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Sat 11th Sept 2021 - Kelso 1st XV v Highland RFC (43-3)

Tennent’s League Division 1
Kelso 43 Highland 3 (half time 21-3)

After playing their last competitive rugby on Poynder Park on 29th February 2020, business was resumed by Kelso firsts at home on Saturday with a comprehensive victory, in front of a very encouragingly large crowd of rugby starved supporters, over the far travelled Highland. An away win over Cartha Queens Park on the previous Saturday had given a much revamped Kelso confidence for this encounter on a fine autumn afternoon played on an excellent surface with a fluctuating breeze which seemed to favour the hosts in the first half.
Kelso fluffed the kick off and after a few scrums, it looked as if the Kelso pack were in for a tough time in the set piece. However, that was rectified and it became a punishing weapon for Kelso throughout the game.
Frankie Robson made an early break straight up the middle of the field and was only brought down in the Highland 22 as he was looking for a supporting runner. That only delayed the score because, at a scrum 5, No 8 Bruce McNeil picked up and broke to his right and forced his way over to give the home team the lead after 17 minutes leaving Dwain Paterson with a straightforward conversion. Kelso were totally dominant as far as territory was concerned. Paterson was just wide with a long range conversion attempt and it was after 35 minutes that Kelso improved their lead after another scum short of the line. On this occasion, McNeil was stopped short following his pick up but recycled ball came the way of Paterson and he crossed for another try, which he converted himself.
Kelso were caught offside in the middle of the park allowing Highland to open their account on the scoreboard, had it been working, with a Scott Fraser penalty.
Kelso were probably disappointed with their inability to convert all of their pressure into points but just before half time, Kevin Dryden produced an early contender for solo try of the season with a long distance run to crash over giving Paterson the opportunity to take Kelso to 21-3 ahead at half time.
The usual plethora of replacements happened for the start of the second half which started with a break down the far touchline by Kelso’s new recruit, Keith Melbourne, who obviously forgot he was in the second row rather than out on the wing. Kelso soon increased their lead after skipper, Andy Tait, caught the Highland scrum half, Cameron Grant, at the rear of a retreating scrum. Tait won possession but was upended in a dangerous tackle. Paterson kicked the resulting penalty.
Good interplay by the Kelso forwards with Billy McNeil, Melbourne and Dryden to the fore produced the bonus point try for Paterson after the last Highland defender produced what could only be described as fresh air shot as he tried to clear the ball. Dwain won the race for the touchdown and succeeded with the conversion after 55 minutes. 
Things looked like they might get out of hand after Matt Kindness was played in the air from the kick off and following a driven Kelso line out a fracas broke out. After lengthy negotiations between the referee, Stuart Burns, and the 2 captains, it was decided that Billy McNeil was to be yellow carded. This came as a surprise to Billy as it looked as if it was a case of ‘it wisnae me’. Even the Highland captain thought the ref had got the wrong man. It does, however, emphasise the point which National 1 clubs have been making to the Domestic Rugby Department that this level of the game is being devalued by not having assistant referees.
Highland had the opportunity to create some pressure on the numerically disadvantaged Kelso but the defence held out and following a Kindness break out was taken on by Terry Logan and Bruce McNeil, Robson was high tackled. The penalty was popped into the corner. Greg Cessford won the line out which was driven to the visitors’ line and replacement, Euan Knox, crashed over for a try after 73 minutes. The conversion was missed.
The scoring was finished off on the last play of the game when Robson crashed over for a try after good lead up play involving Andy Tait, replacement Ben Lyall and Matt Kindness. Dwain Paterson converted to give himself 6 successful kicks out of 8 and a total of 23 points for the day. All in a days’ work for Dwain in preparation for him competing in the Great North Run on the Sunday.
So the upshot of all of this is that Kelso sit at the top of the league on points difference with tough games to come. But the even better news: rugby is back at first team level at last. Unfortunately, both the Seconds and the Quins had their games cancelled due to the opposition being unable to field sides.
Next Saturday we make the short journey to Netherdale to play Gala.

Team: Greg Ponton, Matt Kindness, Dwain Paterson, Frankie Robson, Andrew Thomson, Murray Hastie, Andy Tait, Ryan Toogood, Kevin Dryden, Terry Logan, Greg Cessford, Keith McNeil, Archie Cowens, Billy McNeil, Bruce McNeil.
Replacements: Euan Knox, Morgan Thompson, Keith Melbourne, Derek Welsh and Ben Lyall: all played.

Scorers: Dwain Paterson 2t, 5c and 1 p; Bruce McNeil 1 t, Kevin Dryden 1 t, Euan Knox 1 t and Frankie Robson 1 t.

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