Southern Knights 31
Stirling County 10
ALAN LORIMER @ The Greenyards
SOUTHERN KNIGHTS secured their place in the Super6 play-offs with a bonus point win over Stirling County, making it four victories in a row for the Greenyards men and confirming their extraordinary turnaround in form since the start of the calendar year.
The match was played in the equally extraordinary grip of Storm Dennis, the force of which had a profound effect on proceedings. In the event, it was the hosts who coped much better in the conditions, facing down the weather in the first half and then exerting considerable pressure on Stirling after the break to win by a comfortable margin, albeit one that did not reflect County’s efforts.
Perhaps a bit surprised by the eventual scoreline, Knights’ coach Rob Chrystie admitted: “There wasn’t a lot in it. Stirling were a little bit unlucky in that first half. They could have come away with a lot more points.
“We talked at half time about not relying on the wind to get you over the line. We managed to play the conditions well and we defended very well. We did give away a lot of penalties at times but once we were in there we looked dominant. Stirling defended very well and made us work really hard for our tries .
“There’s been a bit of criticism about our pack but I thought they did really well today. They’re beginning to answer a few questions which is great.”
For their part, Stirling will reflect on a first half of missed chances. County’s coach Ben Cairns conceded: “We expected to have more points on the board at half time. 5-5 with the way the wind was blowing was not good enough. We were held up over the line twice and we had three scrums on their line without gaining anything, and two kicks at goal missed. If we had taken two or three of those chances we would have been going in with a lead. As it was, the wind got worse as the game went on.
“It was frustrating. We’ve got talented players who can score tries, but we have to be better at managing the game. Currently we don’t build enough pressure on teams. They had a good pack. Losing our tighthead in the first five minutes didn’t help us. As the game wore on they dominated in the forwards.”
Stirling County suffered an early blow with the loss after only four minutes of their former Scotland Under-20 cap Murphy Walker to a foot injury, and then when stand-off Josh Henderson was off target with a penalty kick at goal it seemed as if fate was not working in the visitors’ favour.
A second miss at goal in the difficult wind by Henderson and then the loss to injury of full-back Oliver Horne seemed to confirm that view . But a slicing run by Ewan MacGarvie from a clever set-piece move raised County’s hopes, only for the wing to be tackled inches short of the try line.
Stirling’s territorial gain from this move was was not wasted. From a subsequent penalty kick to the corner the visitors mauled their way over the line, the try credited to ‘guest’ forward Landon Hayes, who had joined in from the centre to add weight to the effort.
Southern Knights soon replied with a similar score by their hooker Fraser Renwick. County had a chance to bite back with a scorching run by Hayes, but a timely tackle by Joe Jenkins prevented a score, leaving the teams level at half time.
With the might of the storm behind them, The Knights soon turned the screw in the second half as Jason Baggott scored from a tap penalty before adding the conversion. County, however, responded with what was arguably the try of the match with a clever handling move involving George Arnott and MacGarvie that put scrum half Caleb Korteweg in for the levelling score.
But that was the end of Stirling’s points accumulation as the Knights’ heavier pack began to dictate play resulting in three tries in the last quarter. Ruaridh Knott crashed over from close range after the home side had moved the ball well, Russell Anderson touched down from a rolling maul and then Neil Irvine-Hess finished off good work by the pack, Baggott converting all three scores.Error, group does not exist! Check your syntax! (ID: 27)
Southern Knights: F Thomson (M Mvelase-Julyan 76); C Whyte, J Jenkins, G Wood, P Anderson; J Baggott, S Hutchison (B Colvine 67); G Shiells (S Gunn 52), F Renwick (R Anderson 62), E Mcquillan (C Young 60), J Head (I Moody 40), A Runciman, R Knott(I Sim 73), D Taylor (D Redpath 71), N Irvine-Hess.
Stirling County: O Horne (B Sorbie 21); E MacGarvie, R Kent (C Jardine 67) , L Hayes, L Trotter; J Henderson (A Goudie 64), C Korteweg; C Brown (F Bradbury 69), R Kennedy (A Fraser 68), M Walker (A Wood 4), O Bartlett, J Pow, G Arnott (J Vakaloloma 65), C Gordon, D Taylor-Menzies.
Referee: F Brown
Southern Knights: Tries: Renwick, Baggott, Knott, Anderson, Irivne-Hess; Cons: Baggott 3.
Stirling County: Tries: Hayes, Korteweg
Scoring Sequence (Knights first): 0-5; 5-5 (h-t), 10-5; 10-10; 15-10; 17-10; 22-10; 24-10; 29-10; 31-10.
Man-of-the-Match: Southern Knights’ No 8 Neil Irvine-Hess typified his team’s effort in defence, frequently putting in big hits when it mattered, before capping a good performance with the Borderers’ fifth try.
Talking point: Southern Knights can look forward to the Super6 play-offs after recovering from a disappointing start to the season. They certainly know how to defend: the next part of their progression will be to develop a more sophisticated attack. Stirling certainly showed that given the chance they can move the ball skilfully but as their coach Ben Cairns admitted game management is still on the ‘to do’ list.