History repeated itself as Currie held off a second-half comeback to defeat Stirling County. Three first-half tries from the home side left the score a lopsided 19-5 at the break, however, Ben Cairns’ talented side emerged with a new lease of life for the second half and scored 22 unanswered points to come away with a decisive victory.
It was an almost carbon copy of September’s fixture at Malleny Park – when Stirling surrendered a 16 point lead to lose 27-24 – a testament to the capital sides’ never-say-die attitude.
“Obviously I wasn’t happy with how the first-half went and I’d rather we didn’t have to come back from behind.” said the level-headed Cairns.
“However, the reaction that we got, from what we talked about at half-time, to what we actually implemented on the pitch was really pleasing and hopefully the boys can take a lot of confidence from that moving forward. In the second-half we obviously played with more tempo and kept the ball for longer periods and if you do that, against a team you believe you are fitter than, then you are going to get your just rewards. It’s simple.”
As much as Stirling County’s head coach, David Adamson, would like to write off this game as just another BT Premiership fixture, the last meeting between these two must have been rooted deep in his memory. Therefore, it is no wonder that seeing his side collapse again, left him extremely frustrated.
“At 19-5 we were looking good for the win, but once again, we go off script, the system breaks down and we concede extremely soft tries. It’s the same thing that has happened three or four times now and we’re going to have to re-assess these issues,” he said.
“I don’t think it is a fitness issue all together. I think it is more of a decision making issue, however, it is something we’re going to look at as we’ve lost four games now in the last twenty minutes.”
This was, astonishingly, only Stirling’s second home game since the 15th of October and so perhaps the unfamiliar surroundings of Bridgehaugh were to blame for their lacklustre start. The home side gifted possession to the visitors on several occasions and if it hadn’t been for a last ditch tackle, Currie’s Ratu Tagive may have been under the sticks after intercepting a careless pass.
After Currie’s bright start, it was the hosts who scored the first points of the afternoon, courtesy of second-row Adam Sinclair. Following an attacking lineout on the visitors’ twenty-two, the ball was fed out to the dynamic centre, Craig Pringle, who displayed his power by breaking a tackle before being chopped short of the five metre line. Hamilton Burr’s pick-and-go brought his side within inches of the whitewash, but quick ball to Alex Taylor was followed by a delightful inside pass to Sinclair, for his side’s first try of the day.
Currie gathered themselves and after winning the restart, worked the ball deep into the home side’s half, however, with just 20 minutes on the clock it was apparent that handling was going to be an issue for the visitors, who had knocked the ball on in contact a number of times already. On this occasion, after an encouraging attack the ball was spilled forward before it was collected by Stirling’s captain Jonny Hope.
The full-back – who had already shown his rugby intelligence with a number of clever grubber kicks – threw a terrific wide pass to release Pringle, who had nothing but real estate ahead of him. The outside-centre made up 50 yards up the touchline, before popping the ball back inside to the trailing Matt Donaldson. It looked like the scrum-half had squandered a sure try when he failed to collect the simple pass, however, he showed quick thinking in putting boot to ball before he collected and dived over the whitewash to extend the home side’s lead.
It wasn’t long before Currie were able to grab their first score of the afternoon and it came after excellent handling from their potent back-line. Ben Cairn’s influence on his young backs is clear to see and it appears that they go from strength-to-strength as the season progresses, however, the jewel in the crown is without doubt Harvey Elms.
The fullback – who was deservedly selected in Phil Smith’s club international XV – was at the heart of Currie’s sweeping attacks and was the first man to touch down for the visitors. After working into the home side’s twenty-two, the ball was swiftly played down the blindside. With Ross Weston running on a decoy, the ball was played behind the number eight to Tagive. The winger – who had come off his wing – brushed off the defensive efforts of his opposite number before playing in Elms in the corner. With Forbes missing the conversion, the score was left at 12-5.
With Currie now in the ascendance and looking to grab another score, they were caught cold when Stirling managed to score their third try of the afternoon. Again it came from sloppy play from the visitors, who seemed to lose the ball at any sign of contact. With Stirling looking to counter, the ball was worked neatly out wide before it fell into the hands of Bruce Sorbie. The winger – who had had a quiet afternoon up to that point- showed his elusiveness by beating a man before carrying the ball 40 metres into the visitor’s twenty-two. With Elms bearing down on him, Sorbie played a simple pass back inside to the supporting Pringle, who sauntered under the posts to increase the lead further. Hope nailed the conversion to leave the score 19-5 at the break.
These were to be the last points the Bridgehaugh outfit scored as Currie began the second half with a new found exuberance. For the first 15 minutes following the break, County were pinned inside their own twenty-two and they could only watch as the visitors scored two quick-fire tries to claw themselves back into this heated encounter. The first came from Elms, who once again showed his potency when he touched down in the corner, following a series of pick-and-goes from the powerful Currie pack.
The second arrived only moments later after an attacking lineout on the home side’s five metre line. After securing the ball at the tail, the ball was successfully taken down before it a rolling maul was initiated. With precision, the capital side’s forwards showed their control as they drove the Stirling forwards over their own try line, before back-row Stephen Ainslie got the ball down to leave the score evenly balanced at 19-17.
County were clearly shell shocked and perhaps they could sense that the ‘same old story’ was unfolding before their eyes. This did not deter them from attacking, however, and for a period it appeared as though they might just get away with it. This was before Ross Jones threw a criminal interception, which effectively iced the game. The stand-off, who had at times controlled the proceedings, simply did not look up before attempting a miss-one pass and it sat up perfectly for the onrushing Ben Robbins. The winger could not believe his luck as he plucked the ball out of thin air before cantering the length of the pitch.
Jamie Forbes added a penalty to leave the score at 19-27 and this was more than enough to secure another astonishing second half comeback.
Man-of-the-Match: Harvey Elms is Currie’s x-factor player and at times he looked head and shoulders above anyone else on the pitch. He has the ability to turn a simple break into a breath-taking score and was an attacking threat all afternoon.
Talking point: Once again, Stirling suffer a second-half collapse. David Adamson hinted that perhaps fitness is an issue, however, with the season already in week twelve, this surely can’t be the case. Mental errors cost his side dearly.
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.