Blues find their best to progress in cup

High fives after a Kirkcaldy try. BT Cup Round 2, 19th November 2016. (Photo by Michael Booth)

High fives after a Kirkcaldy try. BT Cup Round 2, 19th November 2016. (Photo by Michael Booth)

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MUSSELBURGH 27 KIRKCALDY 32

Kirkcaldy moved into the third round of the national cup for the first time since the 2008-09 season with this win at Stoneyhill last Saturday.

This was the only game of the 12 played where a side beat a team from a higher division and along with Aberdeenshire they are the only tier three sides left in the competition.

Stoneyhill has not been a particularly happy venue for Kirkcaldy, not having won there for well over a decade.

This time they also had to overcome having Danny Jennings and Kurt Littlejohn sent to the bin and then with 15 minutes left, winger Finlay Bruce was ordered off for throwing and connecting with a punch.

Head coach Quintan Sanft included former captain Mark Wallace, now playing at Hamilton, who became available through the SRU’s dual registration scheme and his experience clearly shone through.

Things looked good for the home team in the early stages. Regaining the ball from their kick-off they retained possession through several phases.

The ball eventually found unmarked lock William Fleming who ran in for the game’s first try, well converted by Danny Owenson.

Kirkcaldy responded aggressively and after scorning several scoring chances the ball went out to the backs with Mark Wallace scoring his side’s first try converted by Letham.

Musselburgh briefly regained the lead with an Owenson penalty before a forward powered effort produced a second Kirkcaldy try credited to James Pow.

As the first half progressed play continued mostly in the Musselburgh half although in an isolated foray Owenson put over another penalty.

Two minutes from the break, Wallace went in for his second try and the score stood at 17-13 for Kirkcaldy at the interval.

This lead extended to 24-13 nine minutes into the second half with another try from James Pow following a massive forward surge.

Letham’s conversion put the Blues 11 points in front, then a Letham penalty gave what looked like an unassailable lead with 20 minutes left.

Then the game took a turn for the worse for Kirkcaldy. Veteran prop George Mangalo who had been in terrific form came off, possibly suffering from exhaustion, quickly followed by Bruce’s red card.

Musselburgh took immediate advantage of the resulting penalty kicking to touch then burrowing over with flanker Michael Fleming scoring and Owenson adding the extra points.

Kurt Littlejohn raced away, eluding a series of tackles, for Kirkcaldy’s fifth try to take the Blues’ tally to 32. The home side were not to be outdone and another mauled try from Jamie Walker converted by Owenson took them within a converted try of an unlikely win.

Then came Littlejohn’s yellow card for a marginal late tackle and the Blues had to face the last five minutes plus stoppage time with 13 men.

For most of this time Musselburgh were camped near the Kirkcaldy 5 metre line and a winning score appeared inevitable, but a steal from replacement Steve Milne turned the tide regaining the ball which the visitors retained until the referee blew for no-side.

This was by some distance the best Kirkcaldy performance of the season.