Battling Blues run league leaders close

Dayle Turner after scoring his 22nd try of the season, Kirkcaldy v Hamilton. (Photo by Michael Booth)Dayle Turner after scoring his 22nd try of the season, Kirkcaldy v Hamilton. (Photo by Michael Booth)
Dayle Turner after scoring his 22nd try of the season, Kirkcaldy v Hamilton. (Photo by Michael Booth)

The Blues may have conceded 98 points the last time these teams met four months ago but at Beveridge Park last Saturday they turned in a sterling display full of character and aggression, which saw victory snatched from them with a late penalty.

Considering the gluey underfoot conditions both sides have to be congratulated in putting on one of the most engrossing games in Kirkcaldy for many a long year.

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For most of the first half the Lanarkshire side, who had taken a 14th minute lead through full back Craig Inglis, dominated possession and territory.

That the runaway leaders failed to add to their tally for the next hour’s play says volumes for Kirkcaldy defensive commitment.

Time and again Hamilton seemed certain to score only for a smothering tackle inducing a forward pass or dropped ball. The Blues, in red for the day, maintained this defensive momentum for over the remaining 25 minutes of the first half, meaning their opponents had only five points to show for all their attacking flair.

Hamilton resumed in the second half where they left off but their accuracy dipped in the face of continuing Kirkcaldy aggressive defence.

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These Hamilton errors produced attacking opportunities for the Blues and for the first time in the game the visitors looked fragile.

Kirkcaldy had a chance to open their account ten minutes into the second period with a penalty in front of the posts but chose to tap and go for an equalising try.

This ploy failed but five minutes later the home team had the crowd cheering. A well placed penalty to touch ten metres out produced clean possession and a massive drive saw Dayle Turner plunge through for the try.

A beautifully flighted conversion from Finlay Smith gave the Blues an unlikely lead.

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In the next 20 minutes the Blues again coped well with the full array of Hamilton power and pace, generally frustrating the visitors.

The Kirkcaldy coaching team regularly refreshed the front and back rows from the bench and this maintained their urgency. Captain Liam Neilson constantly led his side out of trouble into calm waters while youngsters James Pow and Rory Brown performed heroically all over the pitch.

Behind the scrum, centre Jamie Moffat effectively snuffed out his former midfield partner Mark Wallace – now a regular in the Hamilton team.

Never far from the centre of action lock Steve Mitchell’s strength effectively nullified many of the Hamilton driving mauls.

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Pulled into the three quarter line in the absence of Sasa Tofilau, 17-year-old Owen Bonner excelled in defence, never flinching in the tackle and sure under the high greasy ball, could not have done more in the Kirkcaldy cause, confirming his real potential.

Into the last ten minutes, Hamilton saw the game slipping away and redoubled their pressure, forcing the Blues into conceding several penalties. Eventually Neilson received a team warning from the referee and when centre Finlay Bruce illegally piled into a ruck, the yellow card dispatched him to the bin.

From the resulting penalty Andrew Wilson kicked the decisive goal.

Kirkcaldy may have lost this game but rarely in defeat can a side have taken so much credit boding well for their remaining four games.

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Kirkcaldy: K Littlejohn, G Welsh, F Bruce, J Moffat, O Bonner, F Smith, G McKenzie, D Jennings, Jack Pow, M Henderson, S Mitchell, James Pow, R Bonner, R Brown, L Neilson. Replacements: G Wallace, R Girdler, D Turner

Hamilton: C Inglis, J Hammer, R Jamieson, M Wallace, B Plant, A Wilson, S Mitchell, C McLaughlin, D McGrath, T Malley, R Maxton, M Colville, S Alexander, R Brown, J Selfridge. Replacements: G Richardson, J White, F Dunnachie, M Kennedy.

Referee: S Turnbull (Gala).

Star Check: 3 Owen Bonner, 2 James Pow, 1 Rory Brown.

Current standings: 22 R Bonner; 20 Turner; 11 Mitchell; 9 James Pow; 7 Bruce; 6 O Bonner; 4 McKenzie, Mangalo, Salt, Jennings; 3 Wood, Littlejohn, Henderson, Jack Pow, Neilson, Brown; 2 Wallace; 1 Moffat, Smith, Harper.

Next game: No fixture this Saturday. Next up is Lasswade on Saturday, March 5.