BT Premiership: County come a cropper

Image: David Gibson / Fotosportuk

STIRLING COUNTY’S hopes of finishing in the top four of the BT Premiership this season took a serious dent after the Bridgehaugh men lost 36-17 to a revitalised Hawick side at Mansfield Park. 

This was Hawick’s first win of the season and one which reflected a new-found confidence amongst George Graham’s troops, who had much the better of both the territory and possession stats than the Bridgehaugh men.

Stirling however, had sensed that Hawick would not be ‘shove over’ opponents as their coach, Graeme Young, acknowledged.

“We came here knowing that it would be a hard game. Hawick had their backs against the wall so we knew they would come out fighting,” he said.

“They showed us that today. The story of our day was that we didn’t win enough quality ball from the set-piece, from our scrum, from our line-out, so we didn’t have an attacking platform. That put us under pressure.

“When we had the ball for any length of time we showed how dangerous we can be in attack. We just didn’t have enough of that today. That played into Hawick’s hands. The game was played narrow.  But the bottom line was that we didn’t have quality ball and that starts at the scrum and line-out.”

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“We had a couple of chances and we took them. They had a lot of energy and gave it everything they had,” suggested Young, who has not ruled out making the top four.

“What the result against Hawick does is accentuates the next few matches. We’ve got two more games before Christmas so we need to regroup. We need to put energy into our training to give us a platform to play.

“We’ve got work to do. We’ve got Boroughmuir and Watsonians before Christmas. They’ll not be easy games. But, in fact, all the games in this league are really competitive. On their day any team can be any other,” he concluded.

It was Hawick who claimed the first points with a penalty goal by Ali Weir, but Stirling hit back after Ross Curle took a deft pass from Craig Robertson to sprint over for a try converted by Jonny Hope.

Stirling’s lead disappeared after Hawick scored their opening try, which came from a driven line-out and was finished by Matt Carryer.

Then, just before the break, Hawick extended their slender lead with try number two, made by a deft chip over the defence by Lee Armstrong. Dom Buckley gathered on the full, before Greig Cottrell made the running for Keith Davies to go in under the posts, leaving Weir with and easy conversion goal.

Just after the interval Stirling looked hungry to atone for first half frailties, their pressure rewarded with a close range try by Ruaridh Leishman converted by Hope.

Hawick replied immediately with a storming run by Bruce McNeil. When the ball was recycled, Armstrong again applied the chip kick to give Buckley a try, Weir adding the extras.

Stirling threatened briefly but their dividend was limited to a three-point kick by Hope. Thereafter the game belonged to Hawick as Gary Munro finished off a forward drive before Buckley grabbed his second score after a surging run from the impressive Dalton Redpath, Weir succeeding with both conversion kicks.