GARY HEATLY @ Myreside
THE hosts dug in to secure a victory that keeps them in the BT Premiership for 2017/18. It was not pretty, but they will not care one bit. They are now on 37 points and safe from the relegation play-off spot.
“I am proud of the players for the hard work that they put in. To score a try just before half-time with 14 men was crucial and we built from there,” said head coach Marcus Di Rollo. “The guys have learnt a lot in recent months and I thought Shaun Ruwers and Rory Drummond were superb in this one.”
County picked up a losing bonus point meaning they still need something from their final two matches to be sure they are safe.
The hosts had key back-row man Euan Dods back from injury while Glasgow Warriors new signing Brandon Thomson was starting at centre for the visitors.
County got off to a good start and in the second minute scrum-half Nemia Kenatale, the Fijian international, got his team within 10 metres of the home try line, but the chance went begging.
In the sixth minute skipper Jonny Hope missed a kickable penalty with the swirling wind causing problems.
Watsonians first attack of any note came in the 12th minute when winger Rory Steele was set free down the right, but he lost the ball in contact. But that seemed to get their tails up and four minutes later, after a good aerial take and subsequent run by full-back Andrew Chalmers, stand-off Ewan Scott kicked a penalty to make it 3-0.
In the 25th minute the home side nearly scored the day’s first try. Thanks to the slick promptings of scrum-half Reiss Cullen they got within metres of the County line and second-row Craig Borthwick came onto the ball at pace, but it was stripped away just as he looked like bagging five points.
Just after the half hour mark a neat break by Stirling stand-off Ross Jones set-up Kenatale and he took play up into the home ‘22’. The visitors then won a penalty from a good scrum and Kenatale took a quick tap which caught the defence napping. He was tackled, but slipped a pass to back-row Andrew Grant-Suttie who went over for the try. Hope could not convert.
Skipper Rory Drummond was yellow carded for a deliberate knock-on and County took advantage when centre Alex Black went over with Hope converting to make it 12-3.
However, the 14 men of Watsonians hit back just before the interval, an unconverted try by winger Keith Young making it 12-8 to County.
Four minutes into the second half Scott missed a penalty for the home side before Drummond returned to the fray.
After 50 minutes County brought on prop Mark Hunter to freshen things up in the scrum, but moments later Watsonians took the lead when TDrummond picked up from the base of a scrum and ran in from 20 metres. Scott converted from a tricky spot to make it 15-12.
With 10 minutes to go a fine kick and hack on by Jones nearly saw County scramble a try, but McKean covered well. The visitors kept the pressure on, but when the ball was sent wide winger Logan Trotter was bundled into touch. Into the dying seconds the visitors earned themselves a five metre scrum, but a couple of phases later the ball was lost and Watsonians were able to breathe a sigh of relief.
Watsonians: A Chalmers; R Steele, S McLeod, D Innes, K Young; E Scott, R Cullen; N Borel, S Crombie, S Ruwers, C Borthwick, C McLean, E Dodds, A Duckett, R Drummond. Subs: D Miller, M Christie, F Morrison, E McKirdy, S McKean.
Stirling County: J Hope; S MacDonald, B Thomson, A Black, L Trotter; R Jones, N Kenatale; M MacDonald, R Kennedy, C Hutton, A Sinclair, H Burr, A Grant-Suttie, A Taylor, R Leishman. Subs: M Emmison, M Hunter, H Henderson, M Donaldson, L Bonnar.
Referee: D Sutherland
Watsonians: Tries: Young, Drummond; Pen: Scott; Con: Scott.
Stirling County: Tries: Grant-Suttie, Black. Con: Hope.
Scoring sequence (Watsonians first): 3-0; 3-5; 3-10; 3-12; 8-12 (h-t) 13-12; 15-12.
Yellow cards –
Man-of-the-Match: Watsonians tighthead prop Shaun Ruwers was powerful in the scrum in tough conditions.
Talking Point: How important is Rory Drummond to Watsonians? He has been in great form in recent games and bagged a try in this one.
Image: Craig Watson