National One: home is where the heart is for forward-looking Kelso

Emerging local talent has been helped along by some old heads on young shoulders, as Poynder Park club recovers from slow start to the season

The Kelso squad is built around a strong core of local talent. Image: Gavin Horsburgh
The Kelso squad is built around a strong core of local talent. Image: Gavin Horsburgh

KELSO had a tough start to 2019-20, but things have been on the up in recent months and, with plenty of young talent coming through the ranks at Poynder Park, the future is bright for the Borders club.

Having finished eighth in National League One in 2018-19, they were keen to build on that this term, but things did not quite go to plan straight away. They lost their first six league matches until the middle of October when they finally found some form with a 31-28 home win over high-flying Heriot’s Blues.

Since then it has not all been plain sailing, especially on the road, but on their own patch Kris de Scossa’s outfit have become very hard to beat, and in recent months they have defeated the likes of Boroughmuir, Dundee High, Gala and Melrose there.

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Last Saturday they backed those results up with a 38-17 bonus-point home victory against Watsonians, which puts them ninth in the table and 20 points clear of the relegation zone. If they can turn their home form into a performance away against 11th placed Boroughmuir in Edinburgh this Saturday then Kelso should be all but safe in National One for 2020-21.

“That is the key for us this week, playing the way we do at Poynder Park up in Edinburgh,” said centre Frankie Robson. “Over the last few months the younger guys in  the team – like Matt Kindness who I play in the centre with – have grown in confidence and the local people have been coming out to support us in big numbers and cheering us on to victories at Poynder.

“We all get a buzz from that and I think there is a lot to look forward to at the club as things move on because there is a core of older boys like myself and up-and-coming local players now making up a large part of the squad. That is the way clubs like ours have to go these days, being built on solid homegrown foundations and going from there.”

Robson returned to the club where he grew up at the start of this campaign after spells with Gala, in New Zealand, in Sheffield and at Hawick. It is a sign of the times in rugby that, aged 25, he refers to himself as one of the “older boys” in the squad, but the likes of himself, scrum-half Andy Tait, stand-off Craig Dods and captain Murray Hastie have been key in helping the young bucks coming through settle into the first team.

“I remember when I was a teenager coming into a senior dressing room for the first time and it can be quite daunting, so we have tried to create a very inclusive feeling around the squad,” explained Robson, who runs a farm with his brother. “The young guys are learning all of the time and I think everyone can see by the way we have played in the games since the turn of the year against Gala, Melrose and Watsonians that we can compete with anyone in the league on our day.

“Murray leads the team really well from full-back and we now want to end the XVs season on a high starting this weekend.”

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Another experienced player – and also a farmer – in the Kelso squad is second-row Angus Common, at the grand age of 24, who, along with fellow veterans such as Kev Dryden has been helping young forwards make the leap into 1st XV rugby rugby this season.

“Although we are not that old, we have quite a lot of games under our belts and we are doing our best to help out the guys who are just in their first or second seasons at this level,” he explained. “For example, Alex Thompson, who plays alongside me in the second-row, and back-row Archie Cowens, are two young guys who have really come on and I can’t praise them highly enough.

“Our home performances in particular have really gotten better of late, we have taken on and beaten some top sides and we feel like we have turned a corner. We take great pride in playing well at Poynder.”

Common has also enjoyed being joined in the pack this year by his 22-year-old younger brother Fergus. “I have played at the club right from the minis through the youth section and the Harlequins and have been in and around the first team for about the last six years, so I have a big connection with Kelso,” aid the older sibling.

“A lot of confidence I have about the future comes from the nucleus of young talent we now have around the place. If we can keep the majority of them here as they continue learning and getting more confident at this level then exciting times could be around the corner.

“This weekend against Boroughmuir is the main focus for us at the moment though, we want to get a win.”

  • Boroughmuir v Kelso takes place in Tennent’s National League Division One at Meggetland at 3pm on Saturday

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About Gary Heatly 437 Articles
Gary has loved rugby ever since he can remember and since 2004 he has covered the sport and others in a professional capacity for many publications and websites and runs his own company, GH Media.