Falkirk 22 Kirkcaldy 23
Saturday’s win over promotion hopefuls Falkirk was Kirkcaldy’s most significant result for nearly four years.
The Blues, with a man in the bin, faced the full fury of the Falkirk artillery for the last ten minutes, defending heroically in their own 22 as the home side tried to improve upon their 22-20 lead.
Deep in added time the siege lifted and the Blues gained a foothold in the Falkirk half only for the promotion chasers to transgress. Up stepped stand off Craig Letham and with the penultimate kick of the game hit the winning penalty from 40 metres out.
Both in attack and defence the Blues summoned up huge quantities of spirit and determination to secure this win. The third quarter saw Quintan Sanft’s men inject pace and direction into their game, turning a half time 19-13 deficit into a 20-19 lead in the 55th minute.
Even so they had to overcome a huge handicap of coming off a clear second best at the set pieces.
Included in the Falkirk pack was former Scottish internationalist, five times capped Craig Hamilton and his presence greatly aided the home side‘s fire power.
Considering the adverse weather for most of the week the Sunnyside pitch looked in great condition having been cleared of snow for the start of the match.
Before Kirkcaldy could catch their breath they conceded a try with home stand off Logan Bonnar making the most of a missed tackle to score an unconverted try well out.
Everything was going Falkirk’s way and Bonner added a penalty after heavy Falkirk pressure in the ninth minute.
Kirkcaldy had looked out of sorts in this first phase but once they started to apply themselves and make ground their pack forced a penalty kicked by Letham. Nevertheless Falkirk continued to dominate possession but showed that the Kirkcaldy defence had steel in its soul.
With 23 minutes gone, Blues prop Greg Wallace upped the pace with a searing midfield break and his pass found brother Mark whose deft chip to the left was fed to flanker Dayle Turner who was held up at the line but succeeded at the second time of asking.
Letham’s excellent conversion put the Blues into a 10-8 lead.
For much of the remainder of the first half Falkirk held the upper hand and a driven lineout maul earned a try for no.8 Lawrence Miller. Bonner’s conversion failed but between times he slotted home two more penalties. The Blues kept in touch with another Letham penalty.
The third quarter belonged to Kirkcaldy with an impressive input of pace and accuracy. Referee Neil Muir had already warned both captains about the penalty count and his patience with Falkirk expired with centre Graham Gilliland going to the bin.
The Blues made this advantage pay with the always aggressive Turner powering his way through for another score again converted by Letham putting the Fife side 20-19 in front.
They in turn incurred Muir‘s displeasure and it was winger Chris Mann‘s turn for the bin in the the 69th minute. From the resulting penalty Falkirk regained the lead with Keith Slade kicking the goal and it seemed just a matter of time until that lead increased.
At this stage Kirkcaldy, with little clear cut possession, dug deep into their resolve but found it hard to work their way out of their 22.
With the game deep into added time they at last broke the Falkirk stranglehold, driving into the home territory.
Ferocious work by the forwards forced Falkirk to concede a ruck penalty 40 metres out. Letham’s kick bisected the posts for the winning points.
There was just time left for Falkirk to restart with a poor kick before no side was blown.
Falkirk: J Adamson, G Lindsay, R Hogg, G Gilliland, G Dempsey L Bonnar, H Russell, L Skinner, A Simpson, G Simpson, C Ronald, C Hamilton,. S McCulloch, L Denny, L Miller. Replacements: K Cottle, T Johnston, C Wood, K Slade.
Kirkcaldy: K Littlejohn, C Mann, M Wallace, Q Sanft, J Moffat, C Letham, G McKenzie, M Thomson, J Pow, G Wallace, S Mitchell, C Wood, R Bonner, D Turner, L Neilson. Replacements: M Henderson , M Salt, G Neilson.
Referee: N Muir (ERRS)
Star Check: 3 Dayle Turner, 2 Craig Letham, 1 Connor Wood.
Current standings: 21 Turrner; 18 L Neilson, M Wallace; 9 Wood; 7 Mann, Pow, Thomson; 6 Bonner; 3 Letham; 1 Smith, G Wallace, McKenzie, C Littlejohn, G Neilson, K Littlejohn.