KIRKCALDY 39 DUMFRIES SAINTS 12
A comprehensive win against their nearest challengers took the Blues six points clear at the top of the National 2 table. In the first game between the teams at Park Farm last September, Saints proved to be the most accomplished outfield that Quintan Sanft's side faced in the first half of the season. This all action performance more than made amends for that loss and it also showed that the Kirkcaldy team, even with three regular forwards absent, is now a match for anyone in the division but can more than hold their own in a higher tier.
Although this was far from a one man show the return of centre Josh Laird, off with an injury since the start of the season in August, brought an extra dimension to the back line. Quite apart from the three tries of his own his slick handling, keen positional sense and pace brought out the best in his team mates.
The Blues had far from their own way for significant portions of the game, especially in the third quarter when the Saints were still within touching distance. Strong defensive efforts by both forwards and backs kept Dumfries from adding to their two first half tries. There was a phase when the Blues were hardly out of their 22 but still kept their line intact with some telling defensive support work.
Towards the end of the game Saints seemed to have run out of power with a lessening of their earlier intensity which allowed the Blues to round off their day's work with ten deserved and unanswered points.
Forwards coach Kenny Fraser had little doubt as to where the basic strength of this team lies. “Everyone had bought into the style Quinny and I want the team to play and are singing from the same hymn sheet. They are all playing for each other and this really showed up when we were under a bit of pressure after half time. Although we are six points ahead at the top of the table there can be no easing up. We still have to play a lot of good sides in the weeks to come and today's intensity cannot be lessened”
Kirkcaldy could not have made a more positive start with the kick off ball being taken cleanly and both Finlay Bruce and Rhys Bonner running hard to win a penalty in their opponents' half. Twice the resulting line-out maul was held but at the third chance scrum half Gavin McKenzie slipped the ball to Laird who skilfully cut inside to touch down almost untouched for a try converted by Finlay Smith. Saints showed no signs of buckling after this early reverse with their dangerous back line threatening when in possession. After Jordan Kerr had missed a penalty they made the most of quick scrum ball for flanker Gavin Wilson to race away for his side's first try which remained unconverted.
The Blues in possession were always confronted by solid defence and for a while play kept between the two 22 metre lines. They were then handicapped when Dayle Turner had to spend 10 minutes in the bin but even when short handed showed their capabilities in attack which produced a second converted Laird try in the 20th minute. Then for a second time there was a quick Saints response with a steady build up through ten phases leading to a try from Ryan Cruickshank converted by Kerr.
Around the half hour mark and with the Blues restored to full strength the home team upped the pace. For the remainder of the first period they were generally in charge and thoroughly deserved both a Smith penalty and a Greg Wallace try, again converted by Smith This made the score 24-12 which remained until half time.
After Laird had his hat-trick try with 43 minutes gone the Kirkcaldy lead extended to seventeen points the game was far from over. The Blues were now required to dig deep into their defensive resources as Saints launched what was their final bid to rescue something from the game. Excellent team work had to tame a series of Dumfries attacks before any semblance of an attacking game could be restored.
A second Smith penalty and a last gasp Turner try rounded off a first class Kirkcaldy performance which now must encourage thoughts of promotion among supporters at least, if not in the coaching team who continue to preach the one by one route and warn of potential pitfalls if there is any deviation from the game plan.
Kirkcaldy:- F Smith, F Bruce, J Laird, I Gillies, O Bonner, C Letham, G McKenzie, D Jennings, G Wallace, M Salt, C Wood, S Mitchell, J Pow, R Bonner, Turner
Replacements- G Queen, S Evans R Low, S McKervaill
Dumfries Saints:- J Steele, K Henderson J Carlisle, K Jones, A Whiteford, J Kerr, J Johnston, T Prentice, S Goodwin, J Clyde, A Jackson, R Cruickshank. G Wilson, F Millar
Replacements:- D Boyd, M McClatchey, B Johnstone, R Greenshields
Iain Morrison (SRU)
3 Josh Laird
2 Rhys Bonner
1 Finlay Smith
17 Connor Wood
15 Dayle Turner
10 Rhys Bonner
9 Finlay Smith
6 Greg Wallace
3 Scott Anderson, Danny Jennings, Craig Letham, Josh Laird
2 Marcus Salt. Owen Bonner, Michael Harper
1 Matt Harvey, Iain Gillies