Currie Chieftains 20
DAVID FERGUSON @ Poynder Park
KELSO have made a name for themselves at Poynder Park this season by seeing off most allcomers in the Premiership, and they certainly know how to do it with maximum drama.
After 20 minutes, Currie were sitting pretty with three tries in the bag and a 17-0 lead. At that stage, most newcomers to Kelso might have been imagining a comfortable Currie win, but those who have watched this resilient side defeat play-off contenders Marr, Musselburgh and Edinburgh Accies, draw with Heriots and run Hawick close, knew this game was far from over.
In fairness, Currie handed them a way back into the game with two yellow cards in two minutes, and Kelso needed no second invitation, scoring twice and adding a third try on half-time to send the teams inside level. A third Currie yellow in the second half was similarly exploited and Kelso proved they have learned how to manage a game when in front, to run out deserved winners.
Currie assistant coach Ally Donaldson admitted: “Obviously we had a fantastic start but the yellow cards were a huge factor. We knew if Kelso got momentum they’re difficult to stop, and they got that when we were down to 13 men. But you can see at the end with just five points in it, and we had chances we didn’t take, that it was fine margins.”
Asked about his disappointment with ill-discipline, he shook his head. “The yellow cards were fair calls, and in the heat of the moment these things happen. Thats just rugby – I’m not putting any blame on the players for that. Kelso are a good side, especially at home, and I thought that we stood up and were counted. We’re still in the fight. Our fate is in our own hands to get a home semi-final.”
Kelso have tried not to allow themselves to think of play-offs, having come up from the National Leagues hoping just to ensure they did not make a swift return. But with Heriot’s and Edinburgh Accies losing, it’s now the main talking point at Poynder.
Dwain Patterson had an uncharacteristic off-day with his goal-kicking, slotting one from four on an admittedly windy day, but his running and passing skills and superb kicking from hand relieved pressure and turned it on Currie at key moments.
He admitted: “At 17-0 down it was quite a deficit and not what we wanted, but we always believe in ourselves at home. When we get go-forward and get the crowd behind us at Poynder it is quite special. We are having to work on getting that when we’re away from home.
“The support we have is brilliant and we are so grateful to them for it. No game in this league is easy and we now have to go to Riverside and play Jed, who will be looking to take our scalp, and then we have to go to Balgray and Hawks are a tough team to beat. It’s still one game at a time but yes, the aim is definitely the play-offs now.”
It is easy to underestimate the value of a crowd, but Currie prop Thomas Jeffrey should have known how his winding up of Kelso players – with ‘come on’ gestures – would have got them going. A Peebles boy, whose family grew up near Kelso, he was certainly up for the fight, but the more things didn’t go Currie’s way, debatable penalty calls going against them and mouthing off costing ten metres, the more the crowd roared, and ensured referee Sam O’Neil heard them at every ruck. The penalty count was heavily in Kelso’s favour, but most could not be argued with as the home side set about knocking Currie back and building momentum. But the players should thank the Poynder crowd for their part in that.
After wing James McCaig collected a great Forbes kick to the right wing and ran in, No 8 Sam Cardosi finished a great team score started by Roy Vucago from halfway and left wing Ryan Daley appeared on the right to finish off a flowing attack, Currie were flying. Kelso had also lost key ball carrier Liam Tait, and would lose another main man Keith Melbourne to injury at half-time, but when Charlie Brett took out Patterson in the air and saw yellow, Kelso sensed their chance to change the momentum of this match.
The visiting scrum-half Gregor Christie was unlucky to be sin-binned for a deliberate knock-on as he tried to intercept, and Kelso really put the foot down.
The backs were key to setting up field position, but struggled to finish throughout the 80 minutes, and so the forward pack stepped up. Bruce McNeil started the comeback by picking up at the back of a scrum and charging over from close range. Skipper Frankie Robson then followed suit on 34 minutes, shunning an overlap to batter through to the Currie line and touch down, and after a concerted period of pressure, with Currie back to full strength, Kelso finished the half with a third score from prop Terry Logan from his favourite one-metre range.
Currie started the second half brightly but couldn’t find the finishing touch, and settled for three points from a penalty to nudge ahead. However, when a period of Kelso attack brought about a yellow card for flanker Rhys Davies, after 54 minutes, the hosts seized their chance again, hooker Euan Knox scoring off one of many fine line-out mauls.
Brett had a fine break for Currie, but, typifying the visitors’ luck, the ball was lost forward after the tackle, while a dropped pass by James Thompson proved a let-off for the Chieftains at the other end.
The game tightened up in the final quarter, and either side could have won it, but one moment separated the sides at the finish – a superb Archie Barbour kick downfield and fine chase, that caught Forbes in his own 22, and forced a penalty, which Patterson kicked. And a famous Kelso comeback was greeted by deafening roars.
Kelso: A Barbour; J Thompson, D Patterson, F Robson, R Tweedie; M Hastie, A Tait; G Shiells, E Knox, T Logan, E Thompson, K Melbourne, L Tait, C Brown, B McNeil. Subs (all used): A McGregor, A Asante, M Woodcock.
Currie Chieftains: C Brett; J McCaig, I Sim, DJ Innes, R Daley; J Forbes, G Christie; J Ramsay, R Stewart, G Carson (172), C West, A Bain, R Davies, R Vucago, S Cardosi. Subs (all used): T Jeffrey, K Street, A Fletcher, C Lessels, C Beckett.
Referee: S O’Neill.
Kelso: Tries: McNeil, Robson, Logan, Knox; Con: Patterson; Pen: Patterson.
Currie Chieftains: Tries: McCaig, Cardosi, Daley; Con: Forbes; Pen: Forbes.
Scoring sequence (Kelso first): 0-5; 0-10; 0-15; 0-17; 5-17; 10-17; 17-17 (h-t) 17-20; 22-20; 25-20.
Yellow card –
Currie Chieftains: Brett (20 mins), Christie (22 mins), Davies (54 mins).
Man-of-the-Match: There were candidates on both sides with Jamie Forbes the main threat for Currie at fly-half and full-back later in the game, while the home pack were outstanding. But one player just getting better and better for Kelso is second-row Euan Thompson. The 24-year-old, who joined from Berwick in the summer with his brother James, is not a flashy player, but runs straight, is solid in the tight, has a great work-rate, and he was central to Kelso’s victory.
Talking point: Discipline! Currie’s two yellow-cards were key to the game in the first half and we’ll never know if Kelso could have come back from a 17-point deficit had the visitors kept 15 men on the field. But after referee Sam O’Neill had warned them early in the second half the third, for offside as a team yellow, proved to be the final nail in their coffin.