Kelso 27, Selkirk 24


LEFT –Selkirk full-back Fraser Harkness finds himself collared by Kelso replacement Murray Hastie in Saturday’s RBS National League game at Poynder Park. RIGHT – Scrum-half Michael McVie gets his line moving, watched by team-mates Graham Turner (left) and Ewan MacDougall.

LEFT – Selkirk skipper Andrew Renwick rises high to take line-out ball. RIGHT – Selkirk centre Scott Hendrie hands off a Kelso opponent. [Photos: GRANT KINGHORN]

AN injury-time penalty sealed victory for Kelso in Saturday’s opening RBS National League fixture against Selkirk at Poynder Park. It was no more than the home side deserved, having dominated the scrums throughout and shown more aggression and intent than the visitors both in the loose and at the breakdown.

Once again Selkirk’s cause wasn’t helped by a high penalty count, allowing the Tweedsiders to ratchet up the pressure and keep the Souters on the back foot. Home fly-half Ben Cooper added to the visitors’ troubles by taking advantage of the wet conditions with a display of well-judged tactical kicking.

Two penalties apiece by Cooper and Michael McVie took the scoreline to 6-6 after seven minutes. Selkirk took the lead with an opportunist try from James Bett. Flanker Ewan MacDougall charged down a clearance kick, and Bett showed neat skills to dribble the ball over the line and dive on it for the try. McVie’s conversion put the visitors 13-6 ahead.

A third Cooper penalty cut the deficit to 13-9, before a counter-attack featuring Bett, Ryan Crockatt and Lee Kibble took play deep into Kelso territory. A penalty at the final ruck gave Selkirk the chance to put points on the board, but McVie’s kick drifted wide.

Kelso took the lead in the 27th minute after Selkirk had been unceremoniously pushed off their own scrum ball. Spotting a gap behind the visitors’ defence, Cooper chipped towards the right-hand corner, where Frankie Robson raced to collect the ball and cross for his side’s first try. Cooper kicked the touchline conversion, before adding a penalty in the 38th minute to put Kelso 19-13 up.

At this point Selkirk openside Angus Duckett was yellow-carded for handling in the ruck, but despite his absence from the field the visitors cut the deficit with a third McVie penalty.

Right on the stroke of halftime Kelso struck a decisive blow when Robson repeated his earlier try-scoring feat to dive over in the corner for his second touchdown (despite the best efforts of Selkirk full-back Fraser Harkness to prevent him grounding the ball). Interval score: Kelso 24, Selkirk 16.

In the second half Selkirk’s new prop Graham Turner replaced Cata Graur, and a powerful break by Fraser Harkness – carried on by Scott Hendrie and Duckett – put Selkirk in a prime attacking position. A high tackle on Matt Kissick allowed McVie to kick his fourth penalty of the match and cut the deficit to 24-19. On the hour-mark Michael Davies replaced Rory Banks on the left wing.

A yellow card for home scrum-half Andy Tait saw Selkirk take advantage. A good clearance kick from Scott Hendrie was quickly followed by a midfield break by Ross Nixon. At the next scrum Selkirk number eight Ryan Crockatt fed Harkness on the blind side, and the full-back cleverly drew the cover before releasing Mikey Davies, who side-stepped two defenders to dive over for a try.

With the scores now level at 24-24, Selkirk lifted the tempo and had two opportunities to go in front, but Michael McVie’s first penalty attempt went wide while the second (almost from the half-way line) fell well short.

With the game deep into injury time, Kelso’s players were rewarded for battling to the final whistle. Having forced a turnover, referee Neil Muir awarded the home side a penalty - moved forward an extra 10 metres for backchat from the visitors’ ranks – and Cooper stepped up to send the ball straight between the posts, setting the seal on a dramatic victory.

KELSO – M. Wilson, D. Gobby, R. Minto, D. Buckley, F. Robson, B. Cooper, A. Tait, K. Cooney, C. Riddell, A. Marsh, D. Seed, S. Carnegie, L. Tait, E. Ford, M. Robertson. Replacements: S. Lowrie, K. Flannigan, G. Millar, M. Hastie, A. Haig.

SELKIRK – F. Harkness, S. Hendrie, L. Kibble, R. Nixon, R. Banks, G. Craig, M. McVie, G. Patterson, J. Bett, C. Graur, A. Renwick, M. Kissick, E. MacDougall, A. Duckett, R. Crockatt. Replacements: M. Davies, E. Turner, G. Turner, I. Walling, C. Marshall.
Referee – Neil Muir (Forrester).