Oct 12 2012 by Lizzie Smith, Kilmarnock Standard
An out-of-sorts Kilmarnock toughed out a win over a stubborn Shire in the first round of the West Regional Shield on Saturday.
Shire pressurised Kilmarnock for the first five minutes before a penalty at a driving maul allowed Colin Sturgeon to kick downfield and win a lineout. John Brown secured the ball in the air and the Kilmarnock backline moved the ball with centre Pratt stopped in midfield, the second phase saw Fergus Porter link with debut player Taylor McHarg who crossed into the Shire half for the first time.
A second backline move resulted in a penalty to Kilmarnock and Sturgeon kicked to the corner. Kilmarnock moved the ball wide again but were turned over but soon won a scrum, but captain Johnny Bradford dropped the ball at full tilt.
Shire cleared the ball into touch giving Kilmarnock a lineout which saw Kieran Grant break at the tail and race goalwards but possession was lost with a penalty to Shire who kicked clear again.
In windy conditions, the ball wavered and Kilmarnock were given a scrum, Porter fed his stand-off then to Bradford who tore through the defence at pace and passed inside to scrum half Porter to score the opening try, Sturgeon converted to give Kilmarnock a 7-0 lead after 15 minutes.
Kilmarnock continued with several attacks and following a backline move centre Pratt forced his way to the 22m line to win a Kilmarnock scrum, number eight Graeme Dick picked up and broke free releasing Porter to race in for his second try, converted by Sturgeon to lead 14-0 after 25 minutes.
Aided by several penalties, Shire forced Kilmarnock into their own half. A scrum five metres out saw the home side drive over for an unconverted try, 14-5.
Kilmarnock restarted with a high ball which was kicked to touch. Kilmarnock won the lineout and the ball was shipped to Bradford who effortlessly sailed through the defence and popped a pass to hooker Scott Crawford who appeared from nowhere to score Kilmarnock’s third try, converted by Sturgeon, 21-5 to Kilmarnock.
To end the first half, a melee broke out with a yellow card shown to a player on both sides and a red to the Shire’s inside centre.
Kilmarnock replaced Kieran Grant with Ruairdh Cuthbertson moving to full back, Sturgeon switched to scrum half and Ally McWhirter filled the number 10 position.
Kilmarnock had a crosswind slightly in their favour but Shire stepped up their game.
A penalty to Shire was compounded with backchat from Kilmarnock and brought the penalty into kicking range with fullback Callum Austin converting to narrow the scoreline 21-8.
From the long and high restart kick Shire returned the ball downfield and Kilmarnock took a quick lineout, Sturgeon swept past several players and passed to lock forward Taylor McHarg who bulldozed over the last few metres to score his maiden try for Kilmarnock. Sturgeon converted to put Kilmarnock well ahead 28-8.
Paul Ramsey was replaced with Kieran Grant returning to the game and McHarg, probably shell-shocked with his try, knocked on the restart kick.
Shire then won a succession of penalties and moved closer to the Kilmarnock goal line, winning a scrum five metres out the Shire scrum half kicked the ball out and promptly pounced on the loose ball for an unconverted try 28-13, 10 minutes into the half.
McHarg was substituted with fellow youngster Wilkie Farquhar. Sadly the game degenerated with penalties ruining open play.
Kilmarnock were tested to the limit when John Brown was the unlucky player to be sin binned for persistant fouling.
A few moments later a second melee erupted as Kilmarnock defended and Porter proclaiming innocence received a second yellow to be sent off. Despite the numerical disadvantage, Kilmarnock defended well and disrupted the home scrum at several put ins. With Brown returning, Bradford was given a well-earned rest and Ramsey returned to the wing.
In the final few minutes, Kilmarnock were denied two scores with Farquhar going over but was adjudged to have been held up in goal and in the last move of the match, speeding winger Paul Ramsey dived into the goal area hammering the ball down with the referee interpreting a bounced ball.
In the shield, Kilmarnock will welcome West League Division Two leaders Annan on Saturday, November 10 at 1.30pm.
Coaches Robbie Stewart and Dougie Campbell were pleased that the win would build confidence before Saturday’s league match against Irvine at Bellsland. Kick-off is 3pm.