First Team Star
Sep 2, 2019, 10:17 PM
Saturday 31st August 2019 (ko 1520)
Re: [R.S.Cavendish] Where did you go / Where are you going : 2019/20 RUGBY UNION
at McKane Park, Dunfermline
Scottish Rugby Caledonia Regional League Division One
Dunfermline 55 Aberdeen Wanderers 0 (ht 29-0)
Admission - £3.00 inc 16 page programme
Attendance - 150 (estimate)
The new rugby union season finally got under way today, with, as usual, Scotland starting a week ahead of England and Wales. It wasn’t a full programme, however, with the only National League sides playing being those involved in the preliminary rounds of the two cup competitions in which they compete, whilst the East region were only starting next week. I was wary of the amount of morning rain forecast in the West region - probably wisely so as a handful of games fell victim to waterlogged pitches including one I had considered at Dalziel - so Caledonia region was the obvious choice. I can’t get that much further north than here as a day trip by public transport, so the choice was limited, but this looked the most interesting ground to visit even if a comfortable home victory always looked a strong likelihood.
Previous football related visits to Dunfermline had given me the opportunity to explore its attractive centre, so, arriving good and early, I took the bus a couple of miles out to the village of Limekilns, situated with stunning views on the north bank of the Forth. A call was made at both village pubs, with offerings from the local Loch Leven Brewery available at the Bruce Arms, and the even more local Brew Shed at the Ship Inn (brewed in the village with barrels apparently delivered to the pub by push bike). In between, there was time to call for a sandwich at a local café, and a bracing - very bracing - stroll along the promenade. The main convenience in heading out here was that the hourly bus service back in to Dunfermline stopped right outside the rugby ground, and did so an hour ahead of the scheduled kick off time, which is my preferred time of arriving if there is a clubhouse on site.
The rugby club are tenants at McKane Park, the ground owned by Dunfermline and Carnegie Cricket Club, who had completed their season the previous Saturday by claiming promotion. The shared clubhouse has its bar upstairs, and, although the majority of the room had been given over to hosting the clubs Ladies Day, several tables at one end had been set aside for regular spectators. No real ale of any sort available, although hot drinks could be had at the bar. A downstairs corridor links the clubhouse to the ‘old’ pavilion, where the rugby club have their changing rooms, whilst the cricket club have their facilities in a newer pavilion. Both come with seats attached to the front, overlooking the main rugby pitch from behind the posts.
There are three rugby pitches set out in total, two standing side by side to the north of the clubhouse, and both in use today, hosting an Under-18 and a 3rd XV game. One of these is fitted with fairly aged looking floodlights, though presumably of match standard as I found a blog post from several years ago reporting on a midweek match, and it also pictured a fairly ramshackle looking area of cover alongside which is sadly no more. These pitches in particular are overlooked by the town and abbey from their hilltop setting, the same view somewhat obscured from the main pitch by the rather ugly exterior of the clubhouse. Admission is taken and programmes dispensed as you emerge between the clubhouse and cricket pavilion, meaning only spectators heading for the 1st XV game are charged.
The main pitch overlaps the cricket field, but is equipped with a reasonably substantial stand running along its western touchline, bearing the rugby clubs name on its frontage, and providing shelter this afternoon from the surprisingly strong wind. Three rows of quite steeply raked wooden seating ensure reasonable viewing even though the ‘benches’ take up a position in front of the stand. There are also a handful of open benches on the banking alongside the stand, whilst the pitch is roped on all four sides, with grass standing all around. Almost uniquely in my experience of such events, those attendees of the Ladies Day who venture out to watch the rugby (and quite a few of them do) seem to have come equipped with appropriate footwear! A manually operated scoreboard sits by the corner of the pitch, and next to it a brand new wooden hut in use for the first time today, and described by the club as a ‘pie shack’, with a pie and soup combo a very reasonable £2.20.
The visitors are delayed in traffic and arrive around 2.35pm - presumably 45 minutes for a warm up is set in stone, as kick off is immediately announced as 3.20pm, and we get underway exactly at that time. Last season Dunfermline were runners up in this division, their only defeats to the promoted champions, whilst Aberdeen Wanderers finished a couple of places clear of relegation. The first half hour of the game was genuinely competitive, but eventually the hosts literally overpowered their visitors, running in four tries in each half. I thought the referee might blow for time a little early in view of the scoreline, or at least dead on the 80 minute mark, but he played every minute of stoppage time that was due. That meant I narrowly missed the 5pm bus that would have dropped me close to the railway station, and I was keen to catch the 5.33pm service rather than risk a tight connection to my last train south from Edinburgh. Uncertain of exactly how long the walk was, the cooler weather was most welcome as I set off quite briskly, but I was soon able to slow down as it became evident I would reach the station with plenty of time to spare.