HOWE OF FIFE 22 KIRKCALDY 23
In the final play at Duffus Park a stunning winning try from Kirkcaldy No 8 Rhys Bonner sealed a dramatic win for the Blues which for much of this game had looked highly unlikely. The game was in the fifth minute of added time when the Blues' decisive score arrived to shock the home support, who had just seen their side pull ahead 22-18 with a Shaun Gray try which at the time appeared to settle the game.
Forwards coach Kenny Fraser in a post match comment had no doubt that the better side won “After a poor start when they went 12-0 ahead we held the upper hand. Our forwards had the better of them and that really showed up in that final play. We played patiently through the phases time and again forced their mistakes. While they had four tries to our three overall we had the better of things territorially and kept our shape when they were in the lead”
This Kirkcaldy performance may have lacked some of the quality seen in earlier games but they had resilience in abundance against a team which confidently raced into a 12-0 lead in the ninth minute when the Blues hardly touched the ball.
The early omens indicated that this Howe team were prepared to move the ball at pace and exploit some less than satisfactory Kirkcaldy tackling. Flanker Callum Harris cut through the Blues' back line and forced a penalty kicked to touch. From the driving maul prop Ryan Hood drove over for a try converted by Gray. Almost before the visitors recovered their breath Howe extended lead with a second unconverted try from Connor Crawford.
For most of that opening quarter Howe dictated the terms of the game but gradually the Blues began to win some useful possession, although some of it was squandered by ill-judged kicking. Patience eventually paid off when centre Josh Laird saw a gap and went for the line, his try converted by Finlay Smith. The Howe lead narrowed to 12-10 shortly afterwards with Smith kicking a 20 metre penalty.
At his stage Kirkcaldy looked as if they would pull away but a lapse in concentration gave the Howe team an opening. A devastating counter-attack saw centre Duncan McIntyre win the touch after a spirited kick and chase which surprised the Kirkcaldy defence. With the conversion failing the Howe lead increased to 17-10.
This setback didn't deter the Blues and for much of the remaining time of the first half which ran on to 46 minutes . For almost three of these Kirkcaldy were camped around the Howe five metre line but failed to outsmart a bristling defence who eventually forced a knock on. The referee might have blown for half time but Howe spotted that the Kirkcaldy defence was up field in support of the pack and raced away from their own in-goal area and it took a desperate tackle to stop them in midfield.
Into the second half and the Howe lead looked increasingly fragile as the Blues' pack made its presence felt, especially in the set scrums. An unconverted Sean McKervaill try took the visitors to within two points of the Howe tally. The home error count mounted as this period went on. When the Howe backs went offside close to their posts on the hour mark Kirkcaldy went for goal with Smith the successful kicker once more. There were some in the Kirkcaldy camp calling for the penalty to be put in touch in pursuit of a try but sense prevailed and the goal kick put the Blues into the led for the first time.
Howe lost Eden Cruickshank to the bin but in his absence the Blues were regularly frustrated by solid Howe defending. All the time while on attack Kirkcaldy had to be vigilant with Howe capable of counter attacking from their own goal line.
With time running out most in the ground thought that the Blues would slip past with a single point victory. That was to be the case but in an amazing finale the game turned on its head twice.
Kicking from hand had been of a variable quality throughout but with less than two minutes left Howe's Gray won a long chase to the goal line for what appeared to be the winning try. The conversion failed leaving the Blues within a try of a win. Howe cheers had barely died down when the game took a final twist. By this time Kirkcaldy's Dayle Turner had been sent to the bin.
Kirkcaldy's character showed up in buckets full as they contested the final play. Howe gathered the ball only for scrum half Andrew Harley's kick to be charged down by Conar Littlejohn and regathered by the Blues. After retaining it through several phases, Smith's pass found Bonner near the touch line and he powered in for the decider.
Few Fife derbies of recent times have seen such dramatic changes of fortune and while Howe may bemoan the loss of the game and out scoring the visitors by four tries to three, it will have greater significance to Kirkcaldy who were able to advance their lead at the top of National 2 to eleven points with a game in hand over their nearest chasers. Another cause for satisfaction was this was the Blues first league win in Cupar since national competition began in 1973.
Kirkcaldy:- O Bonner, S McKervaill,I Gillies, J Laird, R Low, F Smith, G McKenzie,D Jennings, J Pow, M Salt, C Wood, S Mitchell, R Brown, D Turner, R Bonner
Replacements:- G Queen, M Harvey, J Moffat, C Littlejohn
Howe of Fife:- S Gray, B Mitchell, D McIntyre, W Ward law, E Cruickshank, R Aiken, A Harley, R Hood, C Crawford, C Redpath, J Thomson, R Milne, J Lawrie, C Harris, C Mann
Replacements:- J Holligan, A Steven, C Holburn
G Pounder (CRRS)
Fife Trophy Centre STAR CHECK
3 Connor Wood
2 Owen Bonner
1 Josh Laird
20 Connor Wood
12 Dayle Turner
10 Rhys Bonner
9 Finlay Smith
7 Josh Laird
4 Greg Wallace, Marcus Salt, Owen Bonner
3 Scott Anderson, Danny Jennings
2 Michael Harper, Craig Letham
1 Matt Harvey, Iain Gillies, Rory Brown