|KIRKCALDY 32 PERTHSHIRE 30
Craig Letham celebrates his match-winning penalty kick
The lead changed hands seven times in the course of this gripping relegation battle at Beveridge Park which was only settled with a Craig Letham penalty in the eighth minute of added time. Four times ‘Shire had come from the behind and they seemed to have secured the winning points from full back Andy Whitelaw’s try with over five minutes overtime played. However, the Blues stuck to their task, following up the re-start ball in numbers, to force the visitors to concede the deciding penalty in front of their posts.
Kirkcaldy had to thank the effort of the pack for this priceless win. Tight head George Mangalo came back to his best form with three tries while Shaun Orr at lock dominated the touch line. By the middle of the second half, the home forwards were exerting so much pressure that they turned almost every Perth scrummage put-in. At the mauls, too Kirkcaldy controlled matters and with these advantages, the game should have been a stroll for the Blues. In the second half particularly most of the worthwhile possession came Kirkcaldy’s way.
‘Shire’s strength lay in their pacy back line which exploited every Kirkcaldy defensive weakness. Too often, the home backs were drawn out of position by slick passing and the timely intrusions of full back Andy Whitelaw. The Perth 15 had a real field day with three of his side’s four tries, including the one, which seemed to have settled the issue in stoppage time.
The opening stages of the game were far from distinguished with errors galore and fifteen forgettable minutes had gone before Perth centre Dominic O.Connor kicked the first points. Kirkcaldy showed some initiative with a Kurt Littlejohn interception taking the ball into the ‘Shire 22. However the home side were giving away too penalties to sustain any real momentum.
Signs of things to come however arrived in thirty one minutes with a powerful scrummaged penalty letting Mangalo force his way over for an unconverted try. ‘Shire responded quickly with some slack tackling giving space on the left for Whitelaw to score the first of his tries. The visitors’ advantage was further extended to 11-5 from a second O’Connor penalty.
George Mangalo roars with delight after securing a hat-trick of tries
Still smarting from these reverses the Blues regrouped, forcing the Perth pack into a swift retreat and then sending out a smart ball for Jamie Moffat to score in th corner. Moffat failed with the conversion, leaving the half time score 10-11.
Back in the Kirkcaldy team after a two year absence, winger Jamie Watson whenever he had the ball was tying in the ’Shire defence and through his effort Kirkcaldy won a penalty kicked to touch about 10 metres out. Orr took the throw to set up the maul from which Mangalo drove over for a third Kirkcaldy try, converted by Moffat.
The Blues were now showing much more urgency but had set back four minutes later when lack of concentration allowed Matt Rae to outstrip the Kirkcaldy defence and with O.Connor potting the conversion, ’Shire regained the lead at 18-17.
Mid way through the half the Kirkcaldy pack were bossing both the scrummages and rucks/mauls, stealing virtually every Perthshire put-in. They had a chance to narrow the leeway with a penalty in front of the posts but incredibly chose to go for touch only to knock on at the subsequent line-out. However, a Kirkcaldy score wasn’t long delayed with Craig Wilson, just off the bench, scoring a trademark rampaging try for a Kirkcaldy lead once more.
Eighty minutes had now been played but with several long injury stoppages, a prolonged extra period was inevitable With almost five of these played Perthshire snatched what seemed to be the winner with Whitelaw again on the mark. His kick failed and his side remained one point in front.
Well into the final quarter the game was there for Kirkcaldy to win but once more concentration dipped for Whitelaw to skip through a for a try converted by himself. ‘Shire were in front once more at 23-22 but the Kirkcaldy pack still hade the resolve to hit back once more . Yet another mauled ball from a five metre lineout gave the impetus fro Mangalo to barge through. Craig Letham who had just come off the bench slotted the conversion from well out and Kirkcaldy regained the lead yet again.
Craig Wilson en route to a try which put The Blues back in front
One mighty Kirkcaldy forward effort however turned the tide again. From the re-start, the Blues took play down the middle of the park, winning a penalty on the 22 and fairly close to the posts. As Letham’s kick sailed between the uprights, the forty eighth minute of the half passed and immediately the referee blew for no side.
This may not have been classic rugby but the game developed its own excitement.. The ‘Shire backs may claim to have been hard done by but this day belonged to the Kirkcaldy forwards.
K Littlejohn, J Moffat, C Mann, M Wallace, J Watson, C Harvey, G McKenzie, W Gray, G Wallace, G Mangalo, S Orr, S Porter, D Turner, R van Rensberg, L Neilson. Replacements: - R Girdler, C Wilson, C Letham, C Littlejohn
A Whitelaw, T Pople, D O’Connor, M Smith, K Doe, S Imo,, A Elder, R Haggart, R Dougan, J Forrester, S Forsyth, F Driom, J Wade, R Kelso, R Elley Replacements: - D Lewis, G Brockbank, D Scott, M Rae REFEREE
G Corry (Gala Wanderers)
3 Shaun Orr
2 George Mangalo
1 Greg Wallace
22 Harvey, 14 M Wallace, 11 Orr, 10 Neilson, 9 Turner, 6 G Wallace, 5 Porter, 4 Letham, 3 Mann, Littlejohn, Gray, Mangalo, 2 Fisher, Girdler, Thomson, Brooksbank, Guthrie, 1 Oliver, Harper, Wilson, McKenzie,. Welsh