Stirling County 21
COLIN RENTON @ Myreside
WATSONIANS clinched the FOSROC Super6 Sprint title in spectacular fashion after a last-minute try handed them victory over a Stirling County side that emerged with immense credit from a hugely competitive match that went all the way to the wire.
Watsonians started as hot favourites, and they just lived up to that billing, showing character and composure at the vital moments as Stirling pressed for the winning try. The victorious coach, Fergus Pringle, paid tribute to his counterpart, Ben Cairns, for the part Stirling played in pushing it all the way to the final whistle.
“Credit to Ben for what he has done with that team,” he said. “We played them in pre-season and the progress they have made is a massive compliment to Ben and his coaching team. They were really tough to beat. It wasn’t the perfect game, it was a bit scrappy at times, but it was a good advert for what we are trying to do and where we’re trying to get to. To be honest, it could have gone either way at the end.”
Cairns was satisfied that his men had given it everything, saying: “We said we would give it a good crack, and we did that. I thought the whole level of the game was really high. It went up again in terms of the product.
“We talked about how they were going to be under pressure and they’re expected to win it, and we would just heap more pressure on them by playing loose and seeing where we get to. It was almost like there was a little moment where we felt we could actually win it and we started putting ourselves under more pressure. We had to go for it, we did go for it and we gave it our best, that’s all we can ask.”
Watsonians, who were hosts but again had to make the short trip across Colinton Road due to Myreside being unavailable, went into the match boasting an unbeaten record and needing only one point to secure the title. They were bolstered by five Edinburgh players, including Matt Currie, fresh from being named in the Scotland summer tour party.
They made a lively start and had County hemmed in for the opening ten minutes, but failed to capitalise on the pressure. A score seemed inevitable, however, and it came in 13 minutes when Harry Paterson gathered a kick and ran from deep. Despite the attentions of two defenders, he offloaded to Currie, and he freed Lomond MacPherson to show his pace as he raced over. Lee Millar banged over the conversion for a seven-point lead.
County gradually gained a foothold and they squared matters in 28 minutes with a well-worked effort executed at pace. Logan Trotter darted clear and offloaded to DJ Innes, and the centre’s pass inside found Sean Kennedy who complete the job. Marcus Holden added the extras.
Watsonians regained the initiative and ended the half in the ascendancy. A penalty just before half-time was an opportunity to take a lead into the break but they opted for a scrum and the wily Kennedy dispossessed his opposite number Rory Brand and cleared the danger.
The lesson was learned, and when the home side earned a penalty at a lineout three minutes after the restart, Millar stroked over the kick. The response was instant. A penalty despatched into touch provided the platform for Stirling to produce a powerful surge that ended with Angus Fraser touching down and Holden adding the extras.
The visitors still needed two scores to have a chance of taking the title, and they started to open out in pursuit of that objective. A clever cross-kick by Holden almost paid off, and for the first time Watsonians began to look a little shaky. Holden sparked the move that yielded try number three, freeing Trotter who raced into the opposition 22 before sending Stevie Hamilton clear. Holden’s conversion stretched the gap to 11 points.
Watsonians battled back and a lineout drive ended with Cal Davies dotting down and Millar converting. Millar posted a rare miss when he was off target with a penalty attempt as the clocked ticked past 70 minutes.
Stirling were running out of time, but they battled all the way. Hamilton raced onto a chip ahead by Kennedy and he passed to Trotter, but the full-back was tackled into touch by Murray Scott.
That proved to be the key moment and, as Stirling pressed for the vital score, Jason Baggott pounced to intercept on halfway and sprint clear for the try that handed Watsonians the win. Millar’s conversion added gloss to the score line and sparked celebrations in the Watsonians camp, with Pringle ensuring that the credit was shared by everyone involved.
“I’m happy for the club because they haven’t won anything like this for so many years. There’s a lot of people behind the scenes and it’s great for the club”, he added.
Watsonians: H Paterson; L MacPherson (L Berg 50), M Currie, J Reynolds (J Baggott 60), A Guthrie; L Millar©, R Brand (M Scott 73); H Courtney (S Grahamslaw 60), C Davies, A Williams, L Ball (K Watt 29), K van Niekerk (K Main 60), S Cecil, C Boyle, M Kunavula.
Stirling County: L Trotter; S Hamilton, DJ Innes, R Southern (C Robertson 65), W Fifita (M Gray 20); M Holden©, S Kennedy; J McKenna (C MacMillan 64), A Fraser, G Breese, J Pow (H Ferguson 50), A Sinclair, G Arnott (C Cruikshank 60), C Gordon©, B Grant.
Referee: Hollie Davidson.
Watsonians: Tries: MacPherson, Davies, Baggott. Cons: Millar 3. Pen: Millar.
Stirling County: Tries: Kennedy, Fraser, Hamilton. Cons: Holden 3.
Scoring sequence (Watsonians first): 5-0; 7-0; 7-5; 7-7 (h-t) 10-7; 10-12; 10-14; 10-19; 10-21; 15-21; 17-21; 22-21; 24-21.
Man of the match: Stand-off and captain Lee Millar’s slick distribution was instrumental in keeping Watsonians on the front foot, and he brought calm assurance when his side was under pressure.
Talking point: The Sprint competition provided evidence that the overall standard in Super6 is improving. If that continues, the upcoming championship should be interesting.