Hamilton 18 - 24 Kirkcaldy
Bulls Ground Down By Kirkcaldy Monster Pack
Hamilton 18 - 24 Kirkcaldy
Hamilton lost their first home League match of the current campaign to Kirkcaldy, but there was disappointment in the home camp, that a chance to beat the Division leaders, was squandered.
The Kirkcaldy pack - and monster prop George Mangalo in particular, gave the visitors a huge advantage at the scrums. At the early set-pieces the home scrum crumpled, leading to several penalty awards. Beyond that, the Fifers had a simple game plan - the ball was rarely passed beyond the inside centre, but they were able to retain possession at the breakdowns. Their use of one and occasionally two out runners, combined with dynamic pick and drives was very well defended by the Bulls, but the sheer size and weight of the visiting eight, meant that they made progress.
Hamilton however tried to play their usual expansive brand of rugby, demonstrating from the start that they were not going to be intimidated by the visiting heavies. From the first line-out the ball sped across the line to Ross Inglis. He made ground before chipping the cover, and only scrambling defence saved the Fifers.
This time the Bulls had a line-out in good field position. They caught, drove, probed twice and released right. Slick handling got the ball to James Howatson who gassed the cover for a delightful opening try. Owen McLeish’s conversion attempt slid narrowly wide.
Kirkcaldy had a ten minute spell of pressure which Hamilton defended well, but dominance at set scrums allowed the visitors to set up good field position. From a scrum in the shadow of the Hamilton posts, the Fifers’ scrum-half fed the ball wide. It was guddled, but hacked through and Finlay Smith got the touch to open the Kirkcaldy account.
The Bulls were rattling the visitors with aggressive tackling and moving the ball wide to tire the big Kirkcaldy forwards. The visitors were penalised just on their twenty-two, and Fraser Dunnachie took a quick tap. When he was tackled after only a couple of metres, it looked like a straightforward yellow card for not retiring, but the young referee, Ruairidh Campbell, who otherwise had a pretty decent game, simply moved the penalty forward. This time McLeish was given the nod to take the kick which he duly slotted.
The Kirkcaldy response was again well defended by Hamilton, and this time they were able to gain turnover ball and counter-attack from deep. Quick hands and feet put Andy Wilson clear in the wide channel. He drew the full-back but his pass to Howatson didn’t stick and seven points went abegging.
Half-time Hamilton 8 - 5 Kirkcaldy
Hamilton introduced Ross McQueen and Greg Richardson in the front row and Josh White in the middle row at the break. White had a couple of typical breenging runs, earning a penalty from one. McLeish’s kick was just wide, but with some ball to play with the Bulls put together some lovely attacks. Eventually the ball went wide to Inglis who crossed at the corner. This time McLeish’s conversion attempt came back off a post.
More scrum penalties allowed Kirkcaldy to edge into the home twenty-two and a series of pick and drives gave Greg Wallace the chance to barge over. Smith added the goal and it was now 13-12.
The Bulls increased their lead with a clever, well-executed piece of rugby. From a close range attack McLeish dinked the ball over the on-rushing defensive line and Andy Wilson dived to catch the ball and touch down. Wilson took the kick himself, but it faded wide.
A virtual replica of their previous touchdown earned a short-range try for Rhys Bonner, and Smith’s conversion put the visitors ahead 18-19.
Manglalo had been off for a rest since before the break, but returned for the last few minutes. He walked from set-piece to set-piece, but was instrumental in Kirkcaldy splintering the Hamilton scrums, and from one near the home line, number eight Dayle Turner scored a classic push-over try.
The conversion was missed, leaving Hamilton with a six point deficit, and the belief that in the dying minutes they could still win the game. However, all the tackling had taken its toll. Tired legs and minds caused uncharacteristic errors, and Kirkcaldy were able to hold out.