Boroughmuir Bears 24
Stirling County 27
DAVID BARNES @. Meggetland
SOME things never change. For the last handful of seasons of their Premiership era, Boroughmuir had this awful habit of snatching defeat from the jaws of victory, and so it proved in their Super6 incarnation’s first ever competitive match, with two late tries sealing Stirling County’s victory.
A crowd of just over 1,500 turned up to witness the birth of this new league. The stand was full, as was the terracing in front of the clubhouse, while the far side terracing had a healthy scattering of interested spectators. Not bad for a bitterly cold Friday night in November, especially with the city’s full-time pro team playing a match less than a mile away.
Boroughmuir President Stevie Douglas made no secret of the fact that the bumper crowd had hardly been a money-spinner due to the number of discounted and freebie tickets which had been distributed, and that was certainly the right policy to generate some buzz.
In terms of tempting people back, this wasn’t a classic contest, but there was a few good tries and enough genuine needle to underwrite a persuasive case for neutrals to give it another shot. The burger van was chock-a-block, and the bar seemed to be doing a roaring trade, so there are worse ways of killing a few hours.
A tetchy start, including a minor scuffle, demonstrated that the players meant business and hadn’t just turned up to run some fancy shapes in the hope of impressing their academy managers and other attendant SRU coaches. It was a step up in physicality but with the inevitable early season lack of cohesion.
“What you’ve got there is more intensity and physicality, and I think everyone sees it, but that is putting their skills under pressure,” said Stirling County head coach Ben Cairns. “Their skills are better, but it is going to take time for them to get used to that pressure. Also, I think it went longer than it maybe would have at Premiership level.”
Generally, Cairns was pretty happy with how it had gone. “That win was what we wanted from this game, obviously. We made it tough for ourselves at times, but if you had said to me before the game that we would come away from home in the first ever game of Super6 rugby and get a win, we would have taken it regardless of the manner of it, so we are really happy.
“We felt like we were dominant in the first half as well, but costly errors, decision-making and discipline let us down a little bit. We spoke at half-time about keeping the ball for longer spells so that dominance would tell, and we got there in the end.
“We’ve put a lot of emphasis on our defence – getting the line-speed and physicality – and we saw that at the end, knocking them back from our 22 and leaving them having to kick 50-50 ball with the last play.”
A Josh Henderson penalty from in front of the posts appeared to settle the nerves for Stirling County, with Logan Trotter bursting straight back upfield for the visitors from the restart, but Boroughmuir weathered that storm and it looked like they had snatched the lead when Gregor Brown went over from the back of a line-out maul, but referee David Sutherland ruled he was held up, and took play back for an earlier offside penalty conceded by County.
Boroughmuir kept the pressure on by kicking to the corner again, and it was hooker George Shannon – a recruit from south of the border – who rumbled over to claim the honour of being the first ever Super6 try scorer.
Boroughmuir were reduced to 14 men when winger Jordan Edmunds was sent to the bin for a high tackle, and full-back Glen Faulds was perhaps lucky not to join him on the naughty step for the same offence on Trotter, but the home side got away with a penalty. County opted to put the squeeze on through their powerful scrum but that backfired when the home team stole a march to claim a penalty of their own.
Boroughmuir survived their 10 minutes at a numerical disadvantage, and Edmunds made amends for his earlier indiscretion with a wonderful solo try, collecting a loose clearance around 10 yards inside his own half, the hunting down his own kick ahead and charging home, with McGhie nailing the touchline conversion for good measure.
Stirling got back into it through a Reyner Kennedy try from a line-out drive, converted by Henderson, but Boroughmuir bounced back before half-time when Edmunds forced a turnover and Faulds showed real pace to sprint it in from nearly 60-yards.
A Henderson penalty from in front of the post after a Boroughmuir offside at the end of the third quarter narrowed the gap to 21-13, but that was almost immediately cancelled out by a Faulds effort after a ruck infringement from the visitors.
A tense finale was teed-up when Stirling’s kiwi scrum-half Caleb Korteweg managed to wriggle over from close range, and Flockhart kicked the conversion to make it a four-point game with just over five minutes left on the clock.
Those used to watching Boroughmuir at Meggetland could sense what was going to happen next, and the inevitable arrived when Ollie Bartlett rumbled over from close range to clinch the away win.
“There was lots of positives, we defended for long periods of time and attack-wise we were threatening when we had the ball, but we just didn’t have enough possession or territory,” reflected Boroughmuir head coach Graham Shiel.
“We converted three good tries in the first half, but we did not create a lot in attack apart from that and we never got a foothold in the game in the second half. Now we have to try and build on that performance and move forward. The physicality of this game was definitely a step-up from what I saw in the Premiership last year.”
Boroughmuir Bears: G Faulds; C Gray, E Zampolli, G Cannie, J Edmunds; C Laidlaw, K McGhie, A McWilliam, G Shannon, D Winning, D Medjebeur, C Atkinson, G Brown, S McGinley, C Keddie. Subs: T Francombe, C Capps, M McGinley, B Flockhart, M Cimprich, T Wilson, G Parker, W Inglis.
Stirling County: B Thomson; E MacGarvie, L Hayes, G Hughes, L Trotter; J Henderson, C Korteweg; M Walker, R Kennedy, A Nicol, O Bartlett, C Henderson, D Taylor-Menzies, G Arnott, A Ashe. Subs: B Robertson, B Dineen, C Brown, J Pow, A Goudie, A McLean, B Sorbie.
Referee: D Sutherland
Boroughmuir Bears: Try: Shannon, Edmunds, Faulds; Con: McGhie 3; Pen: Faulds
Stirling County: Try: Kennedy, Korteweg, Bartlett; Con; Henderson 3; Pen: Henderson 2
Scoring sequence (Boroughmuir Bears first): 0-3; 5-3; 7-3; 12-3; 14-3; 14-8; 14-10; 19-10; 21-10 (h-t) 21-13; 24-13; 24-18; 24-20; 24-25; 24-27.
Yellow cards –
Boroughmuir Bears: Edmunds
Striling County: Ashe
Man-of-the-Match: Boroughmuir flanker Scott McGinley was into everything.
Talking point: A great crowd to start the season off, but can Boroughmuir sustain it once the novelty wears off.