The boys are chuffed.”

Kelso were 20-6 up against Biggar at half-time and still in the lead on 80 minutes, though their visitors had reduced that deficit to two points by then, setting themselves up to go in front with a converted try on 86 minutes and then add insult to injury with more of the same two minutes later.

The hosts’ scorers were Dwain Paterson with two penalties and two conversions and Keith Melbourne and Terry Logan with a try apiece.

Kelso vice-captain Frankie Robson was gracious in defeat, saying: “It was a close game. It was a hard-fought one, but hats off to Biggar.

“They came back, they played well in the second half and edged it in the end. They probably deserved to win after the second half that they played.”

Kelso could have come out on top if they’d made more of their first-half dominance, though, and got further ahead, he reckons.

This coming Saturday, Kelso are at home to Edinburgh’s Heriot’s Blues, currently sixth in the table; Gala host another side from the capital, basement side Watsonians; and Melrose are away to fifth-placed Highland in Inverness.

All those games kick off at 3pm.