Stewartry 35 Dunfermline 19, National Shield, semi-final

DUNFERMLINE Rugby Club's dream of appearing at BT Murrayfield is over after they fell to a heartbreaking defeat last Saturday.

The men's first XV travelled south to play Stewartry in the last four of the National Shield, aiming to cap a fantastic season that saw them win the Tennent's Men's Caledonia Region League, Division One, title, by reaching the final of a competition they won in 2012.

A bus load of supporters followed the team to Castle Douglas for the match with the Tennent's Men's West League, Division One, outfit, but two late tries saw the home side pull away and secure their place in the showpiece.

Whilst head coach, Gavin Emerson, said that their run in the National Shield had been a bonus, with the priority of winning their division, and promotion to the national leagues, having been achieved, he admitted that there were "a few tears" amongst his players.

"It is one of those things. I've not looked at the game tape yet," he reflected to Press Sport.

"They were a good side. We lost two or three of our back row players in the first 10 minutes due to head knocks and concussion, so we had to make substitutions earlier than we'd like.

"The boys played well, but Stewartry were a bit more physical and stronger than us."

Despite the injury issues Dunfermline sustained, they fought back from a 14-0 deficit to move within two points at the half-time interval, and were just a solitary point down, at 20-19, as the game moved into its final stages.

However, tiredness on the part of the McKane Park men, and the utilisation of a strong bench by the hosts, allowed Stewartry to cross the whitewash twice and secure their place in the final, against East Kilbride, on May 6.

"With only a few minutes left to play, we were one point out, but I think fatigue, and the added physicality of Stewartry, caught up with us, and they scored two late tries," Emerson continued.

"We were maybe on an adrenaline dump from the week before (when Dunfermline won the league title against Aberdeen Wanderers) and maybe thought we would go there and take the game.

"Stewartry were the better team on the day. There were a few tears and sad faces.

"We believed in ourselves; we started really well, warmed-up really well. Stewartry had a good crowd that were behind them, and brought on a good bench. We didn't, as we'd already used it!

"We have to use it as a bit of a learning curve. It's unfortunate, but it doesn't take anything away from the season that we've had.

"It was a nice day out, and, hopefully, a good spectacle of rugby.

"They were a good team and deserved to win. I truly believe they'll win the shield.

"Hopefully they'll be in National (League Division) Four next season as well, and we can try and turn the result around."