HAMILTON 18 KIRKCALDY 24
Pre-match, this game at Laigh Bent was regarded as possibly the Blues toughest assignment of the season. Relegated last spring, the Lanarkshire side have been going well in National 2 and most observers considered them as favourites for a quick return to the higher division. The Blues would also have memories of a 98-12 hammering on their last visit to Hamilton.
There may be slicker back lines in National 2 this season with the Blues heavily dependent on an excellent pack but there is steel throughout this Kirkcaldy outfit. Post match, Director of Rugby Mark Henderson, in summing up this performance, declared “We came strong in the last quarter against a good side, again emphasising our fitness. They played some good rugby and had the better of possession but what we had in abundance was heart and it was heart that won the game for us.
Early running showed a confident home side, comfortably handling the ball and making good use of their possession. The Blues had initially defended a 10 metre line-out before the ball went out to the right with the Kirkcaldy backs drawn infield Hamilton had space out wide to give Alistair Howatson space to go in for the opening try and a 5-0 lead.
The Blues were finding it hard to get into the game and most of their energies were devoted to defensive duties in the first phase of the game. By the end of the first quarter however the Blue forwards were beginning to make their presence felt and following some powerful mauling Gavin McKenzie chipped through for Finlay Smith to score the first Kirkcaldy try.
Whenever Hamilton had the ball danger loomed for the Blues and there were several incisive defensive efforts, particularly in the back row, to keep their line intact. After a competitive first half Hamilton only managed to add a penalty from Owen McLeish to their tally which took the score to 8-5 at the break.
Apart from that first half penalty, Hamilton’s McLeish did not not have a good day from the tee with only one success from five attempts. He had a miss early in the second half and also failed to improve his side’s second try from winger Ross Inglis which had the Blues trailing 13-5 after 50 minutes.
To have lost another try at this stage could well have been fatal for the Blues but they revved up their engine through several gears and by the end had thoroughly subdued their hosts. A Greg Wallace try converted by Craig Letham narrowed their deficit to a single point but most of all the initiative had swung Kirkcaldy’s way.
Even although Alan Wilson had a third unconverted Hamilton try and a 18-12 lead the Blue battlers were far from downhearted despite being plagued by several injuries. In the last fifteen minutes Kirkcaldy clearly had the upper hand, winning every 50/50 ball and tackling with venom. Owen Bonner’s try converted by Letham put Kirkcaldy ahead for the first time at 19-18 with five minutes remaining.
Hamilton had led for over 70 minutes and they were determined not to let the points slip away. Any Kirkcaldy error could easily could have been disastrous but they superbly controlled both possession and territory so denying their hosts. Icing was added with a bonus point try from the industrious Dayle Turner who came through several injuries to cap a match winning performance.
Hamilton:- A Wilson, J Howatson, R Jamieson, M Wallace, R Inglis, O McLeish, L Bell, C McLaughlin, D McGrath, D Carr, R Butcher, G Jones, G Brodie, C Craig, P Dunnachie
Replacements:- R McQueen, G Richardson, J White, B Plant
Kirkcaldy:- F Smith, F Bruce, I Gillies, O Bonner, R Low, C Letham, G McKenzie, D Jennings, G Wallace, G Mangalo, M Harper, C Wood, S Barclay, R Bonner, D Turner
Replacements:- M Salt, M Harvey, S McKervaill, S Anderson
R Campbell (ERRS)
Fife Trophy Centre STAR CHECK
3 Dayle Turner
2 Greg Wallace
1 Craig Letham
17 Connor Wood
15 Dayle Turner
8 Rhys Bonner, Finlay Smith
6 Greg Wallace
3 Scott Anderson, Danny Jennings, Craig Letham
2 Marcus Salt. Owen Bonner, Michael Harper
1 Matt Harvey, Iain Gillies