Strathaven P5 travelled the considerable distance and two-hour journey time to the annual invitational Kelso Tournament on Sunday 18th March. Ten teams were playing in two pools of five with the winners playing-off in a final. Seven boys made it to the start of the first game so a slightly under-strength squad from other P5 fixtures this season. The weather was perfect for mini rugby and the pitches at Poynder Park were in very good condition.
Strathaven P5 were in Pool 1 up against some giants of Borders rugby, Jed-Forest, Selkirk, Gala and Hawick. Pool 2 consisted of Kelso, Berwick, Marr, Melrose and Duns. All games were ten minutes long with no half-time.
The first game kicked-off at 1100 hrs against Jed-Forest, a bigger team than Strathaven in size. Jed opened the scoring after two minutes and again after four to take a 2 - 0 lead. Shaun Adam made a great darting run down the right wing to the corner flag but was just bundled into touch a metre from the try-line. Another Shaun move with some good support play down the left-wing again ended in the ball going into touch a metre from the try-line with some stout Jed defending. A great tackle by Lucas Blair on a Jed player five metres from the try-line saved another score. Six minutes in and Shaun scored Strathaven's first try, linking with Lucas in a run down to the left corner. Matthew Dixon levelled the score with a strong run through several Jed players. Jed scored two tries in the seventh and eighth minutes to go 4 - 2 up. A typical weaving run from Andrew Robertson almost resulted in a score by Rory Mullen after an offload in the tackle but the ball was knocked forward just a few metres from the Jed try-line. In the dying seconds of the game Luke Kennedy made a heroic tackle on a lad twice his size saving another Jed try.
Final Score Jed-Forest 4 - 2 Strathaven
The second game was against Selkirk, another team with bigger players, seemingly the norm for the day, and kicked-off at 1130 hrs. Almost immediately Selkirk were powering into the Strathaven half; another great tackle form Luke Kennedy two metres from the try-line saved an early score. A minute later and Shaun Adam opened the scoring with a trademark darting run, taking a tackle on the line but still managing to get the ball down to score. Seconds later in the next play and Selkirk scored with a very fast run from their pace-player into the right hand corner. This was the quickest runner we saw on the day out of any team. A minute later and they scored again to take the lead but Lucas Blair scored for Strathaven in the sixth minute to level things again. Another quick turnaround and Selkirk were in the lead again with a run from half-way with a few missed tackles from the Strathaven boys allowing the opposition too much freedom. Another weaving run from Andrew Robertson linking up with Tom O'Hara down the centre left almost led to a score but some tight defending by Selkirk prevented it. Two minutes left and Lucas Blair scored to level it again but a minute later Selkirk scored in the right hand corner to end the match 4 - 3.
Final Score Selkirk 4 - 3 Strathaven
The third game kicked-off at 1150 hours against Gala with Strathaven down to just six players for this game. Gala opened the scoring straight away with some good running supporting play. Lucas Blair saved another try from Gala with a great tackle five metres from the try-line and was bundled into touch himself in the same place in the Gala half. Stout defending from Strathaven, with Luke Kennedy again tackling hard, wasn't enough and Gala scored near the halfway point to go two up. A strong run down the middle from Tom O'Hara almost led to a try but he was tackled a few metres from the line. Fortunately he managed to offload the ball to Lucas Blair to score Strathaven's first try on the sixth minute. Immediately after this Gala scored again to go two up once more. A determined run by Luke Kennedy almost led to another try but the game ended 3 - 1. This was a frustrating game to watch as Gala repeatedly attacked early at the restarts on several occasions being on the scrum-half before he'd even let go of the ball. Adherence to the 5m rule at restarts seemed to be fairly lax and both of these infringements really killed much of the attacking opportunities at the restart for Strathaven.
Final Score Gala 3 - 1 Strathaven
The last game kicked-off at 1210 hrs against Hawick. This was a closer game on the field than the others and the first score took until the fourth minute with a Hawick try. A minute later and they had almost scored again but for a lovely tap tackle on the ankle of the Hawick player by Andrew Robertson. Lucas Blair almost scored after a link-up with Andrew but was tackled into touch five metres from the line. Some good passing and possession play from Matthew Dixon and Rory Mullen almost led to another try. Hawick scored again to take the lead but Strathaven clawed one back with a Lucas Blair try after mopping up a loose ball. Minutes from the final whistle saw moves from Andrew and Luke Kennedy almost even the score but Luke took a bad knock and had to come off; fortunately Sam Howie had just arrived moments earlier and was able to come on for his first play on the day. Literally seconds later and Sam managed to score a try after a ruck in the left hand corner, taking the ball in a pick-and-go to level the score with one final play left. A real super-sub. Sadly Hawick used their restart well and powered down the left wing through a few missed tackles to score the winning try on the final whistle.
Final Score Hawick 3 - 2 Strathaven
Squad for the day Andrew Robertson, Lucas Blair, Luke Kennedy, Matthew Dixon, Rory Mullen, Sam Howie, Shaun Adam and Tom O'Hara.
Man of the Match for Strathaven was Luke Kennedy for demonstrating a huge improvement in his tackling from Saturday training the day before. Excellent work.
Overall this was a good experience for the boys against some well-established Borders clubs. The matches were half normal length at only ten minutes and the day was over all too quickly after such a long journey. The boys put up a decent performance against stronger teams with some really good players amongst them, and they were easily the smallest side physically. Some harder work in training on the key basics of tackling and passing along with more use of space by everyone could see Strathaven P5 beat these teams.