1st XV vs Kelso: Match Report
‘Oh the StewMel stage is a-headin’ on over the hills
Where the Injun arrows are thicker than porcupine quills
Dangerous land, no time to delay
So whip crack-away, whip crack-away, whip crack-away’
As the Kelso ladies, suitably attired in full cowboy gear, emerged blinking in the autumn sunshine from their Wild West themed lunch, little did they guess that more excitement than was good for them was to be served up for dessert.
Kelso started strongly, and, after five minutes, were seven points to the good as Max Gordon emerged from a ruck of bodies and Skeen added the extras. Stewart’s Melville knew what to expect from Kelso as their forwards smashed up the middle, using the powerful Callum Rowlandson (think Hoss off ‘Bonanza’ – with ink) as the man who allowed others to play off him.
Nick McCashin reduced the arrears with a penalty but Kelso had all the possession. After some heroic defence from Lindsay, Christie and Manson, Keen forced his way over. Stewart’s Melville were starved of the ball, and, on the rare occasion that we managed to build a few phases, anxiety meant passes were forced.
As half time was approaching Kelso added a converted try – another forward drive that resulted in Gordon scoring, Skeen converting. Keen saw yellow for Kelso, and, after a powerful scrum in midfield, Hannay, with work to do, squeezed in at the corner. McCashin, in what was a faultless kicking display, nailed the extras from the touchline. Our defence was outstanding and it was only after relentless pressure that we yielded those points in the opening period.
Out of the first seven Stewart’s Melville line out throws, only one was taken. We did, in fairness, pirate two from Kelso. The fact is that Rowlandson and Seed, in the Kelso boiler house, are two dominating figures, and this puts huge pressure on the throw in accuracy. In the second half the introduction of Howie gave us some ball at the front and Brewster managed to find some space at the tail. Towards half time we also abandoned kicking for the corner from penalty awards in favour of a quick tap penalty to set up a ruck.
The second half started more promisingly as we warmed to our task, with McCashin knocking over a penalty to reduce the arrears. Neil Bowie, in his second season as a converted centre at this level, has added a bit of subtlety to his aggression, and, led by Neil, Mike Hanning and Nick McCashin, our backs looked dangerous on their short rations.
A raft of substitutions and a nasty looking injury to Scott Brewster meant fresh legs were added to our efforts. Kelso started to panic a bit, and, instead of going through the forwards which had served them so well before the interval, they hoisted for territory – and it was from one such kick that the game changed.
On the half way line on the opposite side from the stand, Bowie shrugged a tackle to release Matt Morrell (think Wild Bill Hickock in full flight); he rounded his opposite number then outpaced the full back and cover to put the cat fair and square amongst the pigeons. Nick converted to bring us within two points with fourteen minutes left.
Kelso stretched away with another penalty but they were now defending desperately. The minutes ticked away as wave after wave of Stewart’s Melville attacks was repulsed. Kelso inched their way up field and it looked as though we would run out of time.
Deep into injury time, Stewart’s Melville were awarded a penalty on the half way line. This was it – now or never.
The ball was passed along the line and back the other way until an opening emerged for Morrell to blast through, all guns blazing. Matt had the presence of mind to make Nick’s winning conversion easier by coming off his right foot rather than continue his angle towards the line.
Back on the half way line, Mike Hanning and Willie Aitken were bellowing at the team to receive the kick off to avoid the heartbreak of the previous week, but the preparation was not required as the final whistle sounded at 4.40. We had snatched victory from the jaws of defeat in a mirror image of the Selkirk game.
It’s easy to play well when you have plenty ball, but to turn a 22-3 margin round to win 25-27 requires guts, self -belief and an ability to think in adversity. We are becoming a Border side ourselves!
Gav ‘Calamity’ Calder