Try: Paterson Pen: Aitchison
Half-time: 0-3 Attendance: 25,000
IMAGINE AN FA Cup final at Wembley between Manchester United and Newcastle with neither side allowed to field a single current international player. Welcome to the Tennent's Velvet Cup final at Murrayfield. The Scottish Rugby Union's decision to concentrate its resources on the two Super teams, Glasgow and Edinburgh, has left the club game north of the border in a state of apoplexy.
Despite Scotland's glorious triumph in the Five Nations' Championship Tennents, the Glasgow-based brewers, have called time on their sponsorship of the Scottish leagues even though the contract still has two years to run. Deprived of their leading players, the club scene has been downgraded to B movie status.
Thus in yesterday's Border skirmish between Kelso and Gala, there was not a Super Team player in sight although that did not stop Tennents from promoting the final by using caricatures of top Scottish internationals. Judging by this performance, which was not half as exciting as the build- up to the elections for the Scottish Parliament, you could hardly blame them.
Still, Gala did field Townsend and Weir, Craig, a centre and the older brother of Gregor, and Tom, a No 8, the younger sibling of Doddie. Added to that there was Michael Dods, who held the dubious privilege of being the only ex-international on show. The match winner, however, was the stand-off Chris Paterson, who shattered Kelso with the only try of the match in the 76th minute.
Paterson, a physical education student, provided one of the few velvet touches when Gala were presented with a penalty four minutes from time.
Having trailed almost throughout the match, they resisted the temptation of kicking for goal and instead worked the touch-line. The gamble paid off, but only just.
Gala barely managed to win the ensuing line-out inside the Kelso 22 and when Paterson peeled outside his centres he accelerated through a gap for the decisive score. For good measure he added a drop goal a minute from time.
Kelso, who have a reputation of being bridesmaids, yesterday managed to drop the bouquet again in front of a crowd of 20,400. Beaten in last year's final, they were also recently defeated by Gala for the second division championship although both clubs gained promotion.
Kelso's forwards controlled this match for long periods and could have extinguished Gala long before the end. After Graeme Aitchison had kicked a penalty in the second minute, Stewart Bennet managed to breach the Gala line but having done so failed to ground the ball properly. Similarly the prop Darren Howlett also crossed the line but he too was denied the score.
In addition, Aitchison failed with two other penalty attempts. For 74 minutes Kelso protected their 3-0 lead but in a game of furious tackling and frequent handling errors, they sorely missed their attacking full- back Kosie Alberts. The 23-year-old South African, who scored three tries in the demolition of Boroughmuir in the semi-finals, went into this match nursing a knee injury. And in the 11th minute, having barely touched the ball, he limped off.
Alberts had moved to Scotland from Pretoria because of limited opportunities in his home country. "I was in the Northern Bulls squad throughout the season last year," Alberts said. "And I only played three games in the Currie Cup and never got a game in the Super 12. I was just glad to get away from South Africa, go somewhere and play."
It is a refrain with which Scotland's clubs are familiar.
Kelso had no cutting edge, aside from the basic and more prosaic approach of their forwards. While Alberts returns to South Africa to resurrect his career, at least Kelso can look forward to next season in the first division although, with no sponsor, the game is still in a state of flux, nobody is quite sure what club rugby in the Millennium will entail.
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 Flemings, 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)