There was no relief in the lusty chorus of Kirkcaldy anthem Geordie Munro at the end of the nail-biting win over Hamilton at Beveridge Park on Saturday, maybe because the celebrations were just a matter of time.
The 33-30 win over the second placed Bulls assured the Blues’ had won the BT National League Division Two title, and a return to the second tier of club rugby for the first time in eight years. They did it remarkably easily, with three games to spare, and this their 11th victory in succession.
It’s been a remarkable turnaround for the club whose recent campaigns had suggested they were competitive club, tough to beat especially in the forwards, but some way short of promotion material.
But augmenting the coaching team, strengthening the backroom staff and a definite re-commitment on the pitch has worked wonders.
Kenny Fraser, a stalwart for the club in their days in the heady heights of the Premiership, took over coaching the forwards and is the vocal ying to head coach Quinny Sanft’s more laid-back yang. Another former member of that Premiership team, Mark Henderson, co-ordinates it all as director of rugby.
“I think every season in this division is different, teams come up and teams come down, you can rarely predict what’ll happen one season to the next,” said Fraser. “But I think the key has been just the honesty of the guys in the team.
“We have a squad that really want to train and play together and I think that’s shown this season.”
The Blues always seem to have a strong pack and a dominating scrummage, and it’s been their chief weapon again this season.
“I’m not one of those coaches who likes to see fancy, Lions-style rugby,” grinned Fraser. “Rugby’s never changed, if you can’t get the ball off the opposition forwards you’re going to struggle.”
Veteran skipper Greg Wallace – “he’s got a new lease of life this season,” I was told in the stands – personifies this attitude, and at times Hamilton simply couldn’t cope with the directness of the carries from the home forwards. When Finlay Smith booted his fourth penalty just after the break to take his side out to 26-8 ahead, it seemed like Kirkcaldy were about to stroll to the win they needed.
The power running had cracked the Bulls defence twice for tries by Josh Laird and Craig Letham, while Smith was perfect from the tee, adding both conversions.
But the number of penalties given away by the Blues as they tended to overdo the pick-and-gos started to give Hamilton some hope, and they scored off a Blues staple, the driven lineout, and added tries from the brothers on each wing, Craig and Ross Inglis.
Rory Brown’s try, again converted by Smith, seemed to put all to rights, but the Bulls weren’t finished. The Inglis boys got another try apiece and had either of the Hamilton kickers had half the day Smith had, they might have been ahead.
In the end Dayle Turner’s sharp reactions to a quick dropout – after Smith’s only miss of the afternoon – finally stopped the Bulls’ resistance and brought wild celebrations on the Kirkcaldy sidelines.
And it was a packed sideline, with a full stand, and four or five deep in the standing section near the clubhouse. There always seems to be more women and families at Kirkcaldy games than most, and it’s indicative of the club’s philosophy.
“It’s just a nice little club, a family club,” said Fraser. “It’s all the volunteers, the back room people, that’s what this club is all about.
“The players have worked hard for the entire season and they deserve all this cheap champagne!”
Not that much of it ended up in mouths, but it’s not a champagne kind of club anyway. After too long a gap, Kirkcaldy are back in the second tier and there will be no easy points for next year’s visitors to Beveridge Park, no matter how much changes in the summer.