KIRKCALDY 28 WHITECRAIGS 7
When the Blues strolled into a 7-0 lead in the third minute lead through a Rhys Bonner try converted by Finlay Smith the expectation in the Beveridge Park crowd was that Kirkcaldy were on the road to a repetition of the free flowing 41-14 win they had against Whitecraigs when the teams last met in Newton Mearns last October.
By the end they had a bonus point win and blanked their guests for as long as 47 minutes which needed a hefty defensive effort but for significant portions of the game they blundered their way through an error strewn performance.
Forwards coach Kenny Fraser made no secret of his disappointment about the quality of the Blues performace.
“After starting well we really dipped,” he said. “Playing against a team at the bottom of the league too many players thought it was going to be easy after that first try and concentration fell away.
“This showing left a lot be desired even though we took the full five points.”
While the playing surface was in remarkably good condition the unpredictable and buffeting wind caused problems for both teams with passes often blown off course and kicking from hand a lottery.
As a spectacle the game left much to be desired but by the end no one would dispute that the Blues thoroughly deserved their five point win courtesy of four tries.
Territorially Quintan Sanft’s men had much the better of things but they could not claim the expected forward domination.
Even so they had hosts of scoring opportunities squandered through dropped passes and the concession of penalties within the red zone.
Later failings hadn’t surfaced in the 20th minute as the home pack took a scrummage against the head to give Owen Bonner the ammunition to race in for the second Kirkcaldy try, again converted by Smith.
The game seemed to be in the bag eight minutes later with a third try originating in a half break from Smith and well supported by the pack to provide lock Connor Wood with a try at the posts and a 21-0 lead after Smith’s successful conversion.
Whatever shape the game had up to that point slowly ebbed away amidst a growing error count. Prop Marcus Salt took a yellow card for persistent team infringements and the sort handed Blues had no answer to a powerful run from Whitecraigs flanker Ryan O’Neill well converted by Brandon Wamberg.
Although their side had a 21-7 half time lead there was growing concern among the home support that their team was losing its earlier control and sense of purpose.
No sooner had Kirkcaldy been restored after Salt’s return Whitecraigs’ tight head Sundar Atwell replaced him in the bin.
The Blues seemed to be taking quick advantage of their numerical superiority. Roddy Low and Owen Bonner linked well for the forwards to force a five metre scrum only to be frustrated by an error.
During Atwell’s absence the Blues coughed up a series of blunders, failing to add to their three tries.
There was almost visible relief in the 58th minute with the arrival of the bonus point try from Josh Laird with Smith again successful from the tee.
By this time Whitecraigs had barely been in the Kirkcaldy 22 but for the bulk of the remaining time they had territorial superiority and probably deserved a second try.
On the plus side for the Blues, as in the Dumfries game, they defended with real vigour for lengthy periods which now shows up in their strong points differential advantage over their nearest league rivals.
For much of the second half there had been increasing niggle between the teams with several off the ball clashes.
In the last minute things came to a boil with all the forwards battling it out. Rhys Bonner was binned for his part and then the visitors Sean Callaghan and home co-captain Greg Wallace were issued with red cards. The general feeling was the referee had singled out the wrong pair for dismissal while the real culprits escaped sanction.
A minute later the official blew no-side ending a game which had started so promisingly for the Blues but ended in disarray.
Nevertheless it was a win, and a bonus point win at that which sounded all the better when news arrived a few minutes later that nearest challengers Dumfries had lost at Hamilton.
Kirkcaldy: O Bonner, S McKervaill, J Laird, I Gillies, R Low F Smith, G McKenzie, D Jennings, G Wallace, M Salt, C Wood, S Mitchell, D Turner, J Pow, R Bonner
Replacements: G Queen S Evans, R Brown, J Moffat.
Whitecraigs: C Drummond, G Emans, P Snyman, B Wamberg. G Mahindru, S Gillies, S Gormley, A Rice L Barron, S Atwal, S Callaghan, R MacDonald, S Fisher, R O’Neill, S Pollock.
Replacements: S Henderson, A Paterson, S Adair, S Murchie.
Referee: C Clark (WSRRS).
Fife Trophy Centre Star Check: 3 Josh Laird, 2 Marcus Salt, 1 Rory Brown.