STIRLING WOLVES 10
BOROUGHMUIR BEARS 27
COLIN RENTON @ Bridgehaugh
BOROUGHMUIR BEARS shrugged off limited game time in the run-up to the start of the FOSROC Super6 Championship to kick off the campaign with a well-deserved win. It was the first time the hosts had played under their new name, but the outcome was the same as it had been when the teams met in the Sprint Series earlier in the year.
As a contest, it looked very much like two teams for whom the start of the campaign had come too soon. However, it also suggested that there is the potential for both sides to produce entertaining rugby over the coming months.
For Bears coach Graham Shiel, there were plenty of positives, as he pointed out, saying: “I wasn’t sure how it was going to go. We had 30 minutes against Southern Knights and that’s pretty much all we had in our pre-season. In fairness, the players dug in deep. At half-time, I was thinking it maybe wasn’t enough of a lead, but they applied themselves in the second half, were very clinical when they got into the areas to score points, and they defended very well.
“So overall, I would have taken that at the beginning of the day. The good thing is we can improve. An away win at the start of this competition is something we would take any day of the week.”
Wolves were already struggling for personnel, with only 22 squad members available, and several early injuries didn’t help their cause. But their coach Ben Cairns preferred to focus on the attitude of his players rather than blame fitness problems.
“It was really frustrating. If the boys want excuses, there’s excuses there. We were at the bare bones in terms of squad, with Callum Stephen called up to make it 23, and we’ve then had three injuries in the first 16 minutes, so there’s excuses there”, he said. “Even after all of that, the fact that we’ve gone in at half-time 13-10 down, we are massively in the game. To not get any reaction or shift in momentum in the second half is the most disappointing thing. We were a little bit accepting of it. The guys tried to solve things on their own rather than doing it collectively. That urgency to try and change the momentum of the game just wasn’t there.”
Both sides opened with intent, flinging the ball around, but failing to pose any threat to the try line. Wolves suffered an early setback when Ryan Southern sustained an injury almost immediately after kick-off that ended his involvement.
With seven minutes on the clock, Bears had the first scoring opportunity when the hosts failed to roll away at a tackle. And, from 30 metres, Jack Bergin stroked over the kick.
The execution failed to live up to the ambition, and the tally of handing errors mounted. Benedict Grant and Connor Gordon were looking lively for Wolves, while Tom Brown offered a glimpse of his pace with a break and pass that ended with a spillage and clearance kick into touch. From the lineout, Bears drove for the line and when the recycled ball was moved wide, Scott Robeson was on hand to finish off. Bergin’s conversion took the points tally into double figures.
Wolves responded three minutes later, when Marcus Holden raced into the opposition 22 and offloaded to debutant scrum-half Gregor Christie, who stretched over for an unconverted score.
Bears were soon back on the offensive and a patient build-up allowed them to stretch but not breach the home defence, with Robeson coming closest to breaking through. However, neither side could manage to piece together any cohesive play, and it fell to the boot of Bergin to contrinute the next points when he banged over a long-range penalty after 33 minutes.
Wolves had two opportunities to cut the deficit with penalties deep inside Bears territory. Callum Beckett spurned a kick at the posts on each occasion, favouring the touchline. The first lineout was lost, but at the second time of asking, with the clock in the red, they got it right, surging over for Lewis Skinner to dot down.
That late concession sparked the visitors into a lively restart, and they earned a reward for their endeavours when a series of attacks failed to find a way through before Craig Keddie completed the job. Bergin again added the conversion, and he was on target again just before the hour when he added the extras after Callum Smith blasted his way over following a renewed bout of pressure sparked by a powerful break from Scott McGinley, who made a big contribution in the closing stages of the game. He was in evidence again with another late surge as Bears chased the bonus-point score, a goal that ultimately eluded the visitors.
Stirling Wolves: M Holden (co-captain); S Hamilton, R Southern (L Jarvie 2), C Jardine, F Callaghan (C Stephen 16); C Beckett (E Cunningham 58), G Christie; J McKenna (C McMillan 58), R Tanner, L Skinner (G Breeze 73), J Pow, H Ferguson (C Cruickshank 58), G Arnott (H McLeod 14), C Gordon (co-captain), B Grant.
Boroughmuir Bears: T Brown; C Ramm, R Kerr, S Robeson (A Scott 73), J Jenkins; J Bergin, R Swan; C Smith (M Goodwin 73), C Tait (F Duraj 35 (L Alessandri 76)), M McGinley, J Fisher, C Atkinson, C Keddie (captain) (J King 52), S McGinley, T Andrews (P Bogie 68).
Referee: I Kenny.
Stirling Wolves: Tries: Christie, Skinner.
Boroughmuir Bears: Tries: Robeson, Keddie, M McGinley. Cons: Bergin 3. Pens: Bergin 2.
Scoring sequence (Stirling Wolves first): 0-3, 0-8, 0-10, 5-10, 5-13, 10-13 (h-t) 10-18, 10-20, 10-25, 10-27.
Man of the match: The pace and guile of Bears full-back Tom Brown caught the eye, but he was just pipped by back-row powerhouse Scott McGinley, who was typically destructive with ball in hand.
Talking point: There was plenty of effort, but the overriding impression was of two well-drilled sides failing to execute in a matchday situation. Things should improve over the coming weeks.