Super Series Sprint: Stirling Wolves stay in title race with win over Southern Knights

Injuries and low confidence cause concern but beaten head coach Alan Tait sees reasons to be optimistic

Stirling Wolves got the bonus point they needed against Southern Knights at Bridgehaugh. Image: Bryan Robertson
Stirling Wolves got the bonus point they needed against Southern Knights at Bridgehaugh. Image: Bryan Robertson

Stirling Wolves 36

Southern Knights 11

LEWIS STUART @ Bridgehaugh

IT is going to be all to play for in the final weekend of the round-robins stage of the Super Series Sprint after Stirling Wolves put themselves in with a shout of a spot in the championship final.

As Eddie Pollock, the head coach, acknowledged afterwards, it’s a position they would cheerfully have accepted at the start of the campaign but now the challenge is to reproduce the opening 20 minutes and closing 10 of this game when they head to Heriot’s next weekend.

This bonus point win over the league’s bottom team briefly lifted Stirling to second spot in the table, with the Ayr versus Heriot’s match kicking off as theirs ended, but everything hinges on their own next 80 minutes.


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Pollock knows it was a far from perfect performance. “The first 20 odd minutes was fantastic,” he stated. “Some of the interplay from the forwards was excellent. Then we had a couple of opportunities to score and didn’t. Every game you know the other side will come back hard and they kept holding on to our coat-tails for a while.

“Almost every time we had the ball we gave it back within a phase or two. We didn’t really get much chance to play but our fitness showed as the game went on.”

In the end, with injuries reducing the Knights to 14 men for the final few minutes, Stirling added a gloss to the scoreline but when the game was close they struggled with discipline and will have to tighten up on that for the final matches.

What did make a difference was the bench. Pollock had spoken ahead of the match about the strength in depth of his squad, and that was apparent in the way the replacements came on and added a final surge to eliminate any Borders hopes of a comeback.

The frustration was obvious for Alan Tait, the Knight’s head coach, who saw hints of the team’s potential but knows that the young side are badly lacking in confidence and were also undone by injuries that cost them key players and also meant they had to finish a man short after both hookers went off.

“It summed up our season, little flashes here and there,” he said. “We performed for maybe 20 minutes, 40 minutes maximum, and then let ourselves down. Youngsters make mistakes and that’s what happened.

“Then, at the close of the game we were a man short and they capitalised on it well. They just loaded up in the backs and punished us. It’s the players I feel for because the training is good but they’re just not getting the results.”

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Stirling had come into the game knowing they had to win to have a chance of finishing in the top two in the Sprint series and it was obvious from the start that they meant business. While their last home game had seen them self-destruct in the opening minutes, this one saw them take firm control.

They established a strong attacking position from kick-off, then Ben Salmon found space to crash up the middle, sucking in most of the defence before he was eventually floored a few feet short, and quick-ball out to the left gave Glenn Bryce space to go over.

That was good enough but soon, the scoreboard looked even better. A penalty to the 22 gave Wolves the chance to set up a rolling maul with No 8 Benedict Grant surging away from it and almost getting to the visitors’ line. More pressure from the forwards with a few pick-and-gos and quick ball again found a back spare on the outside to score – this time it was centre Marcus Holden.

With Holden converting both, the home side were firmly in control. Perhaps too firmly, because they started to get sloppy, butchering a couple of promising positions and then going down to 14 men when Gregor Hiddleston, the home hooker, was yellow-carded for a crocodile roll clearing out a midfield ruck.

That gave the Knights their first chance in attack with scrum-half Rory Brand making most of the ground. A ruck penalty gave the Knights the chance to kick to the corner and the inevitable rolling maul against seven forwards marched over the line with replacement hooker Ben McLean at the back.

Stirling struck back when Holden banged over a long-range penalty but the rest of the half was played out in a reasonably tame stalemate.

 

Stirling thought they had increased their lead when Murphy Walker, the prop called up to the Scotland World Cup training squad ths week, stripped the ball and powered over the line only to be called back and penalised for failing to release the tackled player.

Max Williamson, who had come on at lock, then came close after charging down an attempted clearance but the homes side were also giving away a string of penalties, which gave the Knights easy ways to relieve the pressure and cut the deficit with two penalties of their own.

Stirling’s response was impressive, though. They found a hint of space down the right and for once did the right thing with the players drawing their man and passing to the player in support. Craig Jardine, Bryce and Holden all did their bit before replacement scrum-half Kyle McGhie romped over.

It only took McGhie a couple of minutes to double his tally, taking advantage of the Knights dropping their attention when penalised under their posts and nipping over for the bonus point try, and after the visitors had to go to uncontested scrums and lost a man as a result, Wolves added a fifth through Holden.

 

Teams –

Stirling Wolves: G Bryce; S Hamilton (C Jardine, 70) , B Salmon, M Holden (C), L Jarvie (M Heron, 67); C Jackson, F Burgess (K McGhie, 65); G Breese (L Quarm, 59), G Hiddleston (yellow card: 26-26, R Kennedy, 70), M Walker (M Tamosaitis, 67), H Ferguson, J Pow (M Williamson, 44), R Knott (S Macdonald, 67), C Gordon, B Grant.

Southern Knights: O Melville; F Douglas (A Cross 58), A Hall, C Grieve, M Wilson; H Rutherford (R Chalmers, 20), R Brand (C Davidson, 49); C Greer (J Dobie, 64), C Anderson (C) (B McLean, 8, Greer, 78), D Gamble (E Harrison, 59), C Skeldon (W Hopes, 49), J Campbell, G Young, A Ferrie, R Brown (S Derrick, 49).

Referee: J Pirriam

 

Scorers –

Stirling Wolves: Tries: Bryce, Holden 2, McGhie 2; Cons: Holden 4, Pen: Holden.

Southern Knights: Try: McLean; Pen: Grieve 2.

Scoring sequence (Stirling first): 5-0; 7-0; 12-0; 14-0; 14-5; 17-5 (h-t) 17-8; 17-11; 22-11; 24-11; 29-11; 31-11; 36-11.

 

Yellow cards –

Stirling: Hiddleston

 

Man-of-the-Match: It was a game where both sides were guilty of untidy play but one player who was consistently high quality was the Wolves full-back Glenn Bryce. He made ground most carries and steadied the back play when it mattered.

Talking point: Stirling must be a really frustrating team to coach. They produce so much good rugby but then undo all the good work with sloppy play. If they can keep thier concentration for the full 80 minutes, they could be a threat to anyone.


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About Lewis Stuart 77 Articles
Lewis has been writing about rugby for almost 40 years, the last 18 as a freelance based in Scotland bringing his wealth fo experience to just about every publication in the country. These days you can hear him as well by tuning in to his Wednesday night show on Rocksport Radio.

15 Comments

  1. That crowd was due to County having both their annual club day and their 7s. The AG troll is utterly at it claiming 700 is the low end of S6 crowds. They are closer to 70 not 700 even when tickets are being given away for free. The Glasgow Accies Falkirk game ha a better crowd and more atmosphere than virtually all S6 games have ever had. As for ‘raising standards’ what’s the metric on that!?? It was supposed to battle harden our young players but since they are given little or no game time it has resulted in our u20s going from losing games to being out right hammered. One solitary win since S6 started and that against a team with 5 yellow cards by one point.The Inter District games should be the focus rather than the expensive S6 folly which has no interest outside of the franchise teams and barely any within. Yes the club’s initially voted against it but they’ve clearly seen the light unlike the SRU which keeps doubling down on expensive bad decisions which are affecting grass roots. Caley fielded players from the fourth tier and still won handsomely playing excellent rugby. AG thinks that the Borders would lose to SK….well yeah full time pros with a smattering of PT pros should be able to beat amateurs that really isn’t the gotcha he thinks it is. S6 is leaking money at an astonishing rate and providing no positive rugby mitigation. The only way we improve is admit our mistakes and that is a huge one.

  2. For me it is about where s6 takes the club game and whether the money and effort would be as well invested in the traditional structure rather than the elite training league.

    For example, having enjoyed the Marr run of the last decade, I doubt it would have happened had their better players been scooped up by Bulls early days.

    Then again would they have been playing Hawick in the final otherwise…

    Success, a bit of glamour and entertaining rugby is important to the clubs so hopefully they can hold out.

  3. Super 6 is about raising the standard of rugby on and off the pitch, it is doing this in buckloads. There have been great top quality matches in this latest series. Bringing on young Scottish talent mixed in with some older heads, a perfect mix.
    I remember when Edinburgh were getting crowds of 2500 at Murrayfield, I also remember some dire matches and poor crowds in the Premiership before Super 6 came about.
    The districts are a welcome addition to our game in their own right but are not a competitor/ replacement for Super 6.

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  4. There are some very small minded comments made regularly on this site. It’s great that there were good crowds for the inter-district games and let’s hope the final is also a big success. It was also great to have a big crowd at Bridgehaugh on Saturday. Surely people want all Scottish rugby to do well. The standard of the Super Series has been high, with lots of exciting matches and a close league. It is attracting new support and we need to see that continue.

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  5. Any crowd numbers they put up for Super 6 are very dubious .

    As Scot Abroad says
    Districts have had next to no exposure to advertise their games
    yet you get crowd numbers way beyond any of S6 games .
    Punters obviously want to watch players they know …..not S6 mercenaries. .

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    • Colin, why are they dubious, stupid comment. Mercenaries, virtually all Scottish. You obviously haven’t a clue what is going on.

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      • Iain, other opinions other than your own are available. Super 6 may well be about raising standards but that’s not all that it’s about and it certainly isn’t the only way that standards can be improved at a cost of well over £1m per year. What about the damage it is doing to the sport in general? What about the financial burden it is placing on the clubs involved? Is it even sustainable? You’ll know better than me how Heriots are getting on with the cost of it all. Is the improvement in standard versus the old premiership worth anything? Would a similar investment to what has been made into S6 have delivered an uplift in quality of club rugby on a par with S6 and with what S6 has apparently achieved? Is there not a better solution to this than the one dreamt up on the back of a napkin? Is it wrong that some believe this to be the case?

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      • It must be great to be perfect Iain .
        Others have different views from yourself and you have difficulty accepting this .
        My view is Super 6 has spoiled Scottish rugby
        I’m not the only one .
        Ps
        Who’ll be first to go bankrupt in Super 6 Iain .?
        The amount of money being pumped into this thing is not sustainable

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      • Yet again Mr Milne insults those who disagree with him. So reminiscent of his good friend Mr Dodson.

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  6. 737 paying spectators watched Caley Reds beat Glasgow in Inter districts game this afternoon ..
    1514 attended South game v Edinburgh district on Tuesday night at Netherdale
    just shows what true rugby fans want to see ……Super 6 venues can only dream about these numbers
    How many were here or at other S6 games ?.
    2 men and a dog ? .

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    • Officially there were 1,522 at this game but it was a double header with the Stirling Sevens (Heriot’s beat the Army in an entertaining final just after this match finished), so it’s hard to guess what it would have been without the extra events. The other two S6 Sprint matches at Bridgehaugh had attendances around the 700 mark.

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      • What do you have to say to that Colin Hill? 700 (if we assume the worst) for each super series games at Bridgehaugh, thats slightly more than 2 men and a dog by my reckoning.

        Does this suggest there is an appetite for rugby in both the inter-district and the Super-series?

        Could the inter-district maintain the numbers which is showed in the first weekend in a regular league? Or was is it the one-off spectable that is attracting the crowd?

        And what is a ‘true rugby fan’?

        Lets get the inter-district sides play the super-series teams and have a laugh. I wonder if the borders can keep up with southern knights for example.

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      • The Inter-District rugby hasn’t had hundreds of thousands thrown at it in marketing, media and TV coverage over 5 years. If 1522 paid to watch the Stirling wolves on Saturday (sounds a bit suspicious that this just so happens to be 8 more than watched the South on Tuesday night) or 700 are paying to watch them week in week out then that’s fantastic and I’m sure the Stirling treasurer will be delighted.

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