Super6: indoor fireworks see Stirling County pip Boroughmuir Bears

Late Brandon Thomson conversion makes the difference in battle of the bottom two

Stirling County edged out Boroughmuir Bears at Oriam. Image: Bryan Robertson
Stirling County edged out Boroughmuir Bears at Oriam. Image: Bryan Robertson

Stirling County 36

Boroughmuir Bears 34


THIS bottom-of-the-table clash was a slow burner that really only sparked into life in a second half that produced seven of the nine tries on the day. The lead changed hands five times in a seesaw match, although having led by 12 points inside the final ten minutes, the Bears will wonder how this one got away from them.

County were still trailing by five inside the final few minutes, but a mistake by the Bears’ teenage replacement Cameron Scott gifted Stirling the winner in this crazy game. Scott tracked back to cover a County kick but, instead of hoofing the ball off the park, the youngster attempted to run out of defence and was felled by Glasgow’s Brandon Thomson, lost the ball in the contact and County flanker Connor Gordon was on hand to level the scores. Thomson’s conversion was the two-point difference between these teams.

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Even then Muir might have snatched victory if Chris Laidlaw had opted to go for posts with a late, late penalty just inside his own half of the field. Instead he went to the corner, where the Bears contrived to concede an accidental offside to end their hopes and this match.

Both teams’ offence was streets ahead of their defence, which slowly disintegrated as this match progressed until it was almost non-existent in that final quarter.

“Yeah, it was daft,” County coach Ben Cairns conceded. “There wasn’t a lot of accuracy on show there. It’s good to win but I thought we stole the win a little bit because our performance probably hasn’t deserved it. Neither side played very well, probably a sign of why we are both at the bottom of the table.

“It wasn’t the game I was looking forward to when I got up this morning and knew we were playing indoors. Ultimately both teams’ inaccuracy has made it something of a slug fest. The try count was high but there were not many really well worked tries, most came from missed tackles.”

His counterpart at Boroughmuir was rueful about what might have been. The Bears were lucky to go into the break level pegging at 10-10 but they were the better side for much of the last half and should have nailed this one down.

“Territory has been a problem for us all season,” said the Bears’ Graham Shiel. “We are playing too deep and we are playing too much from too deep. We have to play in the right parts of the pitch.

“Kick-offs were a big challenge and that has been a problem all season to be honest. The effort and work is there, it’s just accuracy.”

County kicked off and the Bears fumbled the catch and gave the “home” team the attacking field position from which they scored the opening try of the match – even if it took them 12 minutes to grind their way over from an attacking lineout, skipper Reyner Kennedy the last man up.

Anything you can do seemed to be the theme of the first half. County made a mess of the re-start, Muir had the attacking advantage and they too kicked a penalty into the corner and drove the maul over the County line in an action replay of the opening score, flanker Scott McGinley claiming the score and Chris Laidlaw matching Thomson’s excellent touchline conversion.

This mirror image of a match continued. Thomson kicked a 34th-minute penalty after the County scrum flexed their muscles in front of the Bears’ posts only for Laidlaw to reply in kind four minutes later.

The Bears’ full-back Gavin Parker earned Muir the attacking opportunity with a mazy run and a few plays later scrum-half Murray Johnstone tapped a quick penalty. County’s Landon Hayes tackled him early and saw yellow for his trouble. From the ensuing penalty Laidlaw levelled the scores just before the break, with County reduced to 14 men, not that it hindered them unduly because they should have had another score before half-time.

George Arnott had already caught the eye with the ball in hand and the flanker made a superb solo break only to drop the ball in the act of scoring and the teams turned around at 10-10.

The Bears looked a lot slicker after some words in the half-time sheds and almost had a cracker of a score early in the second half when a flowing movement ended with winger Glen Faulds losing control in the tackle.

But the near miss proved a portent of things to come from a much-improved Muir, because on 46 minutes centre Archie Russell showed his class by breaking through the middle of the County line to give the Bears their first lead of the match, Laidlaw doing the necessary off the tee.

County responded almost immediately and in startlingly similar fashion, with flanker Arnott making amends for that missed opportunity in the first half by running half the length of the field to score a brilliant solo score. Another piece of individual excellence, another mazy run from full-back Parker, ended with a late tackle on Laidlaw, who still managed to jump to his feet and extend his team’s lead to five points.

It didn’t last long. Not for the first time, Muir failed to gather the restart and County flanker Arnott crossed for his side’s third try of the afternoon to reclaim the lead. It was all a little too easy, with neither side made to work for tries which were arriving gift-wrapped at all too regular intervals.

Muir took play to the opposite end and needed just a few plays before Jordan Edmunds came off his wing to find a gap beside the breakdown for another soft score. He was followed over the line by scrum-half Johnstone, after a break by Edmunds and an offload from Parker, again converted by Laidlaw,

With ten minutes on the clock, Muir enjoyed a 12-point lead. But another try from Arnott, his second, County’s fourth, narrowed that gap to just five points and there was still time for Gordon and Thomson to clinch this bizarre game between them.

Teams – 

Stirling County: B Thomson; E MacGarvie (C Korteweg 60), L Hayes, C Jardine (R Kent 60), L Trotter; A Goudie, S Kennedy; B Dineen (A Wood 40), R Kennedy (captain) (B Robertson 65), C Brown, O Bartlett (J King 65), J Pow, G Arnott, C Gordon, D Taylor-Menzies. Subs: A Fraser, A Wood, F Bradbury, J King, B Robertson, C Korteweg, J Henderson, R Kent.

Boroughmuir Bears: G Parker (Scott ; G Faulds, R Kerr, A Russell, J Edmunds; C Laidlaw (captain), M Johnstone; M Downer, T Francombe, D Winning, E Stewart, C Atkinson, D Medjebeur, S McGinley, C Keddie. Subs: G Shannon, A McWilliam, M McGinley, W Inglis, T Drennan, B Grainger, C Scott, G Cannie.

Referee: R Mabon.

Scorers –

Stirling County: Tries: Kennedy, Arnott 2, Gordon 2. Cons: Thomson  4.  Pen: Thomson.

Boroughmuir Bears: Tries: McGinley, Russell, Edmunds, Johnstone. Cons: Laidlaw 4. Pens: Laidlaw 2.

Scoring sequence (Stirling first): 7-0, 7-7, 10-7, 10-10 half-time, 10-17, 15-17, 15-20, 22-20, 22-27, 22-34, 29-34, 36-34.

Man of the match: Bears full-back Gavin Parker caught the eye with several penetrating runs, but Stirling County’s blindside George Arnott has the pace and footwork of an outside centre which he used to good effect. A real point of difference. He scored two tries on the day but it could have been three.

Talking point: In the opening exchanges Boroughmuir cleared their lines only for the ball to bounce off the Oriam roof and fall straight into the hands of County winger Ewan MacGarvie, who had an easy run to the line. The referee looked like he was asking the nearest touchie what to do and, between them, the pair of officials wiped the try off and gave Muir the put-in at a scrum.

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About Iain Morrison 148 Articles
Iain was capped 15 times for Scotland at openside flanker between his debut against Ireland during the 1993 Six Nations and his final match against New Zealand at the 1995 World Cup in South Africa. He was twice a Cambridge ‘Blue’ and played his entire club career with London Scottish (being inducted into the club’s Hall of Fame in 2016). Iain is a lifelong member of Linlithgow Rugby Club. After hanging up his boots, he became rugby correspondent for The Sunday Herald, before moving to The Scotland on Sunday for 16 years, and he has also guest written for various other publications.