Stirling Wolves 3
Southern Knights 20
IAIN MORRISON @ Bridgehaugh
TWO teams desperate to win doesn’t make for a great game of rugby and the first point here at Bridgehaugh didn’t appear until the second quarter of the match which then came to life with a slew of scoring, most of it coming from the visiting team who seemed to grow in confidence with every point they added to the scoreboard in a free wheeling 15 minute purple patch.
After 20 points from both sides in the 15 minutes before half time there was just one penalty kick throughout a disappointing second half.
With both teams winless this season it was the Knights who left with the spoils, the smiles and the precious league points at the third time of asking after winning more comfortably on the scoreboard than they did on the pitch.
“It was a funny game, a lot of ebbs and flows”, said a relieved Knights’ head coach Bruce Ruthven. “We took a good lead into half time and we just wanted to keep playing as we had done but the second half felt like the 40 minutes went on for over an hour with the yellow cards and injuries. It was really difficult.
“We have been working really hard getting into the right areas of the pitch and then executing and that was what we did in that purple patch before half time. We talked all week about being more accurate and I think we did that and the boys did really well.
“Look at the last 30 minutes of that game because there were a lot of young boys out there but that is what Super6 is all about, giving these guys some experience.”
Oddly enough the Wolves had looked the better side in the opening quarter and for long periods in the second half. They will wake up on Saturday morning wondering how they lost this game by such a margin with nothing much between the teams.
Full-back Logan Trotter was a handful with the ball and he also kicked a great 50-22 to earn his forwards a rare attacking line-out that they stuffed up, and not for the last time. The home side also showed real urgency at the breakdown allowing scrum-half Keir Singleton to move the ball with real alacrity.
The home side also enjoyed the better of the set-piece exchanges, the Knights lost at least three line-outs, to one by the Wolves, with both teams conceding one scrum penalty apiece.
But the Knights took the few chances that offered themselves in the second quarter when the home defense went AWOL. The visitors grew in stature while the Wolves suffered that sinking feeling all over again.
Ironically, the change in the Southern Knights’ fortunes came after they lost their most effective player on 25 minutes. No 8 Harry Borthwick, who had impressed with the ball in hand, especially off the base of the Knights’ scrum, was carted off the field after dislocating his knee in a tackle. The oxygen was sent on but the big breakaway is made of strong stuff and continued to offer unsolicited advice to the referee while the medics worked their magic. Replacement Wallace Nelson did well to fill the sizable gap.
It probably wasn’t related but one minute later the Wolves took the lead with the first penalty kick of the game after the Knights strayed offside, centre Marcus Holden doing the needful off the tee.
It was to prove the Wolves’ only score and it seemed to spark the game into life with the Knights counter-punching almost from the re-start and going on to score three times themselves in the 15 minutes before the break having failed to do so in the opening 25.
A flowing multi-phase move, the best of the match to date, the first of the match to date, saw Knights’ fly-half Cameron Scott step inside the last defenders to score a well worked try and full-back David Colvine added the extras.
The young fly0half grew in confidence and stature and it showed because not long after Scott put centre Robbie Chalmers through a gap with a beautifully executed offload in amongst the heavy traffic. Chalmers was isolated and his long miss-pass to Aidan Cross bounced before it reached the winger. Wolves centre Alexander Thom got himself under Cross who, in fairness, had jumped into the air to collect the ball.
The net result was yellow for Thom and, a few minutes later, a second try for the Knights. The visitors kicked the penalty to the corner, threw badly but still won the ball, and following a few forward drives to soften up the defence, Knights’ scrum-half Douglas Crawford wriggled his way past several giant defenders who appeared to be rooted to the ground and won’t much enjoy Monday’s video session.
At the end of the first 40, the Knights had the bit between their teeth and there was still time for one more score. The visitors launched an attack from deep inside their own 22 and ended up with a simple penalty kick in front of the Wolves’ posts at the opposite end of the ground to give the visitors a handy looking 17-3 advantage at the break.
The Wolves would need to score first in the second half to keep this game alive but instead Colvine added to the away team’s tally with a 52nd minute penalty after the Wolves strayed offside under extreme pressure. It was the only score of the entire second half.
This stop-start game was halted for the second time, another oxygen bottle, another injury, this time to Knights’ winger Cross, a compressed neck and he was duly carried from the field.
The Wolves showed great spirit in attempting to wrestle their way back into this match, holding onto the ball for many phases, but still their attack lacked any cutting edge while the visitors were growing arms and legs. Eventually and inevitably the ball would be spilled forward or lost in contact ruining all the good work in the build up.
On 65 minutes scrum-half Singleton tapped a quick penalty and went himself. He can’t be faulted for trying to change the pattern of this game but still he got isolated and turned over and another chance went west.
The final 15 minutes of the match were spent largely in the Knights’ red zone with the big bad Wolves huffing and puffing and blowing nothing down as they invented new ways to stuff up a promising situation; forward passes, dropped balls, passes to touch, even when the visitors were reduced to 14 with Colvine carded for flapping the ball into touch. The match ended with a Wolves’ knock on; it was only appropriate in the circumstances.
“I felt we were asleep for the whole game if I am honest,” said Wolves’ boss Ben Cairns, who was not best pleased after three successive losses. “We didn’t fire a shot. We had a couple of moments where individuals have done something good but as a team I thought we were massively off it (the pace) … on both sides of the ball.
Stirling Wolves: L Trotter (C Beckett 60); L Jarvie, A Thom, M Holden, C Jardine; E Cunningham, K Singleton; C MacMillan (J Lascelles 58), G Hiddleston (R Tanner 74), L Skinner (G Breese 37), J Pow, H Ferguson (H Mcleod 52), G Arnott (J Hill 67), C Gordon, B Grant (S Macdonald 63).
Southern Knights: D Colvine; A Cross (K Clark 56), P Anderson, R Chalmers, B Wara; C Scott, D Crawford; C Bowker, R Anderson (F Renwick 45), I Brace, J Campbell, A Ferrie, J Miller, S Derrick, H Borthwick (W Nelson 25):
Referee: David Sutherland.
Stirling Wolves: Pen: Holden.
Southern Knights: Try: Scott, Crawford Con: Colvine 2; Pen: Colvine 2.
Sequence of scoring (Stirling first): 3-0; 3-5; 3-7; 3-12; 3-14; 3-17 (h-t) 3-20.
Man-of-the-Match: There were strong games from Knights’ full-back David Colvine and Robbie Chalmers in the centre mwhile both the starting scrummies did well, and home hooker Gregor Hiddleston showed up well thanks, in part, to a green scrum cap. But the best player on the pitch was Wolves’ full-back Logan Trotter who was dangerous with the ball in hand, made one try saving tackle on Billy Wara and kicked well from hand, before retiring on the hour mark.
Moment-of-the-Match: Goodness only knows what happened on 25 minutes but the match was turned on its head in the moment that Marcus Holden kicked the first three points of this match. It was transformed from a slightly dull and ragged encounter to something vibrant, skilful and entertaining to a small if committed crowd. Sadly it only lasted 15 minutes as the second half was almost as bad as the first quarter.