Saturday’s defeat at Haddington, even with a losing bonus point, meant that Kirkcaldy dropped down two places in the Championship B table.
The Blues now stand in sixth place just two spots above eighth, the cut off point for next season‘s revamped Divisions 3 and 4.
With an ever lengthening injury list to contend with, coach Quintan Sanft is finding it increasingly hard to field a competitive starting 15.
The loss of hooker Greg Wallace at Haddington, possibly Kirkcaldy’s most influential forward, was a turning point in the Neilson Park game and with his shoulder dislocated his absence is likely to run into months rather weeks.
Kirkcaldy came close, against the odds, to beating Saturday’s visitors, Musselburgh when the teams first met at the end of August. Since then the East Lothian side have strengthened their pool and currently top the table.
Sanft must be hoping there is some shortening of the casualty list before selection is made. The Blues may have surprised their hosts at Stoneyhill in August but this time round anything other than a convincing Musselburgh win would be a major surprise.
Kick-off at Beveridge Park this Saturday is 2.00 p.m.
Last Saturday’s game at Neilson Park lay in the balance until the final quarter.
The lead had changed hands twice and Kirkcaldy looked as if they could bring home the points.
However a serious injury to hooker Greg Wallace and the loss of centre Iain Gillies changed the balance and the Haddington pack gained control.
The Kirkcaldy defence, shaky at times earlier, became increasingly insecure as the East Lothian team dominated territory.
Stand off Nick Bell’s 66th minute penalty putting his team 17-15 ahead set the pattern for the remaining time as the Blues struggled to hold on to a losing bonus point.
The first hour had been contested entertainingly with both teams handling well and creating try chances. However the home side’s mauling gave them an extra edge and they were always willing to set up 5 metre line-outs.
Their first try came after the Blues had been pulled up in the seventh minute for pulling down a maul. Bell’s penalty to the corner produced the line-out and Ben Laing’s clean take allowed prop Gary Cockburn to crash through for the score, improved upon by Bell for a 7-0 lead.
The game continued at a fast tempo with both teams eager to attack and having try chances. In the 21st minute the Blues snapped up their best opportunity.
A loose Haddington kick failed to find its target and Kirkcaldy scrum half picked up and cross kicked to winger Chris Mann, who had two evade two would be tacklers before setting off on a 40 metre run.
Gillies switched outside, acting as a decoy, and with the home defence expecting an outside pass, Mann continued on his way to the line. Craig Letham’s conversion failed.
The score inspired Kirkcaldy to their best spell in the game. Constant pressure opened up the Haddington defence allowing Gillies to touch down. Letham’s kick was
successful for a 12-7 Kirkcaldy lead.
However, the Blues were shocked just before the break as they conceded a seven pointer after the home side rounded off a flowing movement begun on the right touchline near halfway. Bell’s conversion left his side 14-12 in front at half-time.
Although Letham restored their lead with a 43rd minute penalty the Blues took a hammer blow with the injuries to Wallace and Gillies. The initiative now lay with Haddington and in the final quarter they saw this pay off.
In the face of constant pressure the Blues shape ebbed away and they had little to offer against a rampant home team who went into the lead with another Bell penalty before the clinching Alex McCutcheon try in the 71st minute.
Haddington: J Ferguson, E Chalmers, I Mamea, A McCutcheon, M Legget, N Bell, L Clutton, G Cockburn, C HarrisonP Smith, B Laing, H Hamilton, C Stuart, K Paterson, C Champion. Replacements: G Paris, M Morrison, P Pritchard, S Miller
Kirkcaldy: Q Sanft, R Bonner, I Gillies, M Wallace, C Mann, C Letham, G McKenzie, G Queen, G Wallace, R Girdler, S Orr, C Wood, M Graham,. D Turner, L Neilson. Replacements: J Pow, R van Rensberg, G Welsh.
Referee: G Whitecross (RAF Lossiemouth)
Star Check: 3 Dayle Turner, 2 Connor Wood, 1 Rhys Bonner.
Current standings: 12 Porter; 8 Orr; 6 Mann, Turner; 5 Wood; 3 M Harvey, Gillies, McKenzie, G Wallace, K Littlejohn, Girdler; 2 M Wallace; 1 Gray, Mitchell, Bonner.