Rugby Union: Gala show is strictly small beer

Gala 8 Kelso 3

THE SCOTTISH Rugby Union displayed the Five Nations silverware at Murrayfield on Saturday, prompting Derek Brown, the president of the SRU, to remark: "Even when we see that trophy, we will not lose sight of the principle that club rugby is, and always will be, the sure foundation on which the game depends."

Aside from the fact that the Tennent's Velvet Cup final looked like a cross between hurling and shinty, the clubs, with little or no support from the SRU, have been screaming the same message. This was only the fourth cup final, and the last sponsored by Tennent's, who have cut and run with two years of their contract remaining. The Glasgow-based brewery has transferred pounds 2m to the Welsh Rugby Union and the World Cup, which hardly seems loyal to all those Scottish throats that swallowed two million pints of the stuff on Saturday alone.

The formation of the two so-called super teams, Glasgow Caledonians and Edinburgh Reivers, has left club rugby with the dregs. The cup final should be a spectacle between professional outfits, attracting not only the interest of the clubs involved, but also the floating voter. This was a domestic border skirmish between two Second Division amateur clubs and it showed.

Although the super team factor has undermined the first division teams, it has left the Borders buoyant. They enjoyed a clean sweep at Murrayfield, the Borders village Duns winning the Velvet Bowl, Jed-Forest the Shield and Gala the Cup.

There were tries galore in the curtain raisers, but for the National Velvet itself, cold porridge. Kelso, as the man in Dad's Army put it, seemed to be doomed... doomed. They lost the cup final last year and were beaten by Gala this season to the Second Division championship, although both are promoted.

Kelso gambled twice in the final and lost twice. Their South African full-back Kosie Alberts, who scored three tries in the semi-final against Boroughmuir, started the match with a heavily bandaged knee and limped off after 11 minutes. This not only persuaded Kelso to play virtually everything through their more powerful forwards, but Gala's spirits would have been raised to see the early departure of their opponents most attacking player.

Having kicked a penalty in the second minute, Kelso were very unlucky not to score a couple of tries, their outstanding flanker Stewart Bennet (an agronomist by trade) failing, by the width of a blade of grass, to touch down.

Kelso were settling for a 3-0 victory when, in the 76th minute, Chris Paterson looped outside his centres and found a gap to score the only try. A minute from time he added a drop goal. "All the Gala guys came up to us at the end and told us we deserved to win," Bennet said. "I'm afraid that didn't make us feel any better."

The Gala guys would not have said that had they lost. Gala stole the pie, and with it a cheque for pounds 20,000, but the sponsors millions have gone to Wales.

Gala: Tries Paterson. Drop goal Paterson. Kelso: Penalty Aitchison.

Gala: M Dods; G Parker, C Townsend, D Gray, K Amos; C Paterson, D Boland (G Robson, 55); A Johnston (G Easson, 62), S Scott, E Johnstone, R Gray (capt), N Hines, G Brown (P Harrison, 68), T Weir, J Amos.

Kelso: K Alberts (J Fleming, 11); S Ross, G Laing, K Utterson, D Baird; G Aitchison, G Cowe (capt); B Hogarth, K Thomson, D Howlett, S Rowley, C Rutherford (S Laing, 24), S Bennet, S Forsyth, D Rankin.

Referee: R Dickson (Madras FP).

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