BT National League Cup Final | Dumfries Saints defeat Kelso to lift inaugural cup
Dumfries Saints took on Kelso today (Saturday 21 April) in the BT National League Cup final at sun-drenched Lasswade.
The BT National League Division 2 side are in the mix for promotion and were evidently keen to make a statement to next season’s potential league opposition in the year’s first domestic cup final.
In the first half things very much went to plan for Saints, who scored three tries to one to give them a lead that would only grow by the end of the match.
The Borderers enjoyed the best of the early action winning a penalty which was pushed just wide before quick defence charged down a Saints clearance and left Angus Roberts to take the ball and run over unopposed. Mein converted to extend Kelso’s early lead.
Dumfries made sure that any allusions the opposition had of this being an easy game were put to bed with their first sustained attack. They rumbled forward into the Kelso 22 and were awarded a simple penalty for Jordan Kerr to slot to reduce the deficit.
From the restart they showed even more ambition. A number of nice half-breaks took them into the Borderer’s territory again and a penalty was sent down the line only to be lost forward in the backline.
The respite didn’t last long for Kelso, however, when an error gave the Division 2 side a promising line-out deep in opposition territory.
The set-piece worked well and a thunderous maul put Michael Scott over the line to give his side a slender lead, 8-7.
Dumfries had their tails up and continued to throw everything at Kelso with no small success. Most of the opening quarter was played in the Kelso half and the lead was stretched as persistent pressure created a gap for captain and man of the match Jack Steele to touch down from short range. This time Jordan Kerr made no mistake from the tee and Saints lead grew to eight.
Nearly half an hour had passed before Kelso started to find their feet with some sustained possession but even then it was not as long-lived as they would have hoped with a spill giving possession back to Saints as they approached the 22.
It would get worse still before the half was out as some clever stuff from Saints saw full-back Sam Hiddleston collect a delicate grubber and beat the last two players for pace to stretch the lead to 20-7.
Kelso would get another score on the board through the boot of Gregor Mein before the half-time whistle but it would be Saints who went into the break with the lead and some confidence to go with it.
Half Time | Dumfries Saints 20 – 10 Kelso
Kelso needed to strike first to keep the tie alive and, as the game started to open up, Ross Cooke was there to race through and touch down underneath the posts. The easiest of extras cut the gap to just three points.
As they had in the first period Saints looked to strike back quickly and scorer Hiddleston found a gap with just a man to draw to create the score. His pass was a little high and winger Keagan Jones couldn’t take it to hand to cancel out Kelso’s early second-half advantage.
They were nearly gifted a second chance to touch down when a slow pass saw Kelso’s clearance charged down in the try area. Saints were beaten by the dead-ball line but their commitment was looking like it would pay dividends.
Indeed, it was one-way traffic from then on in.
Hiddleston took his second score of the day after a break and perfectly timed pass from Steele put him over to give Dumfries a two-score advantage with a quarter to go.
No matter what the Borderers tried Saints were able to hold them off and with a little over ten to go Dumfries had some territory of their own.
They played patiently taking a number of phases on the Kelso line to work the gap for Gavin Wilson to score and put the game beyond their opposition.
Still Kelso attacked, searching for a dramatic late comeback, but on a day where they had scored five tries it was the committed and solid Dumfries Saints defence that would claim the inaugural BT National League Cup title.