Kelso 17, Peebles 11
Kelso hosted Border rivals Peebles in a winner-takes-all scenario on Saturday at Poynder Park.
It was quite simple for the black and whites – win the match and they would secure promotion back to BT National 1.
If they lost, Peebles would still have the chance of promotion, if Kelso were to slip up this weekend at Aberdeenshire.
A big crowd witnessed a typical physical and high intensity Border derby, and it was Kelso who made the better start. They enjoyed a fair bit of ball in the early stages but the Peebles defence was resolute.
Both defences really cancelled out any attacking threat early on and there was a sense of feistiness and real desire from both teams.
Peebles were the first side to get points on the board when Greg Raeburn slotted a penalty over, after Kelso were penalised for not rolling away in the tackle.
The visitors were then very close to scoring the first try of the match when scrum half Murray Johnstone broke away down the blind side. He looked certain to score but a fine tap tackle by Tony Wichary put him down and Gregg Minto then managed to put Johnstone into touch.
Peebles were very much on top at this point and were winning the territory battle.
Both sides were reduced to 14 men for 10 minutes when Roddy Guiney and Ian Wallace were yellow-carded for a slight disagreement.
Kelso then went on the offensive and looked like they would score in the corner. A fine break by Arran Jackson set up a three on one overlap but the winger’s pass didn’t find any of his supporting runners and the chance went astray.
The home side were getting into some good positions but were a little too eager to score, when they could have been more patient and set up some phases.
Donal Seed looked like he has scored a try but the six-foot seco nd row managed to knock the ball on as he grounded it.
It was getting closer for the Tweedsiders and they eventually got the first try of the match through prop forward Rhys Morgan.
The Kiwi has been in magnificent form all season for Kelso and he scored a typical Morgan try when he drove over the line with three defenders trying to stop him. Greg Ponton added the conversion and the Poynder Park crowd were starting to make some noise.
Peebles started the second half on top and it wasn’t long before they were back in the lead. They scored a try through Murray Johnstone after he won the race to his own kick through and touched down, but Raeburn missed the conversion.
Peebles then extended their lead when Kelso were penalised for a high tackle. Greg Raeburn stepped up and slotted the ball between the uprights.
Andrew Skeen relieved the tension when he shimmied his way over the line for a fantastic try, following excellent work by his forwards to get them into the red zone. Ponton kicked the extras and Kelso were in front by just three points.
Paudie Lawlor looked to have scored a third try for the home side but he knocked the ball on as he was reaching for the line.
The black and whites were then awarded a penalty when Peebles were penalised for side entry at
the ruck. Greg Ponton stepped up and slotted the ball straight between the uprights.
Johnstone made another fine break and it looked like he would go round Kelso prop Colin Arthur, but the forward managed to make the tackle and put the flying scrum half into touch.
The clock was ticking down and Kelso managed to keep the ball within the forwards as the clock wound down to zero. Andrew Skeen kicked the ball into touch, referee Ian Kenny blew his final whistle – and sparked the Kelso festivities.
The win earned Kelso promotion back to BT National 1 at the first attempt, and the champagne was flowing as the players celebrated after the final whistle.
Coach Darren Cunningham said: “It was always going to be a hard-fought game with it being a Border derby, but the lads showed their mettle and dug deep to pull out a deserved win and promotion. It was great to do it at home and maintain our unbeaten run at Poynder Park.”