Stirling County 27
Currie Chieftains 24
LEWIS STUART @ Bridgehaugh
THE question for Stirling all through the opening battles of the season has been: are they real top-four contenders, or a side destined for another mid-table season?
Beating the team that has got to the play-offs every season since they were introduced must prove they can be the real deal, though there were enough glitches and wobbles in the course of the game to leave that question mark pencilled in.
The big worry for Eddie Pollock, the coach, has got to be how they will fare when they come up against sides that can match their formidable pack. Currie couldn’t and that proved decisive.
“They way we played, we targeted the set-piece and I thought the front row were outstanding throughout the game,” Pollock said. “We had eight or nine under-19s playing in this game against a team that has been top four for the last several seasons and we still won. I’m delighted with that.
“We have had quite a few injuries and have had a lot of the kids playing, but they have got better and better every week. We are delighted – it says a lot about what we are doing with the kids here.”
It took only four minutes for the home side to get themselves on the board with Grant Hughes, the centre, breaking from the 10-yard line to spark the attack with Andrew Goudie, the fly-half, jinking over to finish it. With the momentum firmly in their favour, Stirling continued to find holes in the Currie defence, wing Andrew McLean grabbing their second try as Grant Hughes, the centre, offloaded to create the space. A third quickly followed when a lineout maul got over the line with scrum-half Peter Jericevich on the back of it to touch down.
It should have been the platform for a cruise, but instead the momentum suddenly changed 180 degrees. It was Currie who were finding holes in midfield, whose forwards were running to the ball at pace and putting their side on the front foot.
They started to win penalties, kicked for the corner, and when Ross Bundy, the Stirling lock, was sinbinned for pulling down a maul, they got a chance to turn the pressure into scores.
Gregor Hunter, the former Edinburgh fly-half, showed how easy it could be as he sold an outrageous dummy and sauntered over. Jamie Forbes, the full-back, and Ben Robbins, the wing, then produced a counter-attack off a loose kick, the ball was recycled and AP McWilliam, the prop, surged over.
The second half saw the home side restored to 15 men, and, just as they had in the first, they were able to use the power of their scrum and Currie never got a look-in again. “If you look at the way the second 20 minutes of the first half went, we should have been the team in the second half with all the momentum and winning that game,” said Ben Cairns, the Currie coach.
“Even though we were down on the scoreboard, we felt the momentum was with us and we should kick on. It didn’t work out that way. The set piece did not function, which meant it was tough to get the ball, control where you play the game and all that stuff.”
It took a while, but Stirling soon increased their lead with the Currie defence drifting wide to hand Goudie a hole for his second try. The visitors did hit back through Steve Hamilton, the wing, but Stirling were soon back on the attack, turning the screw through a series of scrums and lineout mauls until they had run down the clock enough for Johnny Hope to eventually take the penalty points that moved his team two scores clear.
It turned out to be an important kick as Ben Robbins brought the visitors back within three points of their opponents with a last-ditch try. There were only seconds left on the clock, however, and that was where it finished.
Stirling County: J Hope; A McLean, R Tagive, G Hughes, C Jardine; A Goudie, P Jericevich; R Chies, R Kennedy, M Walker, J Pow, R Bundy, G Arnott, S Macdonald, H Burr. Subs: B Robertson, B Dinesen, A Grant-Suttie, H Henderson, A Vipond.
Currie: J Forbes; B Robbins, R Reynolds, R Nelson, S Hamilton; G Hunter, R Frostwick; A McWilliam, G Carson, F Watt, R Davies, M Vernel, M Kelly, T Gordon, S McGinley. Subs: Wilson, R Paterson,W Nelson, C Davies, A Hall.
Referee: L Linton.
Stirling County: Tries: Goudie 2, McLean, Jericevich; Cons: Hope 2; Pen: Hope.
Currie Chieftains: Tries: Hunter, McWilliam, Hamilton, Robbins; Cons: Hunter 2.
Scoring sequence (Stirling County first): 5-0, 10-0, 17-0, 17-7, 17-14 (h-t) 24-14, 24-19, 27-19, 27-24.
Yellow card –
Stirling County: Bundy
Man of the Match: The scrum was the key difference between the sides, led by Murphy Walker at prop.
Talking point: The Stirling scrum was the decisive weapon and Currie could never break its stranglehold on the game.