BT Premiership: Mid-term report – Stirling County

Imaget: Fotosport / David Gibson - www.fotosportuk.photoshelter.com

Head coach: Peter Jericevich

Current league position: 5th

The story so far:

Eyebrows were raised when it was revealed that Stirling had appointed an eight-strong coaching panel this season as they looked to build on their eighth-place finish in the BT Premiership last time out [when they only avoided a relegation play-off appearance by virtue of a better points differential than Hawick].

Given that they are currently fifth in the table, and only one decent result away from third, would suggest that this slightly left-field approach has some merit.

Peter Jericevich takes a lead at training, but as he is also the club’s scrum-half, it is Greame Young who runs the show on Saturdays.

Consistency has been an issue, but it would be too simplistic to blame that purely on the coaching structure at this stage. Injuries to key players, particularly in the back-line, have been an issue; and given that a conscious decision has been made to revolutionise the way the team plays to a far more fluid approach, it was inevitable that there would be a few teething problems.

Besides, Stirling are by no means the only team in the hunt for a play-off finish this season which can be accused of inconsistency.

Stirling have been boosted by more pro releases than any other team with 20 so far. First year pros Callum Hunter-Hill and Lewis Wynne account for 15 of that total, having played nine and seven games respectively.

Image: Fotosport / David Gibson – www.fotosportuk.photoshelter.com

Coach’s comments –

Rate your season so far:

A fair description might be five out of ten because we’ve won five out of ten.

The league is pretty tight between second and seventh so I guess the positive is that we are in the mix, but we’re still disappointed with some of our performances – so I hope we can kick on and have a better second half to the campaign.

The important thing is that we learn from the first half of the season. We played a lot of good attacking rugby, scoring 42 tries and being second in the league in terms of overall points scored – but at the same time we’ve conceded as many points as we’ve scored, so I think it is quite clear where our problems lie and where we need to improve.

It’s about making less mistakes, less unforced errors, being better in defence and conceding less penalties, which gives the opposition the opportunity to get into our half.

If we get our territory right and keep the ball for longer then I think we’ll achieve our goals for the second half of the season.

Rate your coaching so far:

It’s gone pretty well. There isn’t a set head coach but I take the lead at training and Graeme Young is in charge on match-days, so the players know who is in charge of what, and who they need to go to for feedback on selection and so on.

Graeme and I have worked together for a few years with the Scotland Women’s team, he also coached me in the Club XV, so we’ve known each other for a long time and we’ve got a good relationship on and off the field.

There are always things you can improve on but as a coaching team we get on well, we communicate well and everyone knows their set role.

The player feedback is that they are really enjoying the way we are trying to play, and as a new coaching team it is important to have everyone on-side, then trying to develop together each week.

Most important player:

It is very difficult to say one player. The key to us being successful in games is the speed that we play at, and that comes from players being evasive before contact, good in contact, quick to clear out and quick to support – so it is a team effort. Everyone has a role to play and when everyone is on their A-game then we breed success off of that.

There are players who have done well – Ruairidh Leishman has scored a lot of tries and stood out – but the big issue is player consistency. There has been challenges with selection because of player injuries and unavailability, so if we can be more consistent as a squad then that should end up being translated onto the park.

Most improved player:

Matt Emmison has really impressed me coming off the bench. We want to play a quick game and when things start to dip we’ve got a good bench to come on and add that energy, with Matt always at the forefront. He carries a lot and really makes an impact. He understands his role, and understands the importance of that role, so although he is not a regular starter he has become a very important part of what we are trying to do.

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Best performance by your team:

We had a really good pre-season with some new players and changing the way we wanted to play with me coming in as a coach, so it was good to start off with a strong performance against Heriot’s. It perhaps wasn’t our best overall performance but it was the most important because it set out our stall. We were down at half-time but we came back and took the lead, the we defended really solidly – we just didn’t want to concede. So, looking back over the last ten games, that was the one half of rugby where we really showed what we want to be about.

Biggest disappointment:

There has been a few but Watsonians away, after starting the season with two, wins sticks out. In every other game, I think, we have won the second half, but in that match we were ahead at half-time and let it slip. It was very frustrating – especially as it was it through our own mistakes.

Also, against Currie Chieftains we were down at half-time but fought our way back into the game, then a couple of soft scores at the end allowed them to win at the death.

In the other three games we’ve lost – against Ayr, Melrose and Watsonians – we were beaten by the better side, but the Wastonians and Currie Chieftains games were there for the taking and we didn’t make it happen.

Toughest opponents:

Melrose just blew us away in that first 10 to 15 minutes – the speed they played at and their execution of their set-piece was excellent. We were 19-0 down before we knew what had hit us.

But the flip side of that is that we won the last 60 minutes, which I’m sure we can take confidence from before heading down to The Greenyards in January.

Realistic aim for the second half of the season: 

We have three big games during December – away to Hawick, at home to Watsonians and away to Boroughmuir – so we have to target getting 15 points out of that, which will put us in a good position to push on to the end of the season.

It’s a cliché, but all we can do is take each game as it comes and if we do that then we’ll be where we deserve to be at the end of the season. And if we learn from every game and keep improving, then we should be in a strong position to push for a top four spot.

About David Barnes 2968 Articles
David has worked as a freelance rugby journalist since 2004 covering every level of the game in Scotland for publications including he Herald/Sunday Herald, The Sunday Times, The Telegraph, The Scotsman/Scotland on Sunday/Evening News, The Daily Record, The Daily Mail/Mail on Sunday and The Sun.