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Gritty comeback earns Murrayfield trip for Krakens

By Iain Grant

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The Krakens squad with coach Mike Flavell (far left) and his assistant Gary Mackay after their semi-final success at the weekend.
The Krakens squad with coach Mike Flavell (far left) and his assistant Gary Mackay after their semi-final success at the weekend.

The Krakens clinched a trip to Murrayfield with a gritty comeback win over Kirkcaldy in the semi-finals of the National Plate.

Their 36-19 win on Saturday booked their ticket to Scottish Rugby’s Silver Saturday on April 27 when all the women’s finals are being played.

They will meet Glasgow district representatives Uddingston, who on Sunday had a 41-20 home win against Perthshire.

The Krakens’ semi was in doubt after prolonged rain left Kirkcaldy’s Beveridge Park waterlogged. But a search for alternatives bore fruit on Friday when the game was switched to Madras College’s ground in St Andrews.

Caithness had to win the hard way as they fought back from a 12-0 deficit and the shock of losing Ellie Anderson to a nasty impact injury.

The all-action lock damaged her neck/shoulder area in a tackle midway through the first half, with the game halted for almost half an hour while she was taken to hospital for a precautionary check-up.

After their overnight stop-off in Perth, Mike Flavell’s squad of 22 got off to an encouraging start.

The visitors came closest during this spell when left winger Holly Trick was bundled into touch near the left touch flag.

Kirkcaldy came back strongly with their attritional front row and number eight making good inroads and the Krakens conceding a string of penalties.

After the long injury stoppage, the momentum continued to swing the Fife side’s way.

“They were on top at this stage as we went into our shells a wee bit,” Flavell said.

“We continued to give away silly penalties and, for the first try, some of us had our backs turned while their winger took a tap penalty to run in unopposed.

“Then, from the restart kick-off, our chase was really poor and after a couple of phases they worked the ball out to score under the posts.”

Twelve points behind, Flavell and assistant Gary Mackay turned to their bench as they carried out a wholesale reshuffle.

It paid dividends as the Krakens ran in two well-worked tries from Abbie Gunn and Emmy Smith, one converted by Carly Erridge.

Back came Kirkcaldy with a third try, which was converted, giving them an interval advantage of 19-12.

The Krakens coaching team was confident that if they could keep in touch their superior fitness would prove decisive.

A try from Caitlin Harvey cut Kirkcaldy’s lead to two points.

The momentum had shifted and the Blues struggled to live with the tempo and energy of their pumped-up opponents.

Their fate was sealed when they conceded further tries to Abbie Gunn, Helen Richard and Lauren Gunn. Erridge’s third conversion ended the scoring.

Flavell was elated to see his side reach only the second national final for a senior Caithness side following the Greens’ defeat in the final of the National Shield in 2014.

“I would find it very difficult to name a player of the match for us as everybody put in a really good shift,” the coach said.

“But there are definitely things we need to work on. We gave away far too many penalties for offside and a lack of discipline.

“Our defence was good for long periods but at times we dropped off our tackling and our line speed disappeared.”

Flavell was keen to thank Kirkcaldy and Madras for their efforts to ensure the match took place.

“We really appreciate all they did to find another venue as we had made all the arrangements to come down on Friday and were very keen to see the game go ahead,” he said.

The club is now looking forward to the glamour trip to Murrayfield Hive stadium at the end of the month.

Krakens skipper Nicola Mackay with her husband, assistant coach Gary Mackay.
Krakens skipper Nicola Mackay with her husband, assistant coach Gary Mackay.

Anderson was able to return with her team-mates on Saturday evening after her trip to the accident and emergency unit at Ninewells Hospital in Dundee.

Flavell said: “She was injured when the opponent she tackled fell on top of her. Her head got caught awkwardly underneath her and she had numbness and other neurological symptoms.

“They carried out a full range of checks, including a CT scan, and were initially concerned that she could have fractured her scapula.

“But everything was clear and it was found she had suffered soft tissue damage and a stretch of her spinal cord. She was able to come back up the road on the bus with us but she was pretty sore.”

Otherwise, the Krakens had no injuries to report, apart from a selection of bumps and bruises.

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