Match report Kelso v Stewarts Melville, Saturday 2 December 2017

Match report Kelso v Stewarts Melville, Saturday 2 December 2017

For the non-partisan (not many of them about) this must have been an exciting game of rugby, with no clear winner until the dying moments. Unfortunately it was not Stew Mel on this occasion – but, on a positive note, we did at least leave the Borders with two points.

As noted in the match day programme: “Our visitors today are on a notable run of improved form and, despite their lowly league position, I am sure they will prove a real test. You should never underestimate Stew Mel”. Fair comment, I think, and an encouraging one at that.

On to the game. A 3 pm kick off in perfect conditions under flood lights with a few minor changes to previous weeks – but, fundamentally, the same squad. Seb Trotter was back in the mix at 12, with James at 13, and we started with the half back partnership that ended the PL Cup match.

Kelso kicked off deep into Stew Mel territory and appeared to be camped there for a significant period of time until an interception by James, who had to expend all his energy early on by running almost the length of the pitch to touch down in the corner. The attempted conversion was a hard one and didn’t quite get there. Kelso then resumed where they had left off, with the bulk of possession and territory that ultimately led to good hands and the ball out wide, which eventually paid dividends. 20 minutes in, Kelso 7 Stew Mel 5.

Stew Mel started to get more into their stride, and, more importantly out of their own 22, pushing Kelso back with some good forward play and astute kicking. With a bit more possession allowing us to work off quick ball, corresponding quick hands and a good line combined put young winger Jack Blain over at around the 25 minute mark. Gregor converted , bringing the score to Kelso 7 Stew Mel 12.

More pressure in Kelso’s 22 resulted in a kickable penalty shortly afterwards (Kelso 7 Stew Mel 15). As half time approached, Kelso again were attacking well and always looked dangerous with ball in hand, which resulted in another converted try for the hosts.

The time on the electronic scoreboard was slightly misleading (as is our own at Inverleith) as stoppage is not factored in, and there had been, during the course of the first half, a significant number of minutes when the ref’s watch had stopped due to injuries – so this half was by no means over. As half time did approach, however, Stew Mel were back in Kelso’s half and a kickable penalty came our way as a result of their Petulant Prop earning his second yellow, and, unfortunately, the end of his afternoon.

Half time Kelso 14 Stew Mel 18.

So what would the second half bring? Stew Mel kicked off into the blood red sky and were immediately put under pressure from a ‘fired up’ Kelso, eventually resulting in a scrum 5 meters out. Thankfully a subsequent penalty gave us the opportunity to clear our lines. There was at no time any obvious indication of a one man advantage as both teams won and lost possession with equal ease. Some good play by Kelso put them into the ascendancy once again at around the 50 minute mark, bringing the score to Kelso 21 Stew Mel 18.

A spell of wayward kicking followed, then a great break by scrum half Charlie Simmonds almost led to another score, although a lack of support resulted in him being isolated, with the penalty going in Kelso’s favour. With the Stew Mel lineout functioning relatively well most of the afternoon, possession was regained, and, after some good ‘Gala-esque’ forward play, Ruaridh Mitchell (apparently) claimed a score at around the 60 minute mark (Kelso 21 Stew Mel 25).

This game was far from over as Kelso continued to run everything with effect, which lead to some tense moments and another try (Kelso 28 Stew Mel 25). The immediate response from Stew Mel saw us profit from a bit of opportunism when a Kelso clearance kick was charged down, Freddie Roddick winning the race to the line with around 10 minutes to go (real time).

I am sure, at this point, that both the lads on the pitch, my fellow supporters and our coaches had the feeling that this was it and that, although a tight game, a win was in our sights. Right at the death, however Kelso came back once again and scored that crucial try, sending the Kelso faithful, understandably, into delirium.

Final score Kelso 35 Stew Mel 30. A hard one to take, I am sure – ‘gutted’ summed up the afternoon!

Prior to this game I always had the belief that the only team that could win when down to 14 men were the All Blacks. This was quickly disproved and the ‘wounded lion syndrome’ certainly kicked in for our hosts. I wouldn’t necessarily go as far as to say that Kelso deserved to win – but I would give all credit to them for the way in which they did.

The question remains: how did we lose this game? I think there were two reasons. First and foremost, as alluded to, Kelso came back in the second half with great spirit and did not allow the one man advantage to work for the opposition. They have experienced players in both backs and forwards and were tactically more astute. Rugby is not just about brawn, it’s about strategy, tactics and sound game management. Perhaps a bit of the latter was lacking in the dying minutes and the uncontested scrums probably didn’t help our cause either.

We are now half way into the season and there is still so much to play for. I would also like to make special mention of the enthusiastic youngsters that are coming through and experiencing senior rugby. No better place to be blooded than the Borders! And of course, I must praise the dedication of all the players and coaches alike. The team has certainly come on leaps and bounds since the start of the season, and I anticipate a good ‘second half’, starting with the local derby on Saturday. Regrettably I will not be there as I am attending a wedding in Aberdeen. I know where I would rather be, but, as we all know, “you can’t always get what you want”…….

Kevin Murchie

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