Super6 Sprint: Stirling County too strong for depleted Southern Knights

Injuries and the red-carding of winger Jacob Henry didn't help the hapless hosts

Stirling County claimed the spoils against Southern Knights at The Greenyards. Image: SNS/Scottish Rugby
Stirling County claimed the spoils against Southern Knights at The Greenyards. Image: SNS/Scottish Rugby

Southern Knights 10

Stirling County 24

ALAN LORIMER @ The Greenyards

STIRLING COUNTY moved to the top of the FOSROC Super6 Sprint Series after achieving victory over a Southern Knights team weakened by both a red card and injuries to key players. But there is no denying that Stirling, fielding a clutch of under-20 players, were worthy winners such was the quality of their performance based on disciplined defence and, at times, polished attacking rugby.

What is encouraging for Stirling is the number of players in their side who have come through County’s famous youth system, players like Logan Trotter and Euan Cunningham, who, against Southern Knights, both excelled. The younger players were helped by the likes of Benedict Grant, whose ‘soft’ hands were a feature of the No 8’s play at The Greenyards.

For Stirling’s coach, Ben Cairns, there was satisfaction in the way his side always seemed to be in charge on the field. “I thought we controlled the game pretty well generally but it probably didn’t tell on the scoreboard,” he said. “We scored some decent tries tonight; they were all different.”


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On a perfect night at The Greenyards it was not a perfect night for the Knights, who, after hitting back in the period just after the break, were on the receiving end of a catastrophic red card and then the loss of their young back five player Rudi Brown adding to the first half departures of Daniel Sudden and Iain Sim.

“When you play over 30 minutes with only fourteen men and you’ve lost three or four players to injury it’s going to take its tol,l” conceded Bruce Ruthven, the Knights’ head coach.“But the guys really stuck in. We created a lot of opportunities in the first half but we’re still making a lot of unforced errors and that’s something we need to tidy up on. There were pockets of play that were really good. We just need to be consistent.”

It was Southern Knights who claimed the first points of the match with a 45 metre penalty goal by scrum-half Ben Afshar and it looked as though the hosts would quickly extend their early lead after pressure on the County line. But Stirling showed ferocious defence in the red zone that repelled the Knights’ close range pounding.

Then from a break out just outside their own 22, Stirling turned on the style. Grant used soft hands rather than hard muscle to put DJ Innes through a gap. When the low-set centre was eventually hunted down, County were able to go through several phases before scoring a try of rare perfection that involved a measured pass by Cunningham, intelligent timing from Trotter and cool finishing by Ross McKnight.

Knights were unfortunate to lose second row Sudden, who was replaced by Ruairdh Knott, leaving Harry Borthwick as the go-to-man in the line-out. Shortly afterwards a second Knights’ player left the field, this time winger Sim who was replaced by Scotland Sevens man Jacob Henry.

Stirling’s pressure defence was causing problems for the Knights who were forced into conceding a penalty that translated into a line-out in the corner and a simple try with a pre-planned move round the front ending in hooker Gregor Hiddleston scoring, the touchline conversion by Marcus Holden giving the visitors a 12-3 half-time advantage.

 

Whatever their shortcomings in the first half, Knights began the second period of play with much greater purpose, dominating a maul before releasing the ball wide to Paddy Anderson. The wing was tackled high but in the subsequent phases Brown and then Knott came close to scoring before skipper Fraser Renwick finished off the attack with a try under the posts, converted with some ease by half-time replacement Nathan Chamberlain.

Stirling threatened to retaliate with a break by Trotter who found Walter Fifita in support, but a brave tackle by Knights’ full-back Kieran Clark on the big Tongan averted what would have been a certain score.

Knights could justifiably feel pleased with the efforts having forced their way back into the game but any feeling of pride in performance was punctured in the form of a red card shown to Henry after the winger had upended his opposite number in the air following a box-kick from Murray Redpath.

Sensing that their one man advantage could quickly inflate their lead, County piled on the pressure close to the Knights’ line and after a series of forward drives, prop Lewis Skinner drove over for his side’s third try to give Stirling a seven points advantage.

Knights then suffered a further injury loss, this time Brown limping off the field with a leg injury leaving the home side’s forward pack somewhat dismembered. Stirling wasted little time in pressing home their advantage up front with non-stop scrum pressure close to the Knights’ line. The Greenyards men held out until the ball was given to the Stirling backs who grabbed the bonus point try when Innes scuttled through a gap, Holden’s conversion sealing a sumptuous win.

 

Teams –

Southern Knights: K Clark; I Sim, B Wara, R Chalmers, P Anderson; C Scott, B Afshar; G Shiells, F Renwick, I Brace, D Redpath, D Suddon, R Brown, W Nelson, H Borthwick. Subs: J Bett, C Bowker, B Riddell, R Knott, M Redpath, A Cross, N Chamberlain, J Henry.

Stirling County: L Trotter; R McKnight, D Innes, M Holden W Fifita; E Cunningham, H Russell; C MacMillan, G Hiddleston, L Skinner,  J Pow, H McLeod, H Ferguson, C Gordon, B Grant. Subs: A Fraser, J McKenna, G Breese, C Norrie, J Spurway, F Burgess, C Beckett, M Gray.

Referee: Ruairidh Campbell

 

Scorers –

Southern Knights: Try: Renwick; Con: Chamberlain; Pen: Afshar.

Stirling County: Tries: McKnight, Hiddleston, Skinner, Innes; Cons: Holden 2.

Scoring Sequence (Southern Knights first): 3-0; 3-5; 3-10; 3-12 (h-t) 8-12; 10-12; 10-17; 10-22; 10-24

 

Red Card –

Southern Knights: Henry

 

Man-of-the-Match: Stirling’s opening try was a gem, and it owed much to the timing of Logan Trotter’s pass which sent Ross McKnight over. Trotter also showed his strength is defence by resisting a Knights’ forward attack close to the line. Moreover, the full-back created a scoring chance in the second half which with better finishing should have brought another try.

Talking point:  Stirling County look to be in their stride now by following their win against Ayrshire Bulls with this victory over Southern Knights. But for the Greenyards-based side this was a third successive defeat albeit it occurred against a backdrop of a red card and three injuries. Worrying for Knights must be a lack of depth in their squad compared to last season: and co-opting club players for bench duty will not cut it at this level.


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About Alan Lorimer 230 Articles
Scotland rugby correspondent for The Times for six years and subsequently contributed to Sunday Times, Daily and Sunday Telegraph, Scotsman, Herald, Scotland on Sunday, Sunday Herald and Reuters. Worked in Radio for BBC. Alan is Scottish rugby journalism's leading voice when it comes to youth and schools rugby.

10 Comments

  1. Many clubs did not apply for Super 6 and I hope most
    fans care about club rugby rather than being casual
    fans of any rugby .
    If we don’t have a strong pyramid based on club rugby where will the future players come from?
    I think it’s an issue of Super 6,8, 10 ? v a third
    Pro side for starters and with improved revenues
    from a full Murrayfield / private equity / Scottish Gov
    this should be possible

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  2. Seems to be large amounts of injuries during S6 games?, Lack of game time,(warm up matches)for the players, straight into full blooded competative games cannot be a sensible way of introducing young players stepping up a level,or completing with full time pros? No amount of contact training can prepare you for the real thing. Just an observation.

  3. How are the clubs and their supporters feeling
    about the impact of Super 6 on the clubs position
    In both last complete competitions ? Does it matter ?
    super 6. national 1
    Ayr. 1. 5
    Melrose. 2. 4
    Watsonians. 3. 10
    Stirling County 4. 9
    Boroughmuir 5. 12 ( and relegated)
    Heriots. 6. 1

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    • Oh contraire Left Field. The Super 6 teams are all limited companies so what ever their host clubs think is irrelevant. Most of them are limited companies as well.

      Personally I would be more concerned about the haemorrhaging of cash that must be happening at these entities. Just as well they they are only on the spike for £1

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    • The casual fan does not care about club rugby, they want to watch Super Rugby, I’m enjoying seeing local players getting the opportunity alongside and against Professionals, and i’m looking forward to seeing them progress to pro contracts and international caps.

      I’m guessing your local club got rejected for super 6? Are you one of the people calling to bring back the districts? Stop living in the past.

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      • “The casual fan”. What is this person?
        fan noun
        Definition of fan
        1 : an enthusiastic devotee (as of a sport or a performing art) usually as a spectator

        If you seriously think that the Sprint competition in Super 6 will create international players I have a bridge I’d like to sell you.

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      • Strange the system accidentally let me dislike your comment twice. Mr Barnes can we change JW’s dislikes from 9 to 8, he gets kinda sensitive about these things 🤣

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      • Not at all I just think they show just how many trolls are posting here.

        It’s very enlightening!

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