DAVID BARNES @ BT Murrayfield
THIS wasn’t a game for the feint hearted. There was so many stoppages for injuries that the final whistle did not blow until more than two hours after kick-off. Garioch’s Fay McAllan suffered a suspected broken ankle, but nobody else seems to have been seriously damaged.
In between all these breaks while players were stretchered from the park, there was some pretty exciting rugby played, with a blitz of tries either side of half-time giving Garioch a lead which they were able to hold onto despite a courageous late rally from Kirkcaldy.
Garioch captain and stand-off Alana Davidson was one of those wounded warriors, coming off with a twisted knee and ankle after just ten minutes, meaning that there had to be a major reshuffle of the backline. Kimberley Renicks, a Commonwealth Games judo gold medallist in 2014, filled in at first receiver, and despite never having played that position before, the 29-year-old managed to score two tries and ended up being named player-of-the match.
Davidson was naturally disappointed at missing so much of the action, but the overriding emotion was pride at the way her team-mates had rallied to the cause.
“This means so much. It is the first piece of silverware we have ever won. The girls have worked so hard over the last three weeks training for this and I think nerves got to us a little bit at the start, but once we had reminded ourselves that we had come here to have fun we were able to keep our cool, and that saw us through in the end,” she said.
Garioch scrum-half Jeneise Miles and Kirkcaldy centre Nicki Redpath exchanged penalties early on, before Renicks went over for her first score. The impetus for that try came from powerful number eight pick-up and 25-yard charge through five tacklers by the impressive Lindsey McDiarmid.
With two minutes to go in the first half, Kirkcaldy struck back when scrum-half Linda Morrison sneaked over after some impressive driving play by the blue forwards, and Brenda Brogan nailed a tricky conversion from near the right touchline for good measure.
However, delight turned to despair for the Fifers just two minutes later when Renicks appeared from nowhere to intercept Miles’ pass from the back of a maul, and scooted under the posts unchallenged. Kirkcaldy players and supporters were convinced that she must have been offside, but after consulting with her touch-judges, referee Lee Steels ruled that the score was good.
Two more tries after the break from second-row Alisha Ross and centre Sophie Atkinson, both converted by Miles, stretched Garioch into a 19-point lead; but Kirkcaldy kept battling away and grabbed two scores back through centre Hayley Samuel, but they couldn’t get any closer than that.
“It is disappointing when you get so close but not quite close enough. We played Garioch in our first game of the season and lost 5-53 at home, so we’ve definitely improved since then. It was certainly a lot close than last time,” said head coach Curtis Holligsworth.
“They grouped pulled after that fourth try and fought their way back into it. So that showed great spirit and I’m very proud of them,” said coach Curtis Hollingsworth.
Garioch certainly seem to be a club on an upward curve, but they are determined not to get ahead of themselves. They were promoted Women’s National League Division One last season and are set to finish second in that division this season, but they have turned down the opportunity to be part of a play-off match for promotion into the Premiership.
“We’re not ready for that yet. We didn’t have a big enough player base to take that on yet so we want any other year in National One to build towards that,” explained Johnson.
Kirkcaldy: F Milne; C Downs, N Redpath, H Samuel, K Lang; B Brogan, L Morrison; K Small, D Stephenson, R McNeil, L Heggie, A Massie©, C McMahon, E Dyce, E Buckley. Subs: J Cooper, M Cockburn, K Gavan, E Myles, A McCall, S Lowe, S Laird.
Garioch: R Laurenson; L Shand, R Bestwick, S Anderson, L Baroch; A Davidson, J Miles; E Murphy, S Campbell, M Kerr, A (Alisha) Ross, A (Anna) Ross, T McIntosh, J Silcocks, L McDiarmid. Subs: J Shaw, K Jamieson, K Eades, M Ingram, K Renicks, F McAllan, C Busson.
Referee: Lee Ann Steel
Kirkcaldy: Tries: Morrison, Samuel 2; Con: Brogan; Pens: Redpath
Garioch: Tries: Renicks 2, Ross, Anderson; Cons: Miles 3; Pens: Miles.
Scoring sequence (Kirkcaldy first): 0-3; 3-3; 3-8; 8-8; 10-8; 10-13; 10-15 (h-t) 10-20; 10-22; 10-27; 10-29; 15-29; 20-29
Player-of-the-Match: Garioch’s powerful back-row all impressed, with number eight Lindsey McDiarmid a stand-out with a couple of lung-busting runs; but two tries and plenty of physicality from Kimberley Renicks playing out of position sees her get the gong. Hayley Samuel and Brenda Brogan deserve a mention for passionately leading the late Kirkcaldy charge.
Talking point: Kimberley Renicks is clearly a great athlete and showed pretty good all round rugby ability when filling in at stand-off, but can she be fully lured away from her first love of judo?