Whenever Kirkcaldy RFC arrive in town it means one thing – a hard, abrasive and physical encounter is anticipated. They are a team that seem to maintain a degree of consistency regardless of the league they find themselves in and are always uncompromisingly competitive. I am sure Stew Mel would have been fully aware of what the opposition would bring to the table on a breezy but sunny afternoon at Inverleith. The only change in the starting Stew Mel line up was James Ferguson, which ensured that his father’s allegiance would not stray!
Kirkcaldy kicked off towards the Castle and were immediately put under pressure by Stew Mel, who were playing towards – and getting closer to – the Ferry Road end. In the early exchanges James was nearly in but was held up over the line; the 5m scrum, unfortunately, lead to a knock-on and another scrum, this time with Kirkcaldy getting the put in. The lines were cleared, but, again, Stew Mel were in the ascendancy, being the beneficiaries of a penalty which was clearly kickable. In the early stages of games, decisions have to be made as to whether to take the three points or go for more, and, this time, it was the latter. Sometimes these decisions can come back to bite you, but, thankfully, this was not the case on Saturday.
A penalty awarded to Kirkcaldy allowed them some possession but this was short lived as James waded in once more with a great steal. Kirkcaldy regained possession, though, and made inroads into Stew Mel’s 22. The visitors earned other penalty but the line out was not straight, resulting in a scrum to Stew Mel. A good drive by Scott Alldritt and an impressive clearance kick by Michael Miller eased the pressure momentarily but Kirkcaldy attacked again and were awarded a penalty. From the line out approximately 10m out the Kirkcaldy pack drove over for the first try of the afternoon with about 20 minutes played. The conversion was unsuccessful, bringing the score to Stew Mel 0 – Kirkcaldy 5.
At the restart Kirkcaldy were penalised for holding on and a quick tap was taken by Fraser Strachan, who moved the ball via Michael to the right; this allowed Sean Murchie, with a bit of running to do, to get round the opposition number 15, with relative ease, and score under the posts. Happy added the extras. Stew Mel 7 – Kirkcaldy 5.
Despite the initial dominance enjoyed by Stew Mel there was now more of a balance in the amount of possession for both teams, and, regrettably the penalty count against Stew Mel was rising. A good break by ‘new signing’ Darren Miller put Stew Mel in a good attacking position but the aforementioned penalty count prevented any further progression. Both teams were battling for territory with some big forward drives and tactical kicking, and, despite having the opportunity to get more points on the board, the first half ended Stew Mel 7 – Kirkcaldy 5.
With the second half underway and the penalty count not abating, we then endured what was probably around a 20 minute period (although it felt like 40) with scrum after scrum after scrum, and, whilst it was difficult to comprehend what was happening, it did appear that the Stew Mel Tank was losing traction, which was uncharacteristic and certainly not reflective of their performance. It appeared that there was a component missing and it soon became apparent who this ‘component’ was: Connor McKay, who was off injured at this point. Once he returned to the fray the ‘Tank’ was back up and running, driving forward and winning a penalty that allowed Michael to clear the danger. The breathing space was welcome.
Once the spectator sport resumed, Stew Mel managed to get through a few phases and the ever eager Matt Sanderson took off. He was caught 10m out but a penalty, a line out and a drive saw Joe Bailey burrow his way through for a try, Happy again adding the extras. 65 minutes played, Stew Mel 14 – Kirkcaldy 5. A crucial score at a crucial time but still a lot of rugby to be played to ensure victory.
Joe Bailey, having come on as a sub and scored a try, was now tackling everything in his sights, preventing Kirkcaldy from making any significant progress. They did, however, manage to keep possession within Stew Mel’s 22, and, this time, took advantage of the 3 points on offer. 70 minutes played, Stew Mel 14 – Kirkcaldy 8.
At the restart, despite being penalised, Matt turned the tables, allowing Jamie Sword to drive on, aided by Joe Bailey. With the ball finding Matt’s hands once more, he sprinted a good 60m up the right to score the try that more or less sealed the win. As predicted, it is not over until it’s over, Kirkcaldy attacking relentlessly to get their deserved try and losing bonus point. As they headed back over the bridge with a point, they may well have felt that they could have been going home with four. That thought would have been totally justified. Final score Stew Mel 19 – Kirkcaldy 13.
An extremely competitive match, with both teams enjoying spells of domination within the red zone but both failing to capitalise. The Kirkcaldy forwards caused a lot of problems, particularly the number 8, the 6 and their number 2 (I am sure I played against him!) and it was befitting that their impressive number 13, Thomas Glendinning, had the final say. As their Plan A seemed to work, they ultimately ran out of time to implement Plan B.
Stew Mel stuck to their task and a great effort was put in by all, particularly defensively. Matt Sanderson was outstanding and deserving of the MOTM accolade, epitomised by his two scintillating runs. Michael Miller was calm and controlling at number 10 and the pack, once optimised, did their job effectively. The only real negative was, again, the number of penalties conceded, but, hopefully, we can learn from the last two games where the count has been unacceptably high. As Bill commented in his report on the Falkirk match, winning ugly is still a win, but, hopefully, we can witness a more expansive game on Saturday at Inverleith, where Stew Mel normally make the most of the wide pitch.
Next up: GHK RFC from OA at Invers – see you then.