GHA 50 Kelso 41
An extremely busy Braidholm welcomed the visitors from the Borders. A tremendous amount of forward planning and organising by club stalwarts to prepare for the Annual Fireworks Display was taking place as a back drop to this fixture. Kelso had lost narrowly to Edinburgh Accies last week and arrived in confident mood. GHA were determined to put the disappointment of defeat at Selkirk behind them. Captain Andrew Goudie was deemed unfit to play which meant the home side had to reorganise their back line. Both sides prepared carefully as the weather improved to provide a wintry sun. A strong wind blew across a heavy pitch.
Kelso kicked off but a high angled kick by Craig Dods went straight out which gave the home side a scrum on half way. From the scrum Ben Addison and Sean Murray made a determined break for the line which was stopped deep inside the Kelso half. The visitors gave away a penalty and a kick to touch brought play up to the Kelso five metre line. From the resulting forward dive Michael Scott went over to great acclaim from the home support. Ross Findlay converted to make the score after three minutes: GHA 7 KELSO 0.
The visitors steadied themselves and began to move the ball across the pitch probing for gaps in the home side’s rearguard. Kelso forced the home side back as they attacked into the GHA half. A penalty was awarded to Kelso just outside the GHA twenty two metre line and Craig Dods converted to make the score after ten minutes: GHA 7 KELSO 3. The home side attacked from the restart and breaks by Ben Addison and Max Mcfarlane were causing problems in the Kelso defence. The home side were putting together some powerful forward drives before channelling quality ball to the eager backs forcing Kelso to defend desperately. Kelso won the ball in the loose just inside their half only to have the ball turned over by the rampaging home forwards. Following a knock on a scrum was awarded to GHA. The referee after several resets awarded a penalty to the home side adjudging the Kelso side to have twisted the scrum. Max MacFarlane put the ball into touch inside the Kelso twenty two metre line. From the resulting catch and drive James Sutherland went over to score . The conversion failed and the score after fifteen minutes was: GHA 12 KELSO 3.
Seitaro Usuda gathered the restart and drove towards the opposition. As the ball was fed back a wayward kick gave possession to Kelso and strong tackles by Scott Carson and Andrew Spowart slowed the progress of the visitors. However Kelso moved the ball across the pitch with speed and accuracy and despite an excellent late tackle by Cameron King, Josh Irvine did just enough to get the ball over the line. The conversion was missed and the score after twenty minutes was: GHA 12 KELSO 8.
Play centred around the middle of the pitch as both defences blunted any breakthroughs. However in a superb break out, Adam Kerr made yardage deep into the Kelso half and placed a perfect pass to Seitaro Usuda who was up in support. The try was converted by Ross Findlay and the score was now after twenty four minutes: GHA 19 KELSO 8. This set back clearly affected the visiting side who struggled to hold back an increasingly confident home side. GHA were awarded a penalty for offside inside the Kelso ten metre line and in a quick thinking move, Max MacFarlane ran through the startled Kelso back line and scored under the posts despite several despairing attempts to stop him. The try was converted and the score after twenty nine minutes was GHA 26 KELSO 8.
As we approached the last ten minutes of the half Andrew Skeen who had been responsible for much of the quality ball going to the Kelso backs, saw an opportunity and squeezed in at the corner. The conversion was missed and the score was now: GHA 26 KELSO 13.
This score seemed to lift the visitors and as we approached half time, the home side had to work very hard to stymie several breaks from Blair Robertson and Paudie Lawlor. Half time arrived with the score: GHA 26 KELSO 13. It had been a pulsating first half with neither side able to pull away from their opponents. Despite scoring several tries, the home side would have to be wary of the ability of Kelso to find ways through the home defence.
Kelso began the second half in determined mood and an early incursion by Kelso forwards was stopped on half way by a huge tackle from Ross Angus. As always Ross throughout this match was doing a great deal of tidying in the loose and providing a solid platform for driving wedges with colleagues. Michael Scott and Scott Carson led the forward assault into the Kelso half and after excellent forward work as Kelso were forced on to the back foot Jamie McCarthy, went over as he tore through the visiting defence. Thus after two minutes of the half Ross Findlay’s conversion made the score GHA 33 KELSO 13.
To the casual onlooker this may have seemed to suggest that the visitors were out of the reckoning. However to the great credit of the visitors , they steadied and refused to accept that they were going to lose this match without an incredible effort. With that the visiting side attacked strongly, moving the ball with great speed and linking breaks by Ross Henderson and Sam Karlsen to the skillful passing of Andrew Skeen. In a flurry of activity, Kelso drove the home side back to their own twenty two metre line where Heino Gaiser gathered the ball and went in under the posts. The try was converted and the score after five minutes of the half was: GHA 33 KELSO 20. GHA returned to the front foot and several penalty awards allowed the home side to move into the Kelso twenty two metre area. Messrs Carson, Scott and Usuda were causing problems for the visiting defence and excellent ball retention allowed the home side to move into threatening positions. In one such move Seitaro Usuda worked his way through the despairing visiting defence and scored under the posts. Ross Findlay converted and the score after nine minutes of the half was: GHA 40 KELSO 20.
Kelso gathered the ball quickly after a somewhat loose punt into the visitors half. The home side had to look lively as Kelso moved the ball across the pitch to find space. Sean Murray was very unlucky to just fail to hold onto a pass he intercepted. Kelso were now running the ball back at GHA at every opportunity and they clearly believed that they could still rescue this match.A brilliant incursion by Andrew Skeen was just stopped on the GHA line but as the ball was recycled Josh Irvine went over to score to great acclaim from the visiting support. Craig Dods added the two points from the conversion and the score after seventeen minutes was: GHA 40 KELSO 27.
GHA were now having to defend as a resurgent Kelso attempted to put more points on the scoreboard.Kelso were awarded several penalties inside the GHA half and sensing that their scrum was in the ascendency elected to go for a scrum. Kelso recycled the ball quickly and Josh Irvine blasted in at the corner. A super conversion from a difficult angle brought the visiting supporters to their feet and made the score after twenty three minutes: GHA 40 KELSO 34. Play centred around the middle of the pitch as both sides sought to find a way through determined defences. As is his custom David Corbenici a tireless worker in the loose seized on an opportunity to strike through the Kelso defence and sprinted over the line to score. Ross FIndlay concerted to make the score on the half hour mark: GHA 47 KELSO 34.
Kelso regrouped and took the game straight back to GHA. GHA were forced on to the back foot as the spirited Kelso side continued to look to score. With just over five minutes remaining Kelso pressure told when Paudie Lawlor went over the line to score. Craig Dods converted and the score was now: GHA 47 KELSO 41. The match was now very tight and the outcome would depend on one mistake or excellent piece of play. Both sides threw everything into ensuring the outcome they wanted. The crowd felt the tension as the minutes ticked away. As we moved towards the final minute, GHA repulsed an attack by Kelso and forced play into the visitors half. Both sets of forwards fought fiercely for the ball realising full well that possession at this stage was vital. In the thirty ninth minute GHA were awarded a penalty and calmly Ross Findlay converted to make the score GHA 50 KELSO 41.
The referee blew for full time and both sets of players left the field to well deserved applause from the crowd. This had been a match where all participants had contributed to fast flowing rugby. GHA had been able to repel a spirited performance from the Kelso side and showed great calmness in those last hectic ten minutes.
GHA: C.KING, A.SPOWART, B.ADDISON, M.MACFARLANE, S.MURRAY, R.FINDLAY, J.PRESTON, S.CARSON, S.USUDA, M.SCOTT, A.KERR, J.MCCARTY, R.ANGUS, J.SUTHERLAND, D.CORBENICI – SUBS: D.EWING, T.BROGAN, E.HARDIE, G.BAIRD, G.MOLLISON
SCORERS: T – USUDA (2), CORBENICI, MACFARLANE, MCCARTHY, SCOTT, SUTHERLAND C – FINDLAY (6) P – FINDLAY
KELSO: R.COOK, I.SIM, P.HUME, G.MEIN, A.ROBERTS, C.DODS, A.SKEEN, S.KARLSEN, R.HENDERSON, B.ROBERTSON, P.LAWLOR, H.GAISER, K.WILSON, K.DRYDEN, J.IRVINE – SUBS: C.MARSHALL, C.GRAUR, K.COONEY, C.GILLON, P.EBAH,
SCORERS: T – IRVINE (3), GAISER, LAWLOR, SKEEN C – DODS (4) P – DODS
Referee: Mr G. Pounder
Photo Credit: Colin Robinso