Hamilton Bulls win crunch match
By Neil Mitchell
Bulls 35 - Kirkaldy 17
The Bulls scored a bonus point win against near rivals Kirkaldy to go 7th in National League one on Saturday. In cold conditions on a pitch perfect for running rugby, Hamilton put recent disappointments behind them to get 2019 off to a flying start. They took the initiative from the off launching a wave of attacks from the kick off, their aggressive tackling winning them possession and a penalty in 4 minutes which Owen McLeish
converted to get the scoreboard moving.
Kirkaldy showed that they too possessed an attacking threat particularly from their back row where man mountain Mitchell Harper posed a constant threat with his powerful running. However Hamilton’s defence was up to the task, and Owen McLeish
’s judicious use of the downfield turned the heavy Kirkaldy pack to put Hamilton into opposition territory. On 9 minutes Hamilton capitalised on untidy Kirkaldy lineout play to steal possession close to the line, leaving space for Gregor Brodie
to crash over for a try converted by McLeish. Despite this, Kirkaldy showed that they too could handle the ball and stand off, Alex Black, made several good line breaks, only to be thwarted by determined Hamilton defence. However on one of his breaks, spinning out of the tackle he released centre Josh Laird who narrowed the gap with a well taken try under the posts, converted by McKenzie.
Bulls however seemed in complete control of the match and it was only unforced handling errors which prevented them form going further ahead. On 34 minutes however, after some great handling by Skilling, Ben Plant
broke clear on the flank to dot down in the corner. Mcleish was successful from wide out to take Hamilton into the sheds with a 17 points to 7 half time lead.
It was more of the same as the second half got under way. Kirkaldy coughed up a succession of penalties, giving McLeish the opportunity to land a further 2 penalty goals. After all these penalties, the referee had no alternative but to yellow card Harper for a high tackle on 48 minutes. Bulls threw everything at the Kirkaldy line and were unlucky not to score from a lineout drive, the ball being spilled at the last moment. On 58 minutes however, Ross McQueen
was able to control the ball at the back of a driving maul and scored Hamilton’s 3rd try, converted by McLeish.
Harper’s return signalled a step up in intensity form the visitors who laid siege to the Hamilton line. Good defence and a brilliant break from deep in his 22 by Scott Alexander
, who was winning his 100th cap, took play back deep into Kirkaldy territory and it was only a last ditch tackle which forced Ben Plant
into touch just short of the line. Black got things moving again for Kikaldy with a clean line break in midfield and off load to Laird again, who was stopped just short by Skilling. With their tails up, Kirkaldy launched a wave of attacks and on 70 minutes, Harper found himself on the end of some good handling to barge his way over. He repeated the dose within 4 minutes to close the gap to 30 / 17. However with the last play of the match Hamilton chose to kick for the lineout. Man of the match Jack Bruce
secured possession and moved the ball infield. McLeish spotted a huge gap on the blind side and moved the ball quickly to substitute Robert Brown who had a clear run in to the line for the bonus point try. Final score 35 – 17.
Coach David Gemmell was delighted with the win, especially the last minute try. “We controlled the game and possession. It would have been a travesty if we had not got that final try. Still we do have things to work on before we visit Jed next week. We still need to work on ball retention in the contact areas. Delighted with the points today though.”