Southern Knights 19
Stirling Wolves 21
ALAN LORIMER @ The Greenyards
STIRLING WOLVES gave themselves an end-of-season boost after eking out a win against Southern Knights from a strong second half effort, aided by their opponents losing two players to the sin-bin in rapid succession, that overturned a 19-0 lead built up by the Greenyards side in the first 40 minutes.
This might have been viewed as the battle of the basement sides but in truth both teams at times played at the same standard as the sides above them. The problem for Knights in particular has been one of personnel but in the event the Greenyards outfit has done better than their under-resourced side might have been expected to achieve.
“It’s been a frustrating season because the guys have done enough to win games – like today – but it’s just a lack of experience. Basically we’ve got a lot of youngsters and we’re pulling guys in on a Tuesday or a Thursday who are not used to our systems,” noted the Knights’ defence coach Alan Tait.
The former Scotland and Lions Test player added: “So you’re really struggling to get any cohesion in the side, but they always give their all and I feel really sorry for them. They put a great effort in at Heriot’s last week and we talked about backing that up against Stirling. We let it slip away a bit. The double yellow didn’t help. That killed us off but we had a penalty to win the game at the end.”
Stirling’s coach, Ben Cairns, in charge of the Bridgehaugh team for the last time before moving on, was naturally delighted to sign off with a win. He said: “We’ll take that. We started pretty well, put some good pressure on them early doors. They weathered that storm. But what happened summed up our season. We had that pressure and did nothing with it and then they kicked the ball into our 22 and get a line-out and scored. We started the second half pretty well and then carried on from there.”
After making the first seven minutes of the game an exercise in keeping possession, Stirling had their first real sniff of the Knights’ line with a five metre line-out. But after being on the back foot Knights showed resolve by preventing a pushover try to buy a temporary respite.
Knights were again under the cosh when the Wolves kicked to the corner but again the home guard proved better than the visitors’ attack. Then, after a break-out, Knights’ stand-off Doug Crawford landed a telling 50/22 kick that gave the Greenyards men an attacking line-out from which they worked a clever back move which ended with Robbie Chalmers delivering an inside scoring pass to blindside wing Aidan Cross, with David Colvine adding the extras.
Having scored against the run of play, Knights then repeated their trick, and again it was Crawford who was the instigator, this time chipping over the defence for the pursuing Cross. The high bounce of the ball evaded the flying wing but not so Kyle McGhie who then flipped a pass to Sam Derrick. The big flanker made no mistake with his five metre finish to register Knights’ second try, again converted by Colvine.
If this was damaging for the Wolves then the Stirling men had little time to recover before the scoreboard showed the result of further Knights’ pressure that secured a penalty created five metre line-out, which the home side drove ferociously to create an unconverted try for their loosehead prop Michael Mbaud and a 19-0 lead that remained unchanged at the break.
It changed, however, at the beginning of the second half when Stirling Wolves, playing with the stiff breeze on their backs, reaped their reward for accurate ball retention that eventually gave No 8 Benedict Grant a tilt at the line. But it was the supporting George Arnott who was the beneficiary, the flanker taking the scoring pass from his fellow back-row to touch-down under the posts, leaving Marcus Holden with the simplest of conversions.
A fracas resulted in yellow cards shown to Sean Kennedy and Mbaud, leaving both teams having to function without key personnel. The first test for Knights after Mbaud departed the field for ten minutes was defending a driven line-out but the Greenyards men passed the examination of their forward strength with aplomb and with the ball.
Despite this defensive success by Knights it was clear that the Wolves were intent on closing the gap. That was confirmed in open play when second-row Hamish Ferguson flat-footed the Knights’ defence with the most delicate of reverse passes that gave Ryan Southern a clear run to the line and another easy conversion for Holden.
If Knights were feeling the heat then the temperature shot up further when in quick succession replacement Alan Ferrie and Korie Winters were dispatched to the sin0bin for spear and neck tackles. Knights quickly paid the price when their short handedness in defence allowed Kennedy to skip over for Stirling’s third try to level the scores, the conversion by Liam Brims putting Wolves into the lead for the first time in the game.
Knights had a chance to regain the lead only for McGhie to miss with a penalty goal attempt leaving Wolves satisfied to have reversed the result of their earlier meeting with the Melrose based-side.
Southern Knights: D Colvine; A Cross, K Winters, R Chalmers, B Pickles; D Crawford, K McGhie; M Mbaud, F Renwick, R Deans, J Campbell, M Sykes, S Derrick, W Nelson, R Brown. Substitues: H Morris, A Cameron, I Brace, A Ferrie, R Anderson, E Demirel, K Clark, M Cullen.
Stirling Wolves: E Cunningham; S Hamilton, B Salmon, R Southern, W Fifita; M Holden©, S Kennedy; J McKenna, G Hiddleston, R Tanner, J Pow, H Ferguson, G Arnott, C Gordon©, B Grant. Substitutes: S Rainey, C MacMillan, S Wright, H McLeod, C Jardine, G Christie, L Brims, A Thom.
Referee: Ross Mabon.
Southern Knights: Tries Cross, Derrick, Mbaud; Cons: Colvine 2.
Stirling Wolves: Tries: Arnott, Southern, Kennedy; Cons: Holden 2, Brims.
Scoring Sequence (Southern Knights first): 5-0; 7-0; 12-0; 14-0; 19-0 (h-t) 19-5; 19-7; 19-12; 19-14; 19-19; 19-21.
Yellow cards –
Southern Knights: Ferrie, Winters
Stirling Wolves: Kennedy
Man-of-the-Match: When a match enters a knife-edge stage it takes experience to exploit any weakness to win the contest. And in that context Sean Kennedy was the player to make the most of his side’s two man advantage late in the second half to score what effectively was the winning try.
Talking point: Neither of the these two teams will be involved in the play-offs for the current FOSROC Super6 Championship and so there was little at stake for them, other than pride. Just what each will have gained from this current championship will be the subject of discussion, but certainly there is little doubt that the main beneficiaries of Super6 rugby are young players hoping to be involved in the Scotland under-20 squad.