Kelso squeeze past Highland to secure National One title

Both clubs are building for the future by nurturing their roots in the communities they represent

Highland gave Kelso a run for the money but couldn't prevent Borderers claiming the National One title. Image: Owen Cochrane
Highland gave Kelso a run for the money but couldn't prevent Borderers claiming the National One title. Image: Owen Cochrane

TO Kelso go the honours of winning National League One and with it a place in the Premiership, where three other Border teams await them, not least being the current champions Hawick, proving just how successful rugby still is in that neck of the woods.

Highland, their gallant opponents in Inverness, will have to wait another year in which to improve on their respectable top five finish in arguably the most competitive league in the country, and again bolstered this season by four teams from the Scottish Borders.

So, while Border rugby may not be attracting the big attendances of the 1950s, nor gaining the number of caps it once did in the face of opposition from Australia, New Zealand and South Africa, it still remains the cradle of the Scottish game, and with a small population of just over 115,000.

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It is evidence that numbers can only tell a partial story, for while crowd sizes are down in the Borders as they are elsewhere in the club landscape, the aforementioned clubs are clearly still held in great esteem by the communities in which they operate.

Saturday’s champions, Kelso, are a prime example of local commitment, as nearly all the team were brought up in the town (population 5,600), learning their craft at Kelso High School and at the club’s highly productive academy, even if head coach Kevin Utterson was a pupil at Earlston.

“But I am still a product of the Kelso set up, and have never been more proud,” he stressed.

“This ranks with my three caps for Scotland. Poynder Park is back on the rugby map, thanks to the coaching relationship Bruce McNeil and I formed three years ago,” added the ecstatic 46-year-old after his team’s tense, nervy 7-5 win in front of big and noisy Canal Park crowd, who while disappointed with the outcome of a generally ugly but never nasty game, appreciated they had witnessed a full-on, no-holds-barred game in which the stakes were high.

But while Border rugby is enjoying a high, there was sufficient evidence to suggest that Highland with its state of the art facility, matched by an enterprising management team, including head coach Davie Carson are set to rule the roost in Northern Caledonia for the foreseeable future, given the current travails of Aberdeen Grammar, whose stirring first half three try performance at home to Gala on Saturday was greatly encouraging for the Rubislaw faithful.

Border sides do not have the monopoly on community development in the game, as is being shown in Inverness of late. Losing by a margin of only five points over two games to the new National League One champions is as good an indicator as any.

Jack Nixon with the Kelso squad which beat Highland to claim the National One title on Saturday. Image: Owen Cochrane
Jack Nixon with the Kelso squad which beat Highland to claim the National One title on Saturday. Image: Owen Cochrane

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About Jack Nixon 67 Articles
Jack is a Borderer, born in Langholm, and a graduate of Moray House College of Education in Edinburgh. He was a founder member of Livingston Rugby Club in 1968 and has been rugby correspondent for the Aberdeen Press and Journal since 1997. He has been going to Murrayfield man and boy since 1954!


  1. Well done to Kelso. Looks like a good crowd at Highland too with an interesting club house / stand giving a grand view of the game.

  2. I love going to watch the boarder teams in the Nat1 other clubs should take note as to the value of a genuine community spirit. Well done to Kelso who l think are one of the most friendly clubs you can visit. They have worked hard and improved every season to get that promotion. Pretty sure all the Nat1 teams will be relieved that they don’t have to play perhaps the most ‘physical’🤣 side in the country.


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