Stirling Wolves 33
Boroughmuir Bears 20
LEWIS STUART @ Bridgehaugh
STIRLING Wolves put three disappointing halves of rugby behind them to produce a storming second half performance that brought them from behind to earn a comfortable win over the Boroughmuir Bears. Once they got going, it was one-way traffic, but it took them a while to find their groove after disappointing themselves and their coaches last week at the Southern Knights.
However, nobody could argue with the 26-point second half or the way in which they ruthlessly exploited their dominance once it arrived after stuttering along for most of the first half and going in at the break fortunate to be only 17-7 down.
“We started the game really well but then had 20 minutes when we coughed up ball, gave away penalties and they scored 14 unanswered points,” commented Duncan Hodge, the assistant coach who was in charge on the night. “From that point on, I thought we played really well.
“Second half we were the better team, scored some good tries. Especially after last week, we could have dived into a hole but we fronted up. That was a massive second half from us. To turn it round and get a bonus-point win is massive, really massive.
“We let ourselves down last week but when we play near our top level, we can put teams away.”
Graham Shiel, the Boroughmuir coach, was philosophical, though irritated that a lapse in the final play of the game cost his side even a losing bonus point. “I think we deserved that but it wasn’t to be,” he reflected.
“We played well in the first half but probably didn’t really capitalise as much as we could have done and they started to get on top. In the second half they were the better team, so no complaints about the result, though I am disappointed not to get something.
“The positives are that first half: we need to continue that and find ways to stay in games. They are a good team who offload well and we always knew Bridgehaugh would be a touch place to come.”
It really was a case of a game where one side started on top but the other slowly reeled them in and passed them with something to spare. After weathering an initial flurry from the home side, Shiel’s men looked as though they were more than capable of steamrolling their way to victory.
It was the forwards who did the real damage, clawing their way upfield,winning a string of penalties and finding themselves mauling on the Stirling line. The home side resisted the first surge but Scott Robeson, the centre, came on the crash ball to take his team almost to the line and scrum-half Kaleem Barreto nipped round the side to make the final couple of feet.
That was good enough for the Bears, but they couldn’t even have dreamed of the series of sloppy mistakes in defence that allowed Euan Murhead, their full-back, to take the ball, cruise past two missed tackles and race in for the second score. With George Paul converting both, the visitors had a handsome lead.
The important thing was that they were wining the power battle, dominating in both the scrum and maul. It meant that even when Stirling did manage to get some possession and apply some pressure, they were struggling to turn it into points.
Still, they kept at it and eventually made their efforts pay. The maul was held, as were the pick and drives from the big forwards, but when they did release the ball to the backs, with hooker Gregor Hiddleston adding some go-forward, it paid off with Ryan Southern, the centre, finding space to slip through. Holden converted and suddenly Stirling were back in the game, even though the Bears did edge further ahead with a Muirhead penalty on the stroke of half-time.
Just as well for them, because Stirling wasted no time after the break getting into the game and a superb solo break down the middle by wing Ross McKnight, which gave him the chance to offload to Kyle McGhie, the scrum-half, for the try, which Marcus Holden duly converted.
A second Boroughmuir penalty, this time by Paul on his return from the sin bin, gave the visitors a bit of breathing space. But by now Stirling were starting to get parity up front and were making their fast handling game pay off.
The breakthrough came when Stirling at last managed to get some traction in the maul and Hiddleston managed to drive through three tackles to score the try that closed the gap to a single point.
That was quickly followed by the moment of the match when Southern exploded from deep in his own 22 to race almost the length of the pitch. Support from Holden, his fellow centre, brought them closer and Glenn Bryce, the full-back, was on hand to take the feed from the ruck and go over.
With Holden converting, the Wolves were ahead for the first time, and had the scoring bonus point with time running out and the benches starting to have a real impact. Strength in depth gave Stirling a decisive advantage and when they destroyed the Bears’ scrum, the final act of the game was wing McKnight diving on the loose ball over the visitors’ line to deprive them of a losing bonus point.
Stirling Wolves: G Bryce; M Heron, R Southern, M Holden©, R McKnight; C Jackson, K McGhie (E Davy, 55 ); G Breese (L Quarm, 67), G Hiddleston (R Kennedy, 74), M Ogunlaja (L Skinner, 51), H Ferguson, J Pow (T Smith, 69), E Timpson (S MacDonald, 67), C Gordon, R Knott.
Boroughmuir Bears: E Muirhead; M Cullen, A Thom, S Robeson (J Beveridge, 72), J Jenkins; G Paul (sin bin: 36-46), K Barreto; I Carmichael (C McFeat Smith, 57), C Tait (A Allen, 61), M McGinley (D Winning, 47), M Lodoba, J Fisher, K Westlake, S McGinley (T Andrews, 51), C Keddie (C).
Referee: David Sutherland.
Stirling Wolves: Tries: Southern, McGhie, Hiddleston, Bryce, McKnight. Cons: Holden (4).
Boroughmuir Bears: Tries: Barreto, Muirhead. Cons: Paul (2). Pens: Muirhead, Paul.
Player of the Match: The official man of the match was Kaleem Barreto, the Bears’ scrum-half, and he certainly led the way for his side. But our award goes to Gregor Hiddleston, the Wolves hooker, who not only scored the key try but played a hand in the comeback score and carried hard all game.
Talking point: Tough sell, this one. It was pitched against the Rugby World Cup opening ceremony and the France v New Zealand game, which kicked off at about half-time, while Scotland’s football side kicked off in Cyprus about 10 minutes into the match. A decent crowd in the circumstances, but surely people have to think about the timing of these games.