BT PREMIERSHIP: GALA 22-29 STIRLING COUNTY

27/08/16 Bridgehaugh - Stirling Stirling County v Hawick Photo credit should read: © Craig Watson Craig Watson, [email protected] 07479748060 [email protected] www.craigwatson.co.uk

STUART RUTHERFORD @ Netherdale

STIRLING COUNTY managed to shake off their ‘second-half collapse’ tag to claim an all important win at blustery and cold Netherdale. After trailing by five points at the half, the visitors went onto score 19 unanswered points before Hamilton Burr sealed the victory with a well taken late try.


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With both sides desperate for the points in order to drag themselves away from the bottom of the league, the prospect of losing was unthinkable. However, Gala did just that, and even with a man advantage in the second-half – following a red card to Langi Haupeakui – they were unable to overturn a strong Stirling County outfit.

Gala were, of course, looking to make amends for last weekend’s 57-17 humbling at the hands of arch-rivals Melrose and they were the side to initially make a bright start to this tense encounter. After winning a line-out in their own half, the ball was eventually recycled to Sasa Tofilau, who hit an excellent short line off the shoulder of Lewis Berg.

The Edinburgh professional, who has been a physical presence in the heart of Gala’s back line for most of the season, fended off his opposite number before carrying possession 20 metres into Stirling’s twenty-two. After brushing off several half-tackles, Tofilau was eventually chopped down by Jonny Hope five metres from the visitors’ whitewash. With Gala looking play the ball swiftly down the blindside, Stirling were penalised for being offside at the breakdown and Gregor Hunter made them pay.

In comical fashion, the Netherdale announcer proclaimed that the scoreboard had broken down due to technical issues, however, it was not the only thing malfunctioning as Gala’s defence conked out on several occasions in the early stages.

The visitors – who had steadied the ship after Tofilau’s bruising run – should have taken the lead after Danny Gilmour cut clean through the Gala defence from a simple inside pass from Ross Jones, however his attempt to convert a two-on-one was executed poorly with his pass falling well behind the trailing Matt Donaldson.

With the home side off the hook, they took the game to Stirling and very nearly extended their lead after an excellent run from full-back Rory Scholes followed by several pick-and-goes, the ball was eventually fed to Hunter, who showed his fleet-footedness when he stepped inside the oncoming Stirling defence. The fly-half looked to be stretching over the try line, however Craig Pringle did just enough to stop the Gala man a metre short. With the home-crowd now in full voice and urging the maroons forward, the ball was quickly fed to Tofilau, but the Samoan’s offload in the tackle was intercepted and Stirling cleared their lines.

Gala did eventually manage to increase their lead and again Scholes was at the centre of the attack. After receiving the ball on the blindside, he beat his man before charging 30 metres into the Stirling twenty two. With Hope bearing down on him, the full-back threw a neat offload to the supporting Spiers, who did well to gather before being brought down ten metres short. Gary Adams appeared from the subsequent ruck with ball in hand and not a sole between himself and the try line. The back-row seemed to be as surprised as anyone as he cantered towards to try line.

After Hope missed a penalty for Stirling, the visitors did eventually get themselves on the scoreboard and it came courtesy of the sniping scrum-half Donaldson. Gala had the put-in to a scrum on their own five-metre line, but the set piece had been an issue for the Netherdale pack all afternoon and it was again here, with the visitors winning the ball against the head, and Donaldson pounced for the easiest of scores.

If Gala thought their scrum was a problem in the first half-half, then it was about to get a lot worse after the break as Stirling took the lead from yet another set-piece, with number eight Ruairidh Leishman excellently picking-up and driving forward in one swift motion. Following a handful of pick-and-goes the ball was eventually recycled to the onrushing Langi Haupeakui – a half-time substitute – who was simply too big and too strong for the Gala fringe defence to stop from such short yardage.

With the visitors now in the ascendancy, they made Gala pay once more for their sloppy start to the second-half with another powerful set-piece score. Following another scrum in the Gala twenty-two, the Bridgehaugh outfit again worked the ball towards the five metre-line with a number accurate and potent pick-and goes. It was only a matter of time before the hosts pack crumbled under the incessant pressure and when Stirling eventually rolled over the Gala whitewash, it was the superb Adam Sinclair who was deemed to have touched the ball down. With Hope converting, the score was left at 10-19.

With a nine point lead, Stirling appeared to be in control of their own destiny, but that was before they were reduced to 14 men when Haupeakui was sent off for a dangerous tackle. With Gala’s Chris Keen looking to take the ball on a short line into contact, the USA international carelessly clothes-lined the prop, who eventually had to be stretchered off the field. With the home crowd baying for blood, referee Ross Mabon had no other option but to show the red card to the former American football star.

The hosts swiftly took advantage of their man advantage. With an attacking line-out on the Stirling five-metre line, the ball was fed out Tofilau, who made up a number of yards with superb leg drive. With the whole of Netherdale expecting the ball to be recycled wide, replacement scrum-half George Lott fooled everybody by dummying from the base of the ruck before diving over. With Hunter nailing the conversion, Gala were right back in the contest with the score left at 17-19.

For a period it appeared as though Gala were going to go on and take the lead – which wouldn’t have been a surprise given Stirling’s track record of throwing away leads – however, they dismissed that threat by grabbing their fourth try of the afternoon.

From a counter-attack which took play deep into the home team’s half, the ball was eventually worked down the blind-side to Hamilton Burr,  who found himself with nothing but green grass ahead of him. With Scholes looking to bring him down, Burr threw an outrageous dummy to glide past the full-back before ghosting in from 15 metres out. With Hope hitting the simple conversion, the lead was again extended to 9 points.

Gala’s Ross Combe scored a fantastic solo try, following a neat chip from Scholes, to close the gap, but a penalty from Hope in the 78th minute effectively ended the contest.

Stirling County will, without doubt, start to look up the league, rather than down, when fixtures recommence in the New Year; whilst Gala have it all to do.


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Teams –

Gala: R Scholes; R Combe, S Tofilau, L Berg, G Spiers ; G Hunter, C Adams; C Keen, M Carryer, D Brokker, C Weir, R Louw, G Adams, F Hunter, S Cairns. Subs: C Reynolds, O Palepoi, A Emond, G Lott, R Jeffrey.

Stirling: J Hope; S MacDonald, N Grigg, C Pringle, D Gilmour; R Jones, M Donaldson; M Hunter, R Kennedy, A Nicol, H Burr, A Sinclair, A Taylor, L Wynne, R Leishman. Subs: M Emmison, A Wood, L Haupeakui, L Bonnar , N Kenatale.

Referee: R Mabon

Scorers –

Gala: Tries: Adams, Lott, Combe;  Cons: Hunter 2; Pens: Hunter

Stirling: Tries: Donaldson, Haupeakui, Sinclair, Burr; Cons: Hope 3; Pens: Hope

Scoring sequence (Gala first): 3-0 10-0 10-5 (HT) 10-12 10-19 17-19 17-26 22-26 22-29

Red Cards – 

Stirling: L Haupeakui

Man-of-the-Match: Stirling County’s engine room of Hamilton Burr and Adam Sinclair had a terrific afternoon. The duo were highly effective at set piece and each managed to get their name on the scoresheet – but Burr’s outrageous dummy edges it.

Talking point: The sending off Langi Haupeakui was undoubtedly the talking point of the afternoon. The back-row’s tackle was incredibly dangerous and to make matters worse, the dismissal took place in front of Glasgow Warriors’ head coach Gregor Townsend.

 

About Stuart Rutherford 50 Articles
Stuart hails from the Borders town of Selkirk and has been around rugby all his life, largely thanks to the influence of his father, John. Not only a fan of the modern game, he is a keen rugby historian, and produces a regular 'Throwback Thursday Column' for The Offside Line.