Currie Chieftains 30
Stirling County 24
COLIN RENTON @ Malleny Park
HAVING seen his men stage a magnificent comeback the previous week, Currie Chieftains coach Ben Cairns almost witnessed a reversal of fortunes as the hosts were forced to endure a second half rally by Stirling County to secure the win. It was yet another incredible game in a league that continues to produce cliffhanging finishes.
With both sides intent on playing with ball in hand, there was little evidence of the typical aerial ping-pong in the early stages. And it was a sign of the quality of the encounter that there were eight minutes on the clock before County were awarded the first penalty of the afternoon. That proved to be the platform for an initial attack of note and Logan Trotter was halted just short of the whitewash.
The Chieftains had three penalties within kicking range but chose to go for touch. The first two efforts came to nothing but, at the third time of asking, a catch and drive ended with Callum Mackintosh plunging over.
Adam Hastings pulled the conversion left of the target but he was on score sheet in 23 minutes when he darted through and used the men on his outside as a decoy to race over. This time the Glasgow Warriors stand off added the extras.
Purvis Marquees support Currie Chieftains
County responded with a spell of pressure that saw Ruaridh Leishman and Shaun Macdonald came close. Then, as the recycled ball was moved wide, Ben Robbins intercepted and raced clear. Even with his sprinter’s pace, the home full-back was eventually tracked down by Trotter. Harvey Elms also offered a glimpse of his acceleration as he evaded two tackles to race into the County 22. Peter Jericevich was penalised for offside at the breakdown, earning a yellow card for his sins, and Hastings banged over the resultant penalty.
And, entering injury time, the hosts claimed a third try when Hastings picked out Cammy Gray with a long pass and the winger crossed at the corner.
County raised the pace in the closing phase of the first period and battered at an unyielding home defence before turning over possession a metre short of the line to leave the score at 20-0 as the referee blew for half-time.
The visitors restarted well and were awarded three penalties. The first two brought no reward but the third, like the previous two, was despatched into touch and preceded a series of drives that ended when Hamilton Burr crashed over.
The Chieftains were then reduced to 14 men after Vince Wright saw red following a punch that was signalled by the assistant referee.
The momentum was now firmly with the visitors and they battled back to within striking distance when Lesihman side-stepped two defenders before dotting down. Trotter added the conversion. And County were right back in the game after 58 minutes when Leishman emerged from a heap of bodies to claim a third try for his side. Trotter’s conversion cut the gap to a single point.
A rare foray into opposition territory ended with Hastings lining up a penalty attempt. But he was off target with his kick. For the first time in the second period, the Chieftains had a spell in the ascendancy and it yielded the bonus point score S for tephen Ainslie after a series of attempts had come up short.
Still the game had one more twist and Jericevich ensured a tense finale when he picked up at the base of a ruck and skirted round the side to touch down.
Back came the hosts and John Cox capped a series of pick-and-drives when he scrambled over. However, Hastings struck the post with his conversion attempt, leaving the gap at six points and ensuring the home supporters had to survive a tense final few minutes before they could celebrate the victory.
Having seen his side trail 19-0 at the break seven days earlier, County assistant coach Graeme Young was frustrated at having witnessed a repeat.
“The story of the day was too many penalties first half – we had nine penalties and a yellow cad. That put us under a lot of pressure. Currie did well to convert that to points and you are 20-0 down”, he said.
“At half time, we rectified it and in first the 20 minutes of the second half I think we showed what we can do when we keep the ball and stay disciplined. We scored some really great tries and brought ourselves back into the game.
“In this league you can’t give away the number of penalties that we did and you can’t have the indiscipline and expect to come away with the win.”
Home head coach Ben Cairns was pleased with the outcome but his overall view was that the performance had been less than satisfactory.
“The positive is that we started better than we did last week. The negative is the way we went about the second half. We didn’t show a lot of control for the whole game but we got away with it in the first half”, he said.
“We spoke about the first ten minutes of the second half being important for us because we knew if they got a sniff it could be a tough day for us. We just let ourselves down in terms of the errors we made at the start of the second half. I thought our control and our decision making at key times was lacking a bit.”
However, after a match that yielded five vital league points, there were positives, particularly in the way the Chieftains quelled the fight-back when the match seemed to have moved in County’s favour.
“We’ve done really well to turn that around – being down a man as well, everything was going against us,” he said. “To find a try from somewhere and get the bonus point having let the game slip away from us was pleasing.”
Currie Chieftains: B Robbins; R Smith, H Elms, R Nelson©, C Gray; A Hastings, J Forbes; J Cox, C Mackintosh, D Ferguson, V Wright, M Vernel, S Ainslie, T Gordon, S McGinley. Subs: C Wilson, K Burney, G Carson, R Davies, M O’Neil.
Stirling County: C Robertson; K Gossman, E McGarvie, G Gilliland, L Trotter; J Hope©, R Swan; R Cheis, R Kennedy, A Nicol, C Hunter-Hill, H Burr, L Wynne, S Macdonald, R Leishman. Subs: M Emmison, M McDonald, J Pow, J Beech, L Bonar.
Currie Chieftains: Tries: Mackintosh, Hastings, Gray, Ainslie, Cox; Con: Hastings; Pen: Hastings
Stirling County: Tries: Burr, Leishman 2, Jericevich; Cons: Trotter 2.
Scoring sequence (Chieftains first): 5-0, 10-0, 12-0, 15-0, 20-0 (h-t) 20-5, 20-10, 20-12, 20-17, 20-19, 25-19, 25-24, 30-24
Yellow cards –
Stirling County: Jericevich (31mins), Gilliland (63 mins)
Red cards –
Chieftains: Wright (65mins)
Referee: D Sutherland
Man-of-the-Match: Ruaridh Leishman was outstanding for the visitors but the key man overall was Chieftains skipper Robbie Nelson, who steadied the ship when the pressure was at its most intense, and ultimately led the hosts to victory.
Talking point: Chieftains have shown they can win in various ways – this one was a gutsy effort after being on the ropes. County are almost there and if they can start better, they could also find themselves in the play-offs.
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