January 29, 2024
Premier League – Match 16: 27.1.24. A View from the Touchline
Kelso 25 pts (t 4, c 1, p g 1) v Currie Chieftains 20 pts (t 3, c 1, p g 1)
The occasional ray of sunshine brightened a mild, blustery day, but Border weather, like their rugby, can never be taken for granted. During the past couple of seasons Poynder Park has tested the mettle of many visiting teams, and with a winning balance of experience and youth in their ranks, Kelso have established themselves in the Premier League. This looked like a tough mission for the Chieftains, who frequently struggle in a hostile wintry setting at Border venues.
Ground conditions were not perfect, but it was sufficiently firm for the visitors to move the ball wide and hopefully avoid a wrestling match with the beefy opposition. Kelso’s line speed was impressively quick, but after 5 minutes the experienced Jamie Forbes found a way through their solid defence. Following Ryan Stewart’s rampage into Kelso territory, a perfectly placed chip-kick from Jamie Forbes bounced into the hands of James McCaig who accelerated for the corner.
Although the try was not converted, the Chieftains had quietened the vociferous locals. Just minutes later, Rhys Davies and Jacob Ramsay set up another stunning attack which involved most of the team and went the length of the pitch; Sam Cardosi touched down for a second unconverted try. This certainly was an exceptional opening period of play which threatened embarrassment for the home team, and more surprises quickly followed. Before the end of the first quarter, Ryan Daley had looped from his left-wing position to take a scoring pass on the right; this time Charlie Brett was on target, and the Chieftains had a comfortable 17-point lead.
From this point forward however, the perfect start went disastrously wrong. Charlie Brett, chasing a long, high probing kick, misjudged his timing, and unfortunately caught an opposition player in mid-air. The tackle looked far worse than it was, but quite correctly warranted a yellow card. For the first time in the match, Kelso were sniffing at the Currie goal-line. From the resulting penalty lineout, a series of rolling mauls battered the Chieftains’ resolute defence, and when it looked as if the initial danger had been cleared, another catastrophe hit. Gregor Christie perfectly read Kelso’s intentions from a set scrum near halfway; he went to intercept a blindside backrow move, and it looked as if a poorly directed pass hit his body, but the home crowd, and officials saw it differently. In a space of 2 minutes the visitors were reduced to 14 men, and the home side, plus their enthusiastic vociferous supporters smelled blood. In the remaining 15-minute period before halftime, Kelso’s marauding muscular approach had Currie by the throat, and three tries plus a conversion turned the match on its head. The gallant Chieftains defence did their utmost to repel the tidal onslaught, and they managed to make halftime with the scores level. Halftime score Kelso 17 pts, Currie Chieftains 17 pts.
The Chieftains started the second half as they did the first, but the home defence had noticeably tightened up. After a period of pressure deep in the Kelso 22, with the opposition successfully slowing the breakdown ball, Currie went for the offside penalty points. Although they had regained a slender lead, this was the last time that the visitors got anywhere near the home teams 22. Buoyed by their effective defensive display, Kelso went on the attack playing to their strengths. Their rolling mauls edged closer to the Currie line, accompanied by a rising number of Currie penalties. When Rhys Davies was sent to the sinbin on 15 minutes, the writing was on the wall. Kelso’s converted bonus point try soon followed, and Currie were on the back foot for the remainder of the game. Long penetrating touch kicks and driving mauls squeezed the life out of the Chieftains’ ambitions, and a further penalty goal sealed the Chieftains’ fate.
I.J.S. - 29.1.24.