Howe of Fife 39 Kirkcaldy 12
The Blues gave indications in the first quarter that they might end their long melancholy losing run against Howe but in the end came off decidedly second best.
Three yellow cards at critical points in the game did not help.
Their game plan rapidly unravelled with careless loss of the ball when in promising positions allied to slow reaction set up Howe for their four second half tries.
The Cupar team undoubtedly, as they have shown so often in recent seasons, had a fleetness of foot and ability to find open space that their guests could not match.
The Blues had responded to an early Howe penalty kicked by Dom Martin with a strong forward push culminating in a try for lock Connor Wood after the home side had survived the concession of three penalties in their five metre zone.
Craig Letham‘s conversion gave the visitors a 7-3 lead.
Kirkcaldy looked quite comfortable around the 20 minute mark coping well with Howe’s attacking efforts.
The quick loss of replacement prop Marcus Salt and newcomer Calum Jones to the bin in rapid succession turned the game.
The Blues initially soaked up Howe pressure then the sea wall opened with flanker Alistair Steven going over near the posts.
This left the score at half time 10-7 for Howe.
No sooner had Salt returned than the ever officious referee Jonathon McKinnon produced his yellow card directed at flanker Gavin Neilson for a ruck offence.
This numerical advantage paid off just after the break with winger Willie Wardlaw the scorer and Martin adding the extra points to give the home team a 17-7 lead.
There was little between the sides territorially at the start of the second half.
In trying to stop a Kirkcaldy attack Howe prop Grant Henderson stopped the ball illegally and once again McKinnon’s hand went to his pocket for the yellow card.
The game was still within Kirkcaldy’s reach at this stage but for no apparent reason, their shape disappeared and intensity slackened with all sorts of errors appearing in their strategy.
Four well run tries in the space of ten minutes from Ian Wilson, Graham Thomson (2) and Martin ripped the Kirkcaldy defence apart with some of the tackling suspect at best.
After Howe had built up a 39-7 lead, Henderson infringed once more and after the referee had pulled out the yellow card he followed it with the red for the second offence.
The Blues were eventually reduced to 13 men with scrum half Stuart Lathangie spending the last ten minutes in the bin. By this time the game was well won and lost.
Not long before the end the Blues had the merest sniff of consolation resulting from a try scored by Quintan Sanft.
Even although Kirkcaldy were without front rowers Mark Thomson and Jack Pow, this was still a strong enough side.
There may have been quibbles about the consistency of referee McKinnon’s performance but there was no excuse for the dropping of standards which allowed Howe to snatch the initiative which they did in such shattering style.
What started so promisingly for the Blues ended disastrously as the Cupar side ran up their tenth consecutive win against them in recent years.
Howe of Fife: G Thomson, L Christie, A Guthrie, F Clark, W Wardlaw, D Martin, S Lathangie, S Player, S Rattray, G Henderson, G Steedman, T Turpie, B Runciman, A Steven, I Wilson. Replacements: L Wilson, M Stevens, A Wilson, I Bousie
Kirkcaldy: K Littlejohn, J Moffat, Q Sanft, M Wallace, C Mann, C Letham, G McKenzie, R Girdler, G Wallace, M Henderson, C Wood, S Mitchell, D Turner, G Neilson, L Neilson. Replacements: M Salt, C Jones, S Milne, C Littlejohn
Referee: J McKinnon (Skye)
Star Check: 3 Kurt Littlejohn, 2 Mark Wallace, 1 Greg Wallace.
Current standings: 20 Turner; 15 M Wallace; 13 L Neilson; 12 Wood; 10 Mitchell, Thomson; 8 Milne; 7 Mann, Pow; 6 Bonner; 4 K Littlejohn; 2 McKenzie, Letham, G Wallace; 1 Smith, C Littlejohn, G Neilson.