Match Report v Kirkcaldy RFC | Saturday 7th December
The theatrical atmosphere created by floodlights is always welcome, along with vocal local support, crystallised by the inclement weather – probably the worst conditions played in this season, particularly in the second half. That said, it was a great game to watch, particularly from a Stew Mel perspective – and a great result, at that.
We fielded a familiar looking squad, albeit with a couple of anomalies according to the (excellent) match programme – Jamie Mgurk on the wing and a full back, Charlie Baikie, who mercifully bore no resemblance to Chris! There was also a welcome return for veteran Willie Malcolm and Geoff Angco, who put in an MOTM performance – rock solid defence.
Kirkcaldy kicked off with the south-westerlies at their back and the hands of Jamie Sword plucked the ball out of the darkening sky, a start that was to epitomise the general performance over the 80 minutes. The secure ball was passed to Fraser, who launched one of his text-book probing kicks; this found the hands of one of the opposition, who found touch with his boot for the first line-out of the afternoon. It was well executed by Stew Mel and the drive that followed was impressive – only for us to knock-on in the process, resulting in the first scrum of the afternoon, Kirkcaldy ball, at around the halfway line. Stew Mel managed to turn the tables, however, and Scott Alldritt was off, with support from Chris Baikie and Joe Bailey. Doug Randall was also close at hand around 10m out and quick hands to the right found James Ferguson, who powered his way over for the first try of the afternoon with 5 minutes on the clock, Euan Bowen adding the extras. Kirkcaldy 0 – Stew Mel 7. The celebrations from the travelling support were clearly audible – even from Dr Ferguson, albeit he was rather more discreet!
The period that followed could only be described as somewhat bizarre as Kirkcaldy enjoyed a significant amount of possession, line-outs and (latterly) scrums, while Stew Mel were on the sharp end of the mounting penalty count, with the first yellow card of the afternoon coming for Joe. With 14 versus 15 the Stew Mel defence was good, but, again, with the advantage coming Kirkcaldy’s way and further penalties, a second yellow card was shown, this time to Fraser. 13 against 15 was never going to be easy and the inevitable happened courtesy of a comfortable overlap on the left wing, Kirkcaldy getting over for their only try of the afternoon, unconverted. 15 minutes played, Kirkcaldy 5 – Stew Mel 7.
To their credit Stew Mel continued to weather the storm, not just metaphorically, and it wasn’t long before Joe was back in the action, straight out of the naughty corner and immediately over the try line to make amends. Euan managed the two points from a difficult angle, bringing the score to Kirkcaldy 5 – Stew Mel 14 with 25 minutes played. Still with 14 men and with Charlie slotting in comfortably at number 9 in Fraser’s absence, the bulk of our play was from the boot, sound tactics allowing us to maintain composure until Fraser’s return.
Kirkcaldy, at this stage, were enjoying a bit more possession and their attacks were coming hard and fast – but they were up against a very strong Stew Mel defence. The pressure did, however, eventually lead to points care of a kickable penalty in front of the posts. That made it Kirkcaldy 8 – Stew Mel 14 with 30 minutes played. As the final 10 minutes of the first half played out, the pressure was now on the hosts and a similar pattern of play a short distance from Kirkcaldy’s try line resulted in a penalty try and Kirkcaldy’s turn to take a 10 minute punishment. Half time Kirkcaldy 8 – Stew Mel 21.
Stew Mel got things going in the second half, only to be pulled back for a scrum on the halfway line – Kirkcaldy ball. The wind had picked up at this stage and the rain was relentless, the result being a scrappy period of mud wrestling and more use of the boot. Stew Mel were, however, showing dominance in both and were still doing all they could to play rugby. The Stew Mel pressure continued, with two key moments amidst the lottery of possession. Firstly, Momo’s magnificent line-out steal, followed shortly thereafter by Connor McKay’s rampaging run. This gave Fraser the opportunity to move the ball wide, finding Sean Murchie on the right; Sean duly broke a few tackles to touch down in the corner for the fourth try of the afternoon and the bonus point. I am reliably informed that this was his 50th try for Stewart’s Melville RFC! That made it Kirkcaldy 8 – Stew Mel 26 with 55 minutes played.
As play resumed Kirkcaldy appeared rejuvenated, but the penalty count continued to mount, either for high tackles, killing the ball, coming in from the side or offside – who knows? And, yes, another yellow was shown, with Scott taking the hit this time. By this point all four of our ‘finishers’ had been introduced off the bench and more pressure was being applied by Stew Mel in the set piece, in loose play and with the boot. Kirkcaldy had no answer to this, apart from route one, but the Stew Mel defence was just too good and (literally) soaked up the pressure.
With around 15 minutes left, play was mainly confined to Kirkcaldy’s half. Despite the Beveridge Park floodlights, visibility was deteriorating and a couple of borrowed bulbs from nearby Stark’s Park would certainly have helped! The set pieces continued and the Stew Mel forwards just didn’t seem to run out of gas as they kept up their robust attack and defence, with play continuing in the right areas of the park from a Stew Mel perspective. Scott Alldritt was soon back, and, with 15 against 15, we were unlucky not to have scored at least one more try – but, as the final whistle came, the men in brown, red, black and gold must have been well satisfied with the win. Full time Kirkcaldy 8 – Stew Mel 26.
The outstretched cold and wet hands of the visitors and hosts acknowledged both the well deserved victory and the unfaltering effort of the opposition. This was another good performance in difficult conditions. It was great to see Chairman Fin giving all the support he could muster – I think it would take a tsunami to keep him away from a rugby pitch! There was also the muddied and soaked President who was clearly more focused on the win than on his attire. I did offer him the use of my Graham + Sibbald umbrella but he declined on a point of principle. I do, however, think that the club should start a collection to get Simon a pair of wellies and a waterproof jacket!
Looking forward to next Saturday already as we take on the league leaders at Old Anniesland. No big deal – just another game!
Match photograph by Keith Ferguson