Stirling County 5
ALAN LORIMER @ Bridgehaugh
HERIOTS gained revenge for their defeat to Stirling at Goldenacre in September with a bonus point winning performance that could signal a return to form for the north Edinburgh side.
In all, Heriot’s ran in five tries, four of them scored before the interval, in a performance of excellent ball retention, accurate passing and fast engagement in defence that for the first 40 minutes suffocated Stirling’s attacking ambitions.
Moreover, Heriot’s had a dominance in the set scrum and more than once were able to pirate ball at the lineout. But it was there work in the contact area that was so impressive, their ferreting providing quick ball for their eager backline to use.
“The first half was very dominant. Was it copybook Heriot’s? Good tight play followed by energetic fast play with lots of ambition. I’m sure it was enjoyable to watch.” observed the Heriot’s coach, Phil Smith.
He added: “We were asked to defend in the second half and we did. I thought we dug in. It was disappointing for us that we didn’t keep the ball as well as we had in the first half. But we still won the second half 7-5.”
For Stirling the disappointment at losing heavily to Heriot’s in the return match could not be disguised. But County can console themselves with the fact that they matched Heriot’s in the second half try count.
They should also be encouraged by the performance of their bench, who certainly made an impact in the second half, chief among them, stand-off Craig Robertson, who looked the part in the playmaker position and will surely challenge seriously for the jersey.
Stirling’s weakness in the first half was their inability to compete on equal terms at the set scrum, the speed of their defence and their control of the ball. The second half, however, saw a marked improvement, enough anyway to suggest that County can recover from this setback.
“We didn’t have any ball in the first half. Credit to Heriot’s, they kept ball very well and they played a lot of phases. In possession stats we were well behind. We spent too much time defending and that started to take its toll on the players. In the second half we showed what we can do. We created opportunities and kept the ball.” said Graeme Young, the Stirling assistant coach.
Heriot’s showed their attacking qualities from the kick-off, their sweeping attacks putting the Stirling defence under intense pressure. The breakthrough came from a burst into the clear by flanker Michael Maltman. Jack Turley was in support to carry the move to within a metre of the line leaving Michael Liness to finish from close range.
Ross Jones converted but then missed at goal after Callum Marshall had scored wide out following a defence-confusing kick from stand-off Rory Carmichael and a surge to the line by Turley.
Try number three was scored by Carmichael himself, the fly half taking a reverse pass from Turley after an infield run by wing and former New Year Sprint champion, Craig Robertson, this time Jones making no mistake with the extras.
Then with half time approaching, Heriot’s drove a penalty lineout in the corner before releasing the ball first to the left and then bringing it back into midfield for Turley to sprint over for the bonus point try, Jones converting to give Heriot’s a 26-0 interval advantage.
Stirling looked much more in tune with the game in the second half and were rewarded with a solo try from Ruaridh Swan, the home-grown scrum half taking a quick tap penalty before running through a bemused Heriot’s defence.
But Heriot’s were not to be beaten in the second half and three minutes before full time their hard working openside flanker Jack McLean claimed the try they sought, Jones converting for the final points of the match.
Stirling County: L Trotter; E Macgarvie, R Curle, G Gilliland, K Gossman; J Hope, R Swan; R Chies, R Kennedy, G Holburn, J Beech, C Hunter-Hill, H Burr, S Macdonald, R Leishman. Subs used M Emmison, M Macdonald, H Pow, H Henderson, C Robertson
Heriot’s: C Simpson; C Robertson, R Jones, R Kay, J Rae; R Carmichael, T Wilson; G Cameron, M Liness, S Cessford, C Marshall, J Turley, M Maltman, J McLean, M Hughes. Subs used S Mustard, M Bouab, S Dewar, A Ball, S Edwards
Referee: I Kenny
Stirling County: Try Swan
Heriot’s: Tries Liness, Marshall, Carmichael, Turley, McLean Cons Jones 4.
Scoring Sequence (Stirling first): 0-5, 0-7, 0-12, 0-17, 0-19, 0-24, 0-26 (h-t) 5-26, 5-31, 5-33
Man-of-the-Match: Jack Turley has made a huge impact since returning to Goldenacre and against Stirling he again showed why he is such a key player. Not only did he score a try but also was involved in the other four touchdowns by Heriot’s.
Talking point: After losing to Melrose and Ayr in successive weeks Heriot’s returned to winning ways against Currie last weekend. Their victory over Stirling, a second successive win, now suggests that Heriot’s are on an upward curve. For Stirling this match was a step backwards and a rethink will be necessary before the Premiership resumes next month.