This was the second meeting of the teams this season after the cup tie a few weeks ago.
That was close and much the same was expected this week.
However, Kelso just failed to get started in the game and after 20 minutes it looked as if a heavy defeat was on the cards. Missed tackles, inability to secure set piece and the propensity to concede penalties were the features of the early part of the game.
Musselburgh are going well in the lead and you can understand why. They have a strong pack which provides good ball for the backs to run and there is a very useful goalkicker in Danny Owenson to keep the scoreboard rattling along.
Three penalties after three, seven and 13 minutes set the visitors on their way. Worse was to follow when a Conway Pretorius wayward pass was intercepted and only a despairing tackle by Phil Hume saved the day. Hume, however, was yellow carded and against a depleted host team, Musselburgh turned the screw and, after the first scrum of the day on 15 minutes, the captain, Craig Owenson, barrelled his way over to take them 14 points clear.
Worse was to follow when Musselburgh chipped the ball into the Kelso 22 and from the resulting line out, hooker, Conor Slaven was driven over by the rampant visitors pack. Danny Owenson converted.
Kelso settled and produced a good passage of play and the ensuing pressure cost Musselburgh their influential flanker, Declan Slaven , when he was yellow carded for killing the ball in what is described as the red zone. Kelso took the quick tap and although good defence held them out the try was soon to follow when great support play with Mark Wilson, Ewan Ford and Andrew Skeen allowed Andy Tait to spot the gap and link up with Skeen, who touched down at the posts to give himself the easy conversion.
There was a marked improvement in the Kelso play as we headed for the interval but they missed a golden opportunity to narrow the gap when Skeen fluffed a penalty chance just on the break.
Coach, Adam Roxburgh, took the unusual step of taking the Kelso team into the dressing rooms at half time presumably to discuss the finer tactical points of the game. Whatever happened it seemed to have an immediate effect as a half break by Mark Wilson was finished off by Lewis Mallin in the corner with Skeen converting with a fine kick.
It seemed, however, to be a false dawn as their bad habits of the first half continued with regard to set piece with scrum ball being particularly vulnerable. They did stifle a few visitors’ opportunities with some effective choke tackles resulting in turnovers. Musselburgh were denied a scoring chance but the Kelso backs had encroached offside and Owenson widened the gap to 10 points with a penalty with 20 minutes to go.
Time to call for some heroism from Kelso and they battled well in the last 20 and reduced the leeway after Gavin Blair won a ball at the tail of the line out and Kelso were entrenched on the Musselburgh line with Andy Tait being held up. From the resulting scrum, Kelso showing great patience whipped the ball along the line for Mark Wilson to go over for the try on 69 minutes. The conversion was missed but five minutes later Wilson chose to chip through the visitors’ defence and showing great speed he won the race for the touchdown to take the game to 24 all. The conversion was missed but there were five minutes to go for a winner to show through.
Solid defence by the hosts kept Musselburgh at bay but with four minutes overtime already played a Kelso scrum went wrong and after setting up a few rucks and getting themselves to the middle of the field, Danny Owenson slotted a drop goal, just like Jonny 12 years ago, to snatch the game cruelly from Kelso.
Two bonus points were what Kelso had to show for their performance but after 20 minutes that was a most unlikely outcome. The teams around Kelso closed the gap on them in the league with Peebles and Jed both winning. So Kelso retain ninth place in the league.
Kelso: Andrew Skeen; Lewis Mallin, Lewis Wichary, Gary Johnstone, Kevin Wilson; Phil Hume, Andy Tait; Henri Boshoff, Ross Henderson, Blair Robertson, Stef Carnegie, Ian Wallace, Chris Riddell, Conway Pretorius and Ewan Ford. Subs: Stuart Lowrie, Michael Barber, Andrew Wallace, Gavin Blair, Mark Wilson. All played apart from A Wallace.
Scorers: Andrew Skeen 1 try and 2 cons, Lewis Mallin 1 try and mark Wilson 2 tries.