KIRKCALDY 29 WEST OF SCOTLAND 19
Craig Letham's sweetly struck penalty in the penultimate play not only confirmed Kirkcaldy's 100% unbeaten home record in this season's BT National League 2 championship winning campaign but also consigned visitors West of Scotland to relegation.
West just needed to take a single point from this final game of the season, gained either by scoring four tries or coming within seven points of the winning side. When the referee whistled them up for a penalty 40 metres out with over three minutes of stoppage time gone their seven point deficit and salvation was about to be whipped away from them.
The Kirkcaldy co-captain Greg Wallace had a special cause for satisfaction prior to kick-off as he became the first Kirkcaldy player to take part in 250 league games in a career stretching back to 2002. A guard of honour from the Wee Blues, joined by the entire West squad, applauded the Kirkcaldy side as they took to the field. At the other end of the age span 17 year old Cameron Pilner made his first team debut on the left wing.
Director of Rugby Mark Henderson admitted that things hadn't gone as planned at the beginning “We had a slow start, giving away a soft try early on but came back well. They were playing for survival and I was delighted with our attitude, concentrating on winning the game. At the end there was some controversy about what we should do with the penalty, go for goal or put it into touch and hoping to drive on for a try. We could have lost the ball and they could have gone the length of the field and could have drawn the game. The goal option was the best for us, no doubt about that. West had given their all and that penalty may have relegated them but our job was to make sure we won with maximum points” He was also full of praise for the two youngsters who made their league débuts “Cameron Pilmer started and quickly came into the game while Craig Hamilton came off the bench and both showed they have a real future in the squad”
West could not have had a better start as within three minutes they had taken and unexpected lead with flanker Jamie McAulay leaving Kirkcaldy defenders in his slip stream and the seeing his score converted by Peter Burns. While they continued to compete strongly they found it increasingly hard to contain the Kirkcaldy forwards.
By the 20th minute the Blues had a clear territorial superiority but they frequently squandered this advantage with erratic passes and kicks from hand. It took them until the 34th before they broke down West resistance. After a long build up though many phases Dayle Turner broke cleanly for the score converted by Craig Letham.
Kirkcaldy continued to hold the upper hand and it was no surprise when a second try arrived with Kurt Littlejohn, just back from Australia, speedily outstripping the West cover. They were in the ascendancy now and it was a supremacy they never lost although by half time they had conceded a second try to West's Ross McAulay.
The Blues began the second half in positive fashion and following good backing up featuring flanker Rory Brown, Danny Jennings crashed through for his side's third try. West refused to lie down and a third try from Burns, well confirmed from the touch line kept them in contention and only one try from salvation. The score at this point had advanced to 21-19.
A Brown try maintained the Kirkcaldy advantage but it was the prelude to some frantic West offence. This was confronted by desperate Kirkcaldy defending which saw Wallace binned. West had several penalties which might have been goaled
but instead went for the lineout route to the try line but regularly failed. Their attacking became more frenzied as the game went on but well organised Kirkcaldy defence denied them that vital try.
With the game well into added time and West still holding a losing bonus point came that penalty 40 metres out. While the crowd had plenty to say what should be done with it, Letham stepped up and stroked in it over the bar so maintaining Kirkcaldy's 100% home record but also relegating West to National 3.
Kirkcaldy: K Littlejohn, C Littlejohn, I Gillies, J Laird, C Pilmer, C Letham, G McKenzie, D Jennings, G Wallace, M Salt, C Wood, S Mitchel, S Barclay, R Brown, D Turner
Replacements:- G Queen, J Pow, C Hamilton, J Moffatt
West of Scotland- A Fisken, P Burns, M Davis, S McCallum, N Sutcliffe, R McAulay, H Brewster, N Fullarton, D Dineen, M Vallance, A Bodel, J Harley, C McCall, J McAulay
Replacements:- S Ferguson, S McDonald, N Smit, R Trant
M Milner (SRU)
Fife Trophy Centre STAR CHECK
3 Connor Wood
2 Iain Gillies
1 Dayle Turner
29 Connor Wood
16 Dayle Turner
15 Rhys Bonner
12 Finlay Smith, Josh Laird
8 Greg Wallace,
5 Owen Bonner , Matthew Harvey
4 Marcus Salt
3 Scott Anderson, Danny Jennings Iain Gillies
2 Michael Harper, Jamie Moffat, Craig Letham
1 Rory Brown, Steve Mitchell, Conar Littlejohn