Cumnock beat Birkmyre to claim second spot
Promotion now secured to West 1
Cumnock travelled to Kilmacolm on Saturday to play Birkmyre in their penultimate league fixture. Cumnock required just 1 point from the fixture to claim second spot in West Division 2 and secure the all-important promotion spot into West Division 1. Whilst Cumnock weren’t out of the contest for top spot in the league. They would however require Strathendrick to lose their last 2 league games, but with the men from Fintry on fine form the chances of that were slim to none. Bottom of the league Birkmyre were just off the back of 2 heavy defeats from Strathendrick, the latest of which was a midweek trip all the way up to Fintry for an 80-0 hammering.
Cumnock were a much-changed side for this match with 3 of the regular starting XV on a plane to Australia, linking up with Inverell Highlanders to experience rugby down under. The whole club wants to wish Calum Park, Robbie McLaren and Stephen Robson well, no doubt they’ll learn a lot playing in the southern hemisphere and bring that experience back to Cumnock for the beginning of next season. So with the changes it was a return to the fold for Gregor Aitken who stepped into Parks regular spot at outside centre, McLaren was replaced with the dependable Steven Thomson and Robson’s absence meant a rare starting partnership of Sean Fulton and Ciaran Cullen in the second row.
Cumnock started well, camping themselves deep in Birkmyre’s half. A few half breaks got them close to the line before an offload found its way into the hands of Campbell Reid who did well to hold onto it before diving over for the score. Reilly’s first kick at goal was a tricky one wide to the left of the posts but he had brought his kicking boots with him today and nailed it between the uprights. Another try came shortly after when Cumnock secured a lineout within the Birkmyre 22-metre line and Reilly crashed over for a score on the right-hand side, this time converting his own score.
Birkmyre had a brief spell with the ball, getting themselves close to the Cumnock try line after winning a couple of penalties from Cumnock’s indiscipline. Cumnock’s defence was holding strong with some big hits coming in from Ciaran Cullen and an important turnover from Sean Fulton allowed them to relieve the pressure.
Jack Reilly went over for his second after grasping onto a loose Birkmyre pass and running over for the score from the halfway line. Reilly once again converted the score. Reilly had another break up the middle just before half time but couldn’t link up with his support, the threat was eventually snuffed out by Birkmyre who finished the half with a 21-point deficit.
The second half started with a bang as another break brought Cumnock close to the Birkmyre try line before the ball was spun wide to Martin Thomson who put Connor Hill over for the try with a nice offload out of the tackle. The fourth try was well celebrated on the touchline as it secured Cumnock’s promotion to West Division 1 next year, Reilly was unable to convert the score from the far-left touchline.
Cumnock at this point took their foot of the gas a bit which led to a Birkmyre try after Cumnock fell off a few tackles, they missed the conversion but had finally landed their first points of the game. You had to hand it to the home side, they were showing some real fight in the game despite their standing on the scoreboard. Normal service resumed however after Martin Thomson looked to have score on the left-hand side of the posts but the referee called it back for a scrum for an earlier knock on. Cumnock didn’t have long to wait after their scrum put Birkmyre under some real pressure just in front of the posts and Steven Lowrie went over for the score after claiming the loose ball which spilled out from the feet of Birkmyre’s 2nd row. Reilly converted to make it 33-5 to Cumnock.
Martin Thomson, a bit frustrated after having his score knocked off by the referee, made a big play with a long kick up the middle and the full backs chase put his opposite number under real pressure which led to the turnover. Jack Reilly got the ball quickly and went over to finish off his hat trick, kicking the conversion before being replaced. It wasn’t all going Cumnock’s way as their scrum half Aiden Kerr sustained a nasty ankle injury which hopefully won’t see him out for too long, the young 9’s performances have been crucial to their current league standing.
Cumnock had the final say in the match after a break up the right hand side by Jayson McMillan who popped the ball up to Mikey Casey to dive over for his first senior try. Martin Thomson took up the kicking tee and put over the conversion to make the final score 47-5. Job done. Promotion secured.
There were a few stand out performances for Cumnock, from the hat trick by Jack Reilly to the rampaging runs of Donald Hunter, but it was Sean Fulton who received the head coaches man of the match award after the second rows unquestionable work rate and huge tackles which kept Birkmyre on the backfoot for the entire game.
Strathendrick won their game at Loch Lomond which secures them the league title, it was always a long shot for Cumnock to catch them given their impressive bonus points haul, both teams can look forward to facing off against each other again next year in Division 1. Next week is Ladies Day at Cumnock with the 1st XV facing off against Waysiders Drumpellier who are desperately fighting a relegation battle to try and stay in West Division 2.