Stirling County 27
Boroughmuir Bears 23
IAIN MORRISON @ Bridgehaugh
THEY may have been holding up the wrong end of the Super6 league table at the start of this match but these two teams put on an exhibition of running rugby in glorious autumn sunshine; County’s Bridgehaugh ground has rarely looked better even if the main stand was nowhere near full to capacity.
County just about deserved their win by scoring four tries to two from the visitors. They also boxed a little smarter on the day but there was precious little to choose between these teams.
This one was only decided at the death, all square, 20-20, inside the final ten minutes. Tom Pittman kicked what looked like the winning penalty for the Bears on 74 minutes only for the visitors to succumb to a sucker punch, a maul try with 59 seconds left on the clock. Replacement hooker Angus Fraser was the man who won’t have had to buy a beer all night.
The play was not short of ambition even if it was a little stop-start from time to time with a lot of good work by both sides being spoiled by a momentary loss of concentration or a fumbled pass. The entire game was played at breakneck speed so some errors were unavoidable.
The first try illustrated the essential difference between the two teams on the day. Having won an attacking throw, County stacked the line-out with at least two extra backs and made light work of marching the Bears big men back over their own try line just 10 minutes into the match, skipper Reyner Kennedy the last man up with the ball.
The Bears spent the final 10 minutes of the opening 40 knocking on Country’s door. The visitors had at least five attacking lineouts, and numerous open field opportunities, but failed to convert a single one of them after relying almost exclusively on grunt to get them over the line. County’s defence was solid but the visitors persistence with route one rugby in the opposition red zone suggests a tactical error.
In fairness Boroughgmuir’s challenge was undermined as early as the fourth minute when they lost their skipper Dan Winning to injury and their set-piece had mixed results thereafter, losing at least three line-outs with the scrum creaking throughout.
And the visitors did score one cracking good try on what was just about their first visit to the County half. Another attacking maul was going nowhere very quickly so fly-half Pittman dinked a cross-field kick-pass and Bears winger Jordan Edmunds rose to collect the ball and score the try with just a little too much ease. Given the simplicity of that score its a wonder the visitors didn’t cut, paste, repeat.
Anything you can do … County responded with a great score of their own right on the thirty minute mark. Centre Grant Hughes made the initial break just inside the Bears’s half of the field. He fed inside to fly-half Andrew Goudie, who then executed a clever switch with winger Tom Roche, who raced away to dot down under the sticks. The same man had arguably already messed up an earlier scoring chance so this one was redemptive.
The Bears had their 10 minutes in the sun at the end of the first half but, with nothing to show for all their pressure it was almost inevitable that County would fill their boots with a breathtaking score on 53 minutes.
The home side moved the ball slickly to the right where centre Archie Russell made a half break and flicked the ball out of the tackle to Craig Robertson. The full-back looked for any money like he would make the Bears’ line only to be collared, but not before an audacious offload ‘out-the-back’ landed perfectly for flying winger Steven Hamilton, who had tracked play brilliantly and was duly rewarded with a try which gave County what looked like a unassailable 10 point lead.
The Bears had other ideas and County fluffing an easy conversion must have boosted confidence in the visitors’ camp. The Bears won a soft penalty in front of the posts which they gratefully turned into three points, before home prop Will Skinner saw yellow after diving on the ball, which admittedly looked out of the ruck, in the shadow of his own posts.
The Bears took immediate advantage of the numbers with winger Edmunds finding a gap to barrel his way over the line for his second touchdown of the afternoon, and Pittman’s conversion made it a 20-20 match. Ten minutes after looking dead and buried, the Bears had worked their way back into this contest and better things were to come.
The match remained that way until six minutes from time when County’s replacement winger Ross McKnight conceded a penalty for barging a man off the ball and Pittman stepped up to do what he does best, firing home from wide on the right with the help of the crossbar, with gasps of horror from the Stirling support in the main stand.
County had six minutes to salvage something and, when they won a kickable penalty, they showed admirable admibition by opting instead for the attacking line-out. Again the home team stacked the line and marched the Bears backwards in an agonising slow motion replay of the opening score. Centre Grant Hughes added the extras and the Bridgehaugh faithful celebrated a rare victory.
“We are happy with the result,” said County coach Ben Cairns after the whistle, “but we cannot be happy with the performance. I have just given the guys a bollocking. We didn’t build any pressure and we wouldn’t have won it without that maul dominance.”
“It’s not over till the fat lady sings,” said the Bears’ Graham Shiel. “Even late in the day there is time for a good side to come back at you and that is what happened today.”
Stirling County: C Robertson, S Hamilton, A Russell, G Hughes, T Roche; A Goudie, C Korteweg; C Lamberton, R Kennedy, L Skinner, J Pow, J King, G Arnott, C Gordon, D Taylor-Menzies. Replacements: A Fraser, B Dineen, G Breese, R Jackson, C Cruickshank, E Cunningham, L Hayes, R McKnight.
Boroughmuir Bears: G Faulds, C Ramm, R Kerr, R McCallum, J Edmunds; T Pittman, K Barreto; R Dunbar, F Scott, D Winning, E Ferrie, W Inglis, R Drummond, R Tait, T Andrews. Replacements: C McKenzie, A McWilliam, M McGinley, J Fisher, C Keddie, D Munn, K McGhie, S McGinley.
Referee: Ian Kenny.
Stirling County: Tries: Kennedy, Roche, Hamilton, Fraser; Cons: Robertson, Hughes; Pen: Robertson.
Boroughmuir Bears: Tries: Edmunds 2; Cons: Pittman 2; Pens: Pittman 3.
Scoring sequence (Stirling County first): 5-0; 5-5; 5-7; 8-7; 8-10; 13-10; 15-10 (h-t) 20-10; 20-13; 20-18; 20-20; 20-23; 25-23; 27-23.
Man-of-the-Match: There were a few really stand out performances including Jordan Edmunds claiming a brace of tries and Tom Pittman kicking 13 points. There were also good showings by both inside centres, Grant Hughes and Robbie McCallum. However the award goes to the Bears scrum-half Kaleem Baretto who stood out for his tactical awareness and speed of thought in what was a harum-scarum game. He was an oasis of calm and control in an otherwise frantic maelstrom
Talking Point: County’s second try was very good, their third just outstanding with not one but two blind, out-the-back offloads from contact which fell exactly where they were aimed. More of that please!