DAVID BARNES @ Bridgehaugh
IF Boroughmuir’s players did not fully appreciate it before this game, there can be no doubt in their minds now that they are well and truly entangled in a relegation battle. With Hawick picking up a win at Watsonians which suggests that they may not be the lost cause many of us have dismissed them as, the challenge which lies ahead for the Meggetland men is not to avoid a tricky play-off match against the second top team in National One, but to ensure that they do not finish dead bottom and end up going straight down without even the opportunity of an eleventh hour reprieve.
“The good things is we still have Gala and Hawick to play so our destiny is in our own hands, but every game is a game less. So, we have to understand that it is errors that cost us tries and if we cut out the errors life will get a lot easier,” he said.
Boroughmuir picked up one of their two wins so far this season when these two sides met in round two of the campaign, when Wright highlighted Stirling’s lack of attacking ambition as a major disappointment. He can have no such gripe this time round, with Ross Jones pulling the strings as the home team scored three entertaining tries and passed up a handful more opportunities.
“Hopefully Peter enjoyed the way we played this week,” quipped David Adamson, the Stirling coach, afterwards. “We’re a bit disappointed with the tries Boroughmuir scored, which came from our errors and a lack of discipline in our defensive structures, and we’re disappointed not to get the bonus point, but it is an important win so we’ll take it.”
Stirling were only five points clear of Boroughmuir at the start of the day, but have now moved up to sixth in the table and are mathematically closer to the top four play-off slots than the relegation dog-fight at the bottom.
Dale Robertson gave Boroughmuir the lead when he got the ball down after a line-out drive in the 12th minute, but this did not set the tone for the match. Both teams showed plenty of ambition in terms of the style of rugby they wanted to play, and if there was a criticism it is that they were perhaps a bit too keen to move the ball straight away, when slowing play down and tightening things up might have helped both teams to roll their attack into gear.
Visiting winger Grant McConnell launched a scything attack when he burst from midfield and then picked out Jordan Edmunds with an excellent flat pass, but the lively Craig Pringle did well to land a try-saving tackle at full stretch.
Stirling almost grabbed a try back when Alex Black swooped to gather the ball as it emerged from ruck and barely broke stride as he exploited a yawning gap on the left, but Boroughmuir’s desperate scramble defence managed nudge him into touch as he dived for the line.
Stirling continued to press without much joy. Jonny Hope pulled a 30 metre penalty to the left of the posts after Boroughmuir played the ball from an offside position, before it finally clicked for the hosts with six minutes to go until the break. Jones collected the ball at first receiver, stepped inside his man, and then dotted down under the posts after an exchange of passes with scrum-half Matt Donaldson.
Another moment of magic for Jones at the start of the second half deserved a score. The Welshman rose majestically to collect his own chip ahead, Black acted as the link man for Pringle, who got over the line but couldn’t get the ball down
Stirling dominated the third quarter and finally got their reward when Alex Taylor bustled over in the corner after several minutes camped on Boroughmuir’s line. Jonny Hope drilled home a magnificent conversion from wide on the right for good measure.
Jones was at it again a few minutes later when he intercepted Dougie Steele just inside his own half then released Black with a beautiful underarm flick. Once again, Pringle was on-hand to finish the move off – and this time there was absolutely no doubt that he was going to get the ball down.
Boroughmuir grabbed a lifeline when Craig Keddie dotted down under the posts after an electrifying break from Edmunds up the left touchline.
Then, with Danny Gilmour in the sin-bin for a deliberate knock-on, the visitors piled everything into snatching a draw, but made life hard for themselves with some sloppy decision-making. Having kicked the penalty to the corner, they ignored the towering frame of Callum Atkinson (who had been having a rare old time at the front of the line-out all afternoon) to go for a tail ball instead, and they ended up with nothing when the throw landed in harmlessly no-man’s land.
A few moments later, Boroughmuir were caught napping when Laidlaw hit the deck under the shadow of Stirling’s posts and lost possession. Hope’s clearance kick did not go out and Boroughmuir earned one last attacking scrum.
Referee Mike Adamson advised that this would be the final play of the match but the visitors could not control the ball and ended up tracking back frantically after Stirling stole possession yet again and Logan Trotter launched an audacious counter-attack up the left touchline. The 18-year-old bounced past a couple of tackles and it looked like he had snatched the bonus point for his, but he didn’t quite make it.
“We got what we deserved out of that and you could argue that based on that second half performance we probably didn’t even deserve a point, but we stuck at it so that’s something, I suppose,” said Wright.
Stirling: J Hope; D Gilmour, C Pringle, A Black, L Trotter; R Jones, M Donaldson; C Hutton M Emmison, F Bradbury, H Burr, C Hunter-Hill©, R Leishman, S MacDonald, A Taylor. Subs: D Montgomery, M Hunter, H Henderson, S Robertson, O Jarvie.
Boroughmuir: G Cannie; G McConnell, R Kerr, M Hare, J Edmunds; C Laidlaw, D Steele; D Robertson, T King, D Winning, J Ure, C Atkinson, A Mncube, A Rose, C Keddie©. Subs: S Clark, T Gracie, M Tweddle, B Mills, A Cox.
Referee: Michael Adamson
Stirling: Try: Jones, Taylor, Pringle; Con: Hope 3.
Boroughmuir: Try: Robertson, Keddie; Con: Laidlaw 2.
Scoring sequence (Stirling first): 0-5, 0-7, 7-5, 7-7 (h-t) 12-7, 14-7, 19-7, 21-7, 21-12, 21-14.
Yellow Cards –
Man-of-the-Match: Three midfield maestros for Stirling but Ross Jones edges it ahead of Alex Black and Craig Pringle thanks to one or two moments of real magic.
Talking point: Is it time for Boroughmuir to strip back their attacking ambition and play a more pragmatic brand of rugby until they can generate some vital momentum?
Image courtesy: Alastair Cunningham