Premiership: Kelso clinch win over Heriot’s Blues at the death

Keith Melbourne's late try secures five league points for Borderers

Keith Melbourne scored Kelso's match-winning try. Image: Charles Brooker
Keith Melbourne scored Kelso's match-winning try. Image: Charles Brooker

Heriot’s Blues 31

Kelso 32

IAIN MORRISON @ Goldenacre

IT never rains but it pours. After their Super Series side lost on Friday evening, Heriots Blues did the exact same thing this [Saturday] afternoon at Goldenacre and they did so in agonising fashion. With five tries apiece it was Kelso’s one penalty and two conversions that gave them the edge over Heriots’ three conversions. Small margins indeed.

At various stages Heriots led 24-8 and 31-20 and yet a dogged and determined Kelso side clung onto their coat tails, refiused to concede anything and ended up scoring the winning try, thanks to the giant Irish lock Keith Melbourne, in the last couple of minutes. It gave Kelso a one point win, their first away from home this season, and it was the only time the visitors had their noses in front all afternoon.

“I think that says a lot about the character of this side,” said Kelso player/coach Bruce MacNeil who is injured at the moment and could only watch events unfold from the sidelines. “We had plenty of possession in the first half but I thought that Heriot’s defended very well and we weren’t able to do much with it.

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“At 24-8 down early in the second half, we were obviously thinking that we would do well to come back from that but we found a way. The guys stuck to the structures, we didn’t panic and we got our reward. This is a huge result for us, our first win away from home.”

Heriot’s played well but only in bursts. They would raise a head of steam and make something happen in attack but their defensive efforts fell far short of their attacking skills. They had Kelso on the ropes, more than once, but they could not find the silver bullet that would finish off the Borderers  and they paid the price at the death.

The match had a clear pattern. Heriot’s would score a try and then spend long periods in desperate defence as Kelso piled on the pressure. The visitors had enough possession and territory to win two or three games but lacked the cutting edge to turn pressure into points although that proved less of a problem in the second half when Kelso scored four of their five tries.

The match started with a bang. Heriot’s kicked off, Kelso cleared to touch around their own 10 metres line and from the line-out the home side grabbed the first score, even if it owed as much to luck as skill.

Rory Kirkpatrick won the ball at the tail. Heriots crashed it up and then moved it wide to the right where winger Paul Christie kicked ahead more in hope than expectation. The Kelso defence allowed the ball to bounce, their first mistake, and it fell perfectly for Heriots’ left winger Harry Hitchens, who was running the inside cheat line for just such an occasion. He was untouched as he ran under the posts.

Heriot’s added two more tries before the break. The second went to Christie after he had taken advantage of a huge hole in the Kelso defence unpicked by Kutsuna with a deft inside pass. The winger was stopped just short of the line and lock Niall Doherty was held up over it but from the ensuing set scrum the winger made no mistake in the right hand corner.

Late in the half, Angus Hunter added a third but only after Rory Jackson had showed great pace for a hooker and persuaded the outside defender to bite in and leave Hunter a free run to the corner.


Heriot’s started the second half as they had the first, with a try inside two minutes, the bonus point score in this case. This one was made by lock Patrick Spence who enjoyed a gallop up the middle of the park with good support from scrummy Keir Singleton. When the ball was shifted wide, Christie did the needful in the right hand corner for the second time.

Kelso’s first half was one of missed chances. With a heap of possession they managed just one unconverted try, to prop Terry Logan, and a penalty from the boot of Dwain Patterson

It was now a 24-8 game and it seemed a long way back for Kelso who nevertheless stuck to the task with admirable tenacity. None more so than skipper/centre Frankie Robson who should have been tackled several times on his way to the line but showed strength and determination to fight hard for what looked like a lost cause. A neat summary of Kelso’s afternoon.

A simple conversion to Patterson made the score 24-15 and gave the visitors a glimmer of hope with 30 minutes still to play, then when Angus Roberts finished off a great move in the right hand corner Heriots’ lead shrunk to a precarious 24-20.

Graham Wilson is a local hero around Goldenacre and the veteran scrummy came off the bench to score Heriots’ fifth and final try of the afternoon, which offered the team a little breathing space. This one had eight ‘assists’ as it came off the back of a tremendous drive at the set scrum which saw the ball squirt out the side and Wilson was first to react.

Even with a 31-20 advantage the match still wasn’t put to bed as Patterson scored from short range and then jumped off the turf to convert his own try to make it 31-27.

It stayed that way as the match wound down to the final minutes. Christie thought for a moment he had his hat-trick try only for the referee to wipe off the score and award Kelso a penalty. It was a crucial moment according to Heriots’ coach.

“We thought we had scored a perfectly good try at the end only for the referee to give a blocking penalty which never took place,” said Phil Smith. “Then when we are defending one of our guys nearly has his head takjen off and neither the referee or the touch judge calls it. These little things can make a big difference on a day like today.”

Kelso had three attacking line-outs in the dying minutes and from the last of them they played one-out rugby with every attack repulsed until Melbourne found a gap and scored the winner. The visitors saw out the remaining two minutes with no added drama.


Teams –

Heriot’s Blues: T Storen; P Christie, A Hunter, K Kutsuna, H Hitchen; L Townsend, K Singleton; A Munro; R Jackson, J Lascelles, N Doherty, P Spence, M Keough, I Hill, R Kirkpatrick. Substitutes: D Westwood, A Bogle, M Dillon, G Wilson, F Stanier.

Kelso: A Barbour; A Roberts, D Patterson, F Robson, R Tweedie; M Hastie, A Tait; G Shiells, E Knox, T Logan, E Thompson, K Melbourne, L Tait, M Woodcock, C Brown. Substitutes: A France, A Mgregor, A Common, J Glendinning, H Tweedie.

Referee: Ciaran Stark.


Scorers –

Heriot’s Blues: Try: Hitchens, Christie 2, Hunter, Wilson; Cons: Kutsuna 3.

Kelso: Tries: Logan, Robson, Roberts, Patterson, Melbourne; Cons: Patterson 2; Pen: Patterson.

Scoring sequence (Heriot’s first): 5-0; 7-0; 7-5; 12-5; 14-5; 14-8; 19-8 (h-t) 24-8; 24-13; 24-15; 24-20; 29-20; 31-20; 31-25; 31-27; 31-32; 31-32.


Man-of-the-Match: Terry Logan scored  a try for the visitors, carried relentlessly and scrummaged well. Full-back Archie Barbour was busy and inventive throughout. Twin centres Frankie Robson and Dwain Patterson personified Kelso’s never-say-die attitude. However, Heriot’s looked the better side for much of this match. Paul Christie scored a brace, and might have earned a hat-trick. Kenta Kutsuna makes things happen in the midfield and both locks, Patrick Spence and Niall Doherty, had their moments. But man-of-the-match goes to the breakaway Malachy Keough for his tireless efforts on both sides of the ball.

Talking point: Just before the half time break a couple of Kelso players started ragging Heriots’ little Japanese centre Kutsuna. He rose to the bait and a stramash of sorts broke out. No bodies or feelings were hurt in the process but the incident still resulted in yellow cards for Malachy Keough (Heriot’s) and Euan Knox (Kelso) when it appeared that a ticking off might have sufficied.

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About Iain Morrison 151 Articles
Iain was capped 15 times for Scotland at openside flanker between his debut against Ireland during the 1993 Six Nations and his final match against New Zealand at the 1995 World Cup in South Africa. He was twice a Cambridge ‘Blue’ and played his entire club career with London Scottish (being inducted into the club’s Hall of Fame in 2016). Iain is a lifelong member of Linlithgow Rugby Club. After hanging up his boots, he became rugby correspondent for The Sunday Herald, before moving to The Scotland on Sunday for 16 years, and he has also guest written for various other publications.