Premiership: Kelso kids see off Edinburgh Accies

Impressive crop of homegrown youngsters show that they have heeded the lessons of opening weeks in top flight

Kelso picked up a morale-boosting win over Edinburgh Accies at Poynder Park. Image: Charles Brooker
Kelso picked up a morale-boosting win over Edinburgh Accies at Poynder Park. Image: Charles Brooker

Kelso 32

Edinburgh Accies 22

DAVID FERGUSON @ Poynder Park

PLAYERS and coaches talk incessantly about ‘learning lessons’, but rarely do we see it in action in the way Kelso turned around this game and pushed themselves back into the middle of the Premiership table.

Against Selkirk the previous week, they seemed to have the game wrapped early in the second half but let their Border rivals back in and were left to rue errors as Selkirk deservedly claimed victory at the death. In this encounter, in front of another big crowd on a sunny afternoon at Poynder Park, they went in at the break 12-10 down despite enjoying good spells on top, only to find themselves 22-10 down ten minutes into the second half and the game seemingly gone.

But, then the lessons aready learned this young team’s first experience of the Premiership, came to the fore as they dug in with gutsy defence to prevent another decisive Accies score, before roaring back into the game. While the indefatigable Bruce McNeil and belligerent Irish lock Keith Melbourne were key figures up front, and the tactically astute Murray Hastie influential in the backs, what pleased the Kelso management was that it was the youngsters who led the fightback.


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At one stage the age of Kelso’s impressive two props, Angus McGregor (18) and Ashton Asanté (19), was less combined than that of their player-coach McNeil, and yet after four scrums in as many minutes, where the Accies pack was driven backwards, you wouldn’t have known. Archie Barbour (18) scored a crucial try in the second half, Dwain Patterson (22) kicked the vital conversions and penalty in swirling wind to clinch the game, Cammy Brown (22) at lock was everywhere, and, until he had to retire injured, 18-year-old Murray Woodcock had put in another impressive shift.

“That is what is really pleasing,” said co-coach Kevin Utterson. “It was gutting last week and that was a big win today. We worked hard to keep things positive this week, and we spoke of sticking to our game-plan, because then we’re dangerous.

“Accies came out of half-time, starved us of ball, and scored two good tries, and that was the key point for us. Archie at 19 ran down two kicks that were nothing kicks, and he chased and forced mistakes; young McGregor and Asante at prop, are stepping up; and guys like Dwain at 22 are senior players showing maturity, which is crazy.

“This will give them ,assive confidence because we’re showing we can compete with teams who have been in this league for a long time. A lot of teams would fold after those two tries in the second half, but we knew that just couldn’t happen after last week and credit to the boys, they pulled that back today brilliantly and thoroughly deserved the win.”

His counterpart with Accies, Iain Berthinussen, is nothing if not a phlegmatic character, and he agreed that the point when Accies held a 22-10 lead early in the second half was the key period in the game.

“There are only two teams in the league who’ve been ahead at half-time in every game, ourselves and Currie, and that’s been our mental block, I think. We came out of half-time and were very direct, scored two tries and were doing what we’d talked about, and then we seemed to think it was done and lost a bit of that directness, and didn’t play what was in front of us. We then conceded four penalties one after the other, which took us back into our half and then Kelso smelled blood I think. And that was the end of it, really. We conceded 22 unanswered points.

“We’re in a bit of a hole at the moment, missing a few boys with injuries, but we’ll get there. Boys will be better for the lessons here today, but we need to get back to winning, starting at Selkirk next week.”

Both teams came into this match with some residual anger from losing games they felt they could and should have won the previous week, and Kelso started the brighter, scoring after just three minutes. Hooker Euan Knox emerged clutching the ball from a line-out maul, but he owes plenty to young Woodcock for his turnover and line-out work, as well as Frankie Robson and Melbourne, for their strong running.

Accies looked a powerful side themselves when they kept ball in hand, props Cole Imrie and Arran Hain, centre George Woods and No 8 Jamie Sole making big dents in the home defence. Wing Kerr Gossman was held over the home line after a line-out maul, but a penalty was coming and the next attack ended with blindside Finlay Simpson rampaging like a bull through Hastie and almost taking out the Kelso posts as he crashed into them – aided by a ferocious tackle by Melbourne. The try was given, Simpson having touched the ball down, but both the Accies skipper and Melbourne were forced off injured. Appleson converted to give the visitors the lead after 12 minutes.

Appleson was clearly under orders to test the young Kelso back-three and his varied kicking certainly asked questions on a breezy day, some of which Kelso coped well with and some of which they didn’t. Robbie Chalmers had already served notice of his impressive counter-attacking threat, when, after 20 minutes, the full-back finished off a clinical Accies attack by diving between two tacklers to touch down.

Kelso’s pack brought them back into the game, driving Accies back in the scrum, and with Cammy Brown – a centre and back row in recent seasons, but now lock – showing great athleticism in the line-out, well supported by youngster Euan Thompson, the hosts were able to secure possession to keep them in the game.

It was an excellent line-out take by Brown that set up Kelso’s second try, on the half-hour mark, Accies initially defending the maul well only for McNeil to see a chink of light and dive into it over the Accies line.

When wing Hamish Tweedie and Terry Logan followed Woodcock and Melbourne, Kelso had four players off injured, and yet they finished the half the stronger and only fine Accies defending on their line denied Barbour from scoring in the right-hand corner and James Thompson in the left.

 

The picture changed very quickly after half-time when Accies launched into a powerful land-grab, camping in the home half from the whistle, and were relentless in their attack, forcing Kelso into submission in the shape of two tries finished off by wing Fraser Lindsay and openside Matt Walker, with a neat bit of opportunism.

They looked set for a third after a sublime break from halfway by scrum-half Paddy Ritchie, but this time Appleson opted for a crossfield kick and Gossman’s attempt to palm the ball to a teammate went forward.

And then this home side, perhaps conscious of the size of the crowd wiling them on and the pride felt in this small Borders town at their return to the Premiership after a 23-year absence, first showed defiance and no little rugby nous to stop the Accies from scoring again, then real grit and determination to recapture their grip of this game in a way they couldn’t manage the week before.

Melbourne returned to the fray and started the fightback with a well-taken try just before the hour. But it was the play that led to it which mattered, ambition shown by Kelso running from deep earning a succession of penalties, skipper Robson, Brown, Patterson and Andrew Sweenie all eating up yards with strong running, and a series of scrums winning a succession of penalties. Twice Accies players passed straight into touch in this period, gripped by panic or confusion.

You felt a Kelso score was coming and full-back Barbour scored it after a great flowing attack from left to right and back again, forwards and backs working well together. To add to Accies woes, they lost leading performer Sole to a yellow card as referee Calum Worsley, who had another good game, decided the penalty count had gone far enough.

The question now was would there be a final momentum shift, as Kelso had experienced the week before? A familiar face provided the answer, McNeil finishing off another concerted period of Kelso attack by diving over. Patterson showed great mental strength after an indifferent performance off the tee to step up and keep a cool head and unerring boot to convert both tries and add a fine penalty in a difficult wind to seal the 32-22 win.

 

Teams –

Kelso: A Barbour; H Tweedie, D Patterson, F Robson©, J Thompson; M Hastie, A Tait; A McGregor, E Knox, T Logan, C Brown, K Melbourne, L Tait, M Woodcock, B McNeil. Subs (all played): A Frame, A Asante, A Sweenie, E Thompson, M Wilson.

Edinburgh Accies: R Chalmers; F Lindsay, M Wallace, G Woods, K Gossman; B Appleson, P Ritchie; C Imrie, F McAslan, A Hain, C Bain, S Whittaker, F Simpson©, M Walker, J Sole. Subs (all played): G Hall, S Habin, A Inwood, B Grainger, S Wells.

Referee: Calum Worsley.

 

Scorers –

Kelso: Tries: Knox, McNeil 2, Melbourne, Barbour; Cons: Patterson 2; Pen: Patterson.

Edinburgh Accies: Tries: Simpson, Chalmers, Lindsay, Walker; Cons: Appleson.

Scoring sequence (Kelso first): 5-0; 5-5, 5-7, 5-12, 10-12 (h-t); 10-17, 10-22, 15-22, 20-22, 22-22, 27-22, 29-22, 32-22.

 

Yellow cards –

Edinburgh Accies: Sole.

 

Man-of-the-Match: Many contenders this week with Jamie Sole and Paddy Ritchie impressive for Accies, and Keith Melbourne, Bruce McNeil and teenage props Angus McGregor and Ashton Asante particularly outstanding in the home side, but it goes to Cammy Brown for a faultless all-action performance in the tight and loose.

Talking point: When Accies had their foot on the Kelso throat early in the second half, there was a sense they thought a 12-point lead was enough to win, and rather than stick with their forwards and one-out runners who’d had Kelso reeling, fly-half Ben Appleson opted for a crossfield kick which didn’t pay off. It might have sealed the deal on another day, but it didn’t on this one.


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About David Ferguson 20 Articles
David Ferguson has covered Scottish rugby for over 30 years. Starting out in the Borders with the Berwickshire News and Southern Reporter, where he was sports editor and also covered rugby for a wide variety of national newspapers, Radio Borders and BBC Scotland, David became editor of Scottish Rugby Magazine, working with then Managing Director Sean Lineen. David was then Chief Rugby Writer with The Scotsman for 14 years, during which time he covered club, professional and international rugby, including several Rugby World Cups and Lions tours. He started his own communications and media business in 2014, and has worked across a wide range of areas from Scottish and UK government to charities and corporate business, most recently as Chief Executive of the Observatory for Sport in Scotland, Scotland's only research think tank on sport.

4 Comments

  1. Should have a re-read of the ‘Man of the Match’ section, looking out for the errant ‘t’ shortly before Cammy Brown’s name 😊

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