KIRKCALDY 27 HAMILTON 24
An 84th minute Craig Letham penalty confidently stroked over in front of the posts at the Balwearie Road end kept alive Kirkcaldy's chances of National 1 security and lifted them off bottom place in the table. Initiative had gone back and forth during this engrossing game with the Blues having surrendered an earlier 24-10 lead.
When the sides met three weeks earlier at Laigh Bent in a rearranged game there was little doubt as to which side was the better, with a tired looking Kirkcaldy team a clear second best. Since then there has been a change in the Blues training regime and this seems to have produced a more combative outfit, capable of rising up the table.
Minutes after the final whistle news arrived from Musselburgh that the strong going East Lothian side had conceded a five point loss to Kirkcaldy's fellow relegation contenders Cartha QP, which had the effect of consigning Dundee High to the foot of the table.
Director of Rugby Mark Henderson post match smile could not conceal his delight at the outcome. “Obviously I am pleased with the result but also with the quality of the performance we put in against such a strong side. The attitude could not have been better. The new training arrangements have had a good response from the players and we can look forward to our game at Marr in three weeks time with some optimism”
The Blues made the most of the kick-off ball, carrying play into the visitors' 22 and might have done better from two attacking scrummages. However that first score was not long delayed as Michael Harper, playing at loose head for the day was driven over for the opening try converted confidently by Finlay Smith.
Any euphoria generated by that try quickly disappeared with an equalising score. Hamilton possession well into the Kirkcaldy 22 produced a quality try. Stand off Owen McLeish seeing that the Kirkcaldy backs had drifted across the field produced a laser pinned cross kick picked up by an isolated Ross Inglis. McLeish added the extra points.
Neither side could establish any lasting supremacy with play moving from end to end. It was Kirkcaldy's turn to strike next with Conar Littlejohn rounding off the play for a score which was not converted. However as half-time approached the Lanarkshire appeared to take a grip on the game but all they had from their pressure was a Tom Decelle penalty which made the score 12-10 at the break.
The Blues made excellent use of the second half restart kick to establish themselves well into the Hamilton half and this gave them field position to build up for a Rhys Bonner try and a 17-10 Blues lead.
The third quarter of recent games has often been Kirkcaldy's nemesis in recent weeks but there was no doubting their intentions this time. A blistering drive from Connor Wood again took play into the Hamilton 22 and although the visitors defended strongly they couldn't halt another Kirkcaldy drive from a scrummaged penalty. By this time Smith had gone off injured with Craig Letham taking over goal kicking duties. Home hopes were now high as the Blues lead 24-10 as the hour mark neared.
Any complacency this advantage might have engendered quickly disappeared as the Bulls hit back. A long range penalty to touch set up a scoring maul with hooker Greg Richardson getting the ball down. Decelle successfully converted.
Both teams continued to move the ball to retain possession but neither could impose itself on the other. Hard working defences forced a series of errors as the clock moved on and tensions rose. A minor scuffle after the whistle had gone led to Kirkcaldy No 8 Dayle Turner and Hamilton's Taz McLaughlin being binned.
Eight minutes from time Hamilton eventually found a way through to the line and Decelle's conversion of Scott Whitelaw's try tied the scores at 24-24, Having seen their fourteen point lead disappear, Kirkcaldy were certainly not giving up and some power surges kept them in the scoring zone. Four minutes had been added for stoppages when the referee spotted a Hamilton defender creeping over the off side line and he awarded the Blues a penalty in front of the posts. Letham took care great with what looked like the easiest of kicks before the ball sailed between the uprights.
Enough time remained for the game to restart but once the Blues regained possession the ball flew over the hedge and into darkness to end the game.
Kirkcaldy:- C Letham, C Littlejohn, I Gillies, J Laird, T Kennedy, F Smith, G McKenzie, M Harper, C Hamilton, M Salt, C Wood, S Robertson, R Brown, R Bonner, D Turner
Replacements:- J Ramsay, J Devine, M Graham, A Brooks, S Anderson
Hamilton:- T Decelle, C Skilling, S Whitelaw, D Milne, R Inglis, O McLeish, H Crush, S Leggate, G Richardsson, D Carr, T McLaughlin, G Jones, R Brown, S White, S Alexander
Replacements:- J White, G Brodie, C Craig, A Sinclair, J Howatson
David Young (SRU)
Fife Trophy Centre STAR CHECK
3 Connor Wood
2 Josh Laird
1 Conar Littlejohn
16 Josh Laird
14 Connor Wood
13 Struan Robertson
9 Rhys Bonner
8 Alex Black
7 Michael Harper, Dayle Turner
6 Matthew Harvey, Finlay Smith
5 Jack Pow
3 Greg Wallace, Conar Littlejohn
2 Owen Bonner
1 Jack Denton, Craig Hamilton, Timmy Kennedy, Marcus Salt