Blues go from relegation battlers to title challengers

Kirkcaldy director of rugby Mark Henderson flanked by Gavin McKenzie and Dayle Turner. Pic: Michael Booth
Kirkcaldy director of rugby Mark Henderson flanked by Gavin McKenzie and Dayle Turner. Pic: Michael Booth

The first break in the Scottish club league rugby programme for the autumn tests has arrived with Kirkcaldy surprisingly leading the National 2 table.

From the ten games played to date the Blues have won eight and crucially took full bonus points. Even in the games lost they have gained losing bonus points.

To date they have 37 points, three ahead of Lasswade who had the better of their recent encounter with the Blues in Midlothian.

This is in contrast to their travails of last season when they ended in ninth spot just above the relegation zone, with only 45 points from their 22 games.

The squad is basically the same this time round apart from the return of Dayle Turner from Dundee High and the occasional availability of navy man Matt Harvey as well as the emergence of some excellent young players from the Under 18 side.

What has brought about this dramatic change of fortune?

Director of Rugby Mark Henderson explained: “Basically three words cover it – simplicity, consistency and confidence.

“Before the season started the coaching group met the senior players with their plans for the forthcoming campaign.

“There was a need to banish the series of narrow defeats which had blighted the year before and focus on what we could do well.

“That’s where the simplicity part came in.

“Our pack is capable of being a match for any in the division as it was last season, and we wanted to make the best possible use of this, controlling the game up front.

“The boys bought into the consistency aspect as well.

“Game plans were set, match by match, and everybody would play to them which is often easier said than done.

“Confidence in each other quickly developed in the strenuous pre-season match programme which saw us pitted against three successful National 1 teams and perform well against them.”

When league rugby resumes on December 2, Kirkcaldy will have one of their toughest tests of the season when they travel to Hamilton, incidentally led by former Kirkcaldy skipper Mark Wallace.

The Lanarkshire team dropped down from National 1 last spring and are making a bold bid to return at the first opportunity.

The Blues have fared badly on recent visits there and it will be a real test of their progress when the team meet at Laigh Bent.

Two players reached appearance milestones at the club recently.

Last Saturday co-captain Gavin McKenzie became the seventh player to feature in 200 league matches, while the previous week Dayle Turner achieved 100 appearances having returned to the club this season.