Super Series: Stirling Wolves power past Heriot’s

Ross McKnight scores a hat-trick as Bridgehaugh men charge to bonus point win

Ross McKnight was a hat-trick hero for Stirling Wolves versus Heriot's. Image: © Craig Watson - www.craigwatson.co.uk
Ross McKnight was a hat-trick hero for Stirling Wolves versus Heriot's. Image: © Craig Watson - www.craigwatson.co.uk

Stirling Wolves 41

Heriot’s 19

LEWIS STUART @ Bridgehaugh

ANY idea that there was an element of luck about Stirling Wolves’ win over Heriot’s in last year’s Super Series Championship semi-final was firmly put to bed in a five-try demolition of the Goldenacre men who looked a shadow of the side that cruised through last week’s opening weekend win over Watsonians.

Stirling were faster and more brutal in just about everything they did and the only mild concern they might have is that arguably they could have won by more. The first half, in particular, was closer on the scoreboard than on the pitch and though they did pull clear, Heriot’s had hopes of a try bonus point until the final play fizzled out.

That is only to nit-pick. Stirling were superior almost every facet of play and coach Eddie Pollock was justifiably happy with everything he had seen after watching his side compete strongly with Ayrshire Bulls the week before but still come away losers.


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“I’m very pleased that we got the response we needed,” he said. “You could see they [the players] were hurting from last week, they don’t like losing. Last week we were really, really physical and not that far away. This time we just dominated from the start and we probably should have been up more at half time.

“But to get a win and play as well as we did and control the game was excellent. One to 23 did really well and I thought they got the tactics spot on, kicking short and contesting them. I think our physicality shocked them. Right across the board we were just better.

“I was pleased that we beat them again because there has been a bit of stuff about us not being deserved Super Series champions because we finished fourth and they topped the table. We showed here that we are right up there.”

Memories of last year’s semi-final may have played a role because it was Stirling who started this game the way they had finished the last time these sides met, controlling possession and field position as they took the game to their visitors.

Despite that, they struggled to break some determined defence, not helped by a misfiring line-out and some key turnovers. When the break did come it took a Heriot’s mistake to create the chance. The Edinburgh side were in no real trouble running the ball in midfield until they tried to chip into space.

The ball ricocheted back off a Stirling player and wing Ross McKnight was first to it, collecting one-handed before running in the try,

There was no luck about the second score, however, McKnight again the launch-pad with a powerful run through midfield. The offload from the ground to MacEnzzie Duncan, making his home debut, left the flanker with only a hint of space but he brushed off the first tackle, stepped the second and then wrong footed the cover defence to claim a spectacular try.

The early luck was balanced out as Heriot’s got the rub of a series of decisions to win a line-out five metres from the home line on the stroke of half-time. Though the maul was stopped short, they recycled and lock Jamie Campbell powered over from short range to bring his side back into the game.

 

 

It didn’t really change the pattern, though. Stirling remained in control, punishing a couple of indiscretions in the Heriot’s half with penalty shots from Marcus Holden, who had converted the earlier tries, to ease further ahead.

Heriot’s did get make another mark on the scoreboard when full-back Christian Townsend’s 50-22 set up a spell of pressure on the home line until replacement hooker Duncan Hood eventually got the ball on a slip pass and barged over.

It was a blip, not a change in momentum, as Duncan came into the line to reverse the first-half scoring play by putting McKnight in for his second score, and when replacement scum half Kyle McGie escaped round the front of a maul to put McKnight in for his hat-trick score, the result had became a foregone conclusion.

With a mountain to climb, Heriot’s started to look desperate and as they tried to run out of defence, they only succeeded gifting the ball to Ryan Southern, the Stirling centre, who broke clear and fed McGhie for the try that added a gloss to the proceedings.

There was time enough for Heriot’s to claim a third try with replacement Angus Hunter finishing after some sustained pressure but it was never going threaten the home lead, and Wolves denied them even the consolation of a bonus point.

They looked a shell shocked team and Ben Cairns, the head coach, was in no mood to make excuses. “For whatever reason we just didn’t turn up,” he admitted. “I don’t know if we were complacent off the back of our pre-season and winning last week, but that performance was miles below what we expect of this group.

“We turned up with the wrong mentality. I think we thought we could just rock up and do the same as last week without the same energy as last week. When you are playing against the champions on their patch you’re gonna be found out if you turn up like that.”

For both sides , the competition moves on to home games against the ‘A’ teams of the professional sides they are linked with, Edinburgh for Heriot’s and Glasgow Warriors for Stirling, but the mood in the two camps will be radically different – confidence at Stirling, desperation at Heriot’s.

 

Teams –

Stirling Wolves: G Bryce; M Heron, R Southern, M Holden (C) (L Jarvie, 65), R McKnight (S Rockley, 70); C Jackson, E Davey (K McGhie, 54); L Quarm (B Cullen, 63), J Roberts, M Tamosaitis (C Norrie, 56), J Pow, J Oguntibeju (C Nolan, 37), R Knott (A Clarke, 33-41, 67), M Duncan, E Hasdell.

Heriot’s: C Townsend (L Wells, 59); S Pecqueur, M Davidson, F Wood (A Hunter, 61), J Blain; L Richman (C), S Smith (E McAra, 49); J Scott (O Blyth-Lafferty, 49), M Liness (D Hood, 4), E McLaren (C Fenton, 61), R Seydak, J Campbell, R Leishman, S Wallace, J Hill (W Nelson, 49).

Referee: Rob McDowell

 

Scorers –

Stirling Wolves: Tries: McKnight 3, Duncan, McGhie; Cons: Holden 4, Jackson; Pens: Holden 2.

Heriot’s: Try: McLaren, Hood, Hunter; Cons: Richman 2.

Scoring sequence (Stirling Wolves first): 5-0; 7-0; 12-0; 14-0; 14-5; 14-7 (h-t) 17-7; 20-7; 20-14; 25-14; 27-14; 32-14; 34-14; 39-14; 41-14; 41-19.

 

Player of the Match: Plenty of candidates in the Stirling side with MacEnzzie Duncan and James Pow leading the forward effort and Ryan Southern pinching turnovers and finding gasps but Ross McKnight gets the award with three tries and a key role in setting up another.

Talking Point: Stirling could end up being the team to beat in this Sprint series, just as they ultimately ended up being when they won the early-season main tournament. They are certainly one of the most physical teams out there and anyone who hopes to beat them has to match them in that part of the game.


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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.