Kelso 29-30 Musselburgh

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Last season these teams met in the third round of the Scottish Cup and it was a keenly contested affair, writes Norman Anderson.

Saturday’s first round tie was no different as the lead changed hands no fewer than seven times with Musselburgh just coming out on top.

To be fair, they have been going well in the league and specialising in high scoring with close results and scoring tries for fun.

It was an open game from the outset with both sides intent on throwing the ball around. The scoring, however, was started by Musselburgh when Kelso conceded a penalty for an offside. Geoff Berry slotted the straightforward kick after six minutes.

Kelso quickly recovered and a burst by Stef Carnegie was followed by the rest of the forwards and the ball was recycled for Gary Johnstone to go over for the try. Andrew Skeen missed that conversion but he had immediate success with a penalty after Musselburgh infringed at a ruck.

A period of supremacy on the visitors’ part took them into the lead through a Berry penalty, a try after a rolling maul by prop, Cailin Gibson, and a Berry conversion.

Kelso worked hard to come into the game and a lack of discipline by Musselburgh led to a yellow card to William Fleming for a reckless tackle. In fact, Berry should have also been carded for a dangerous tackle but the match officials were unable to detect a number for him despite the fact that he showed his obvious concern for the Kelso player whom he had just levelled.

From a Kelso penalty, Andy Tait took a quick tap and scampered in at the posts for a try. Skeen added the extra two points to take Kelso back into the lead.

It was, however, short lived as Musselburgh took advantage of some careless defending by Kelso to allow replacement Craig Owenson to go over after a driven maul from a line out. Berry converted to take the visitors 20-15 ahead at half time.

The Kelso half time team talk seemed to have an immediate effect as Henri Boshoff was set free to crash over for a try at the posts for Skeen to convert to change the lead again. A stolen line out by Gavin Blair allowed Arran Jackson to have a run on the wing but then it was time to defend again for Kelso with Skeen pulling off a try saving tackle in their 22.

After 55 minutes, very good advantage by the referee made it possible for Kelso to make good ground through Skeen and Boshoff who send out an inch perfect pass to Jackson to sail over for a try near the posts. Skeen converted and Kelso now had a nine point lead with a quarter of the game to go.

A succession of Musselburgh drives took play up to the Kelso line for William Fleming to redeem his misdemeanours of the first half and barge over for the try.

It was now Kelso’s turn to upset the referee as he awarded a barrow load of penalties against the hosts to put pressure on the defence. A Mikey Horsburgh tackle saved the day on one side of the field but, despite some stalwart defence across the field, Musselburgh took advantage of an overlap to put Adam Hook over for a try in the corner to take Musselburgh ahead again by 30 points to 29.

And that’s the way it stayed for a narrow defeat for Kelso and the cup run was over already!

Kelso: Greg Ponton, Arran Jackson, Lewis Wichary, Gary Johnston, Kevin Wilson, Andrew Skeen, Andy Tait, Stuart Lowrie, Ross Henderson, Michael Barber, Stef Carnegie, Ian Wallace, Chris Riddell, Kieran Dunbar and Gavin Blair. Replacements: Henri Boshoff, Gordon Harkins, Donald Seed, Andrew Wallace and Mikey Horsburgh (all played).

Scorers: Andrew Tait, Gary Johnstone, Henri Boshoff and Arran Jackson tries and Andrew Skeen three conversions and one penalty.