GARY HEATLY @ Myreside
AFTER losses to Melrose and Currie, Watsonians got their first win of the BT Premiership season here, and home head coach Steve Lawrie was pleased to pick up a bonus point along the way, but he also knows his team’s defence has to improve going forward.
“I am really happy with the guys hard work and commitment and you could see how much getting this win meant for them at the end. We scored some good tries and dealt well with our backline being re-jigged due to injuries, but we still conceded too many points and we will be working on that this week ahead of a tough trip to Marr,” he said.
This was County’s first loss of 2017-18 and although they picked up a late four try bonus point, player-coach Peter Jericevich knows they can and must play better.
“We gave Watsonians too much easy ball and when we had it we simply did not use it well enough,” the scrum-half stated. “To lose a try just before half-time hurt us, but we should have been better in a number of aspects, credit to Watsonians on the win.”
With the rain driving down the hosts got off to the worst possible start. After two minutes, a pass by stand-off Ewan Fox was intercepted by County centre Ross Curle, and the former Ayr man ran in for a try from 50 metres. Full-back Jonny Hope converted.
Watsonians tried to get back into things immediately and nearly did when centre Michael Allen made a good break, but his scoring pass to winger Glenn Bryce was intercepted.
In the 11th minute, County showed their strength in the scrum that has served them well so far this season to work their way into Watsonians’ 22, only to lose momentum when No.8 Euan Dods won an important turnover.
Then came a moment of magic from Jamie Farndale. The Scotland Sevens player, who has been training with Edinburgh Rugby in recent weeks, has not played a lot of fifteen-a-side during his adult career, but looked sharp here, fielding a kick in his own half and then weaving his way through the defence for a try from 60 metres. Full-back Andrew Chalmers converted and it was 7-7.
That gave the home side confidence and four minutes later a second try followed from back-row James Miller on his debut. Chalmers converted again to make it 14-7.
The hosts then suffered a blow when Allen was forced off injured, replaced by Rory Hutton. County were on the front foot and in the 30th minute they had a lineout in a good attacking position. They looked like scoring from it and had a good few pick-and-drives, but when the ball went wide Curle was held up in the tackle and Watsonians won a penalty.
County were getting very close to their second try though and in the 34th minute they were held up over the try line again. They eventually got their reward when referee Kevin White award a penalty try after series of devastating scrums.. That made it 14-14 and Watsonians reacted by bringing on loosehead prop Nick Fraser, the former Boroughmuir player, for Finn Hobbis.
Just before the break, Watsonians bagged their third try, skipper Craig Borthwick barging over and Chalmers converting to leave things at 21-14 with 40 minutes remaining.
After the break, experienced prop Grant Holborn went over for County’s third try, and Hope’s conversion tied things up at 21-21.
Rory Hutton had a good run for Watsonians on the hour mark, and when his pass was blocked by an offside Matt Lamb the County winger was yellow carded. Chalmers kicked the resultant penalty and it was 24-21.
With 10 minutes remaining, Watsonians scored the bonus point try through former Hawick man Hutton and Farndale bagged his second in the 75th minute. Both were converted by Chalmers.
That made it 38-21, before No.8 Ruairidh Leishman got County’s bonus point with a fourth try at the death.
Watsonians: A Chalmers; G Bryce, M Allen, D Innes, J Farndale; E Fox, W Thomson; F Hobbis, S Crombie, K Whyte, J Hodgson, C Borthwick, M Fedo, J Miller, E Dods. Subs used: D Miller, N Fraser, A O’Neill, E McKirdy, R Hutton.
Stirling County: J Hope; L Trotter, O Jarvie, R Curle, M Lamb; L Bonar, P Jericevich; R Chies, R Kennedy, A Nicol, C Hunter-Hill, H Burr, L Wynne, S MacDonald, R Leishman. Subs used: M Emmison, G Holborn, J Beech, A Grant-Suttie, R Swan.
Watsonians: Tries: Farndale 2, Miller, Borthwick, Hutton; Cons: Chalmers 5; Pen: Chalmers.
Stirling County: Tries: Curle,Penalty try, Holborn, Leishman; Cons: Hope 2.
Scoring sequence (Watsonians first): 0-5; 0-7; 5-7; 7-7; 12-7; 14-7; 14-12; 14-14; 19-14; 21-14 (h-t), 21-19; 21-21; 24-21; 29-21; 31-21; 36-21; 38-21; 38-26.
Yellow cards –
Stirling County: Lamb
Referee: K White.
Man-of-the-Match: A number of good performances on both sides, but for two moments of magic Jamie Farndale of Watsonians gets the glory.
Talking point: Young players on both sides have real potential, the likes of Finn Hobbis, Jamie Hodgson, James Miller for Watsonians and Callum Hunter-Hill, Hamilton Burr and Ruairidh Swan for County have talent.