Neither side could complain about their failure to take full points from this Championship B game. Chances were there, especially for YM who led 13-3 at half time while Kirkcaldy had the upper hand in the closing stages, but could not find a scoring route. The over riding feature of the game however was the whistle of Gala referee Colin Reavely who constantly mystified players with his decisions leading to yellow cards, reversed penalties and 10 metre penalty advances as frustration built up on both sides. Reavely didn't help himself by a constant failure to look behind to see backs advancing into offside positions or flankers breaking off early from scrums. All this left him facing a barrage of criticism from both on and off the field which was hardly conducive to a smooth conduct of the game.
YM came back to Kirkcaldy after an absence of twenty one years, now established as a force in Scottish rugby as they have climbed up the divisions from the basement to the top forty. This was very much reflected in their having won fifty of their last fifty three league games.
This game saw yet another reshuffled Kirkcaldy team as coach Quintan Sanft sought to find a winning formula. Coming back into the back line were Chris Mann and John Wilson, returning from injury while Colin Harvey continued at centre.
Kirkcaldy started well enough without being able to score and were boosted by YM hooker Ross Graham being binned. This led to a brief period of uncontested scrums. From a slow beginning YM crept into the game and even shorthanded posed a threat. They gained an advantage when Kirkcaldy ran offside on their own 22 to give Neil McCombe a penalty chance to make it 3-0. Worse was to befall the Blues four minutes later. Trying to protect the ball after a tackle Colin Harvey was not only penalised but sent to the bin for preventing release. YM kicked to touch and from the maul prop Garry Douglas barged over and McCombe converted for a 10-0 away lead.
Having ignored similar situations on two previous occasions Reavely at last penalised the Hawick backs for offside and this allowed Craig Letham to narrow the Kirkcaldy deficit. Ten minutes from half time YM were again on the attack but were stopped short of the Kirkcaldy line and penalised. A flurry of handbags followed before the referee stepped in and reversed the penalty, easily kicked by McCombe for a 13-3 YM lead which remained until the break.
Greg Wallace on the move in the midfield
The second half began spectacularly for the Blues. Centre Mark Wallace, in another outstanding display collected the kick-off ball dummied and broke before feeding winger Gavin Welsh who strode away from half way to touch down near the posts. The Blues followed that with another big surge led by hooker Greg Wallace, taking the ball from their own 22 to the other end of the field only to see the ball dropped in a scoring position.
There was a run of penalties against the Blues for about ten minutes but YM could not advance their score in this time. Almost as if the referee was reacting to crowd disapproval there followed a series of penalties in favour of the home side. One of which led to an equaliser from Letham. Few expected the score to remain at 13-13 for long such were the attacking instincts of both teams.
However the Blues could not call on their customary scrummage superiority as they let territorial gains slip away… Even so YM also carried a potent counterattacking instinct and the home defence had to be vigilant.
Their second half resurgence probably meant that the Blues saw this draw more as two points lost than two points gained. There is a growing confidence in the team and maybe their rewards will come sooner rather than later. As for YM they were pleased to hang at the end and maintain their place in the top four.
J Wilson, G Welsh, C Harvey, M Wallace, C Mann, C Letham, G McKenzie, M Thomson, G Wallace, S Orr, G Brooksbank, L Neilson, D Turner, M Harvey
Replacements: - G Mangalo, R Girdler D Guthrie, Q Sanft
G Kellington, N McCombe, J Hendrie, R Armstrong, M Graham, D McCracken, B Campbell, B Lilly, R Graham, G Douglas, B Thomson, S Mabon, C Robson, S Hill, R Hogg,
Replacements: - A Turnbull, A Williamson, G Wyllie, R McLeod
C Reavely (Gala)
2 Shaun Orr,
1 Dayle Turner
9 M Wallace
6 M Wallace
3 Mann, Littlejohn, G Wallace
2 Letham, Fisher, Girdler, Orr
1 Oliver, Harper, Wilson, McKenzie, Gray