Stirling County 25
ERIN McRITCHIE @ Bridgehaugh
THE home side entered this encounter high on confidence after beating Boroughmuir 46-28 at Meggetland last weekend, while the visitors have been on the wrong end of a couple of heavy defeats to Edinburgh Accies and Ayr in recent weeks, but it was Hawick who started off on the front foot – immediately showing a zip in their attacking play which had been somewhat lacking during the last fortnight.
Despite some mistakes – which were understandable in the cold, wet and windy conditions – Hawick’s attack resulted in a try less than ten minutes in. Lee Armstrong chipped a kick over the oncoming County defence, Lewis Ferguson couldn’t gather it, but Andrew Mitchell was on hand to kick ahead before giving chase. He was matched step for step by County’s Logan Trotter, but the Hawick man’s dive came just milliseconds before his opponent’s and so he secured the points. With Armstrong’s conversion added, the visitors led 7-0 at the end of the first quarter.
As County looked to work their way back into the game, No 8 Ali Mackie displayed impressive strength with the ball in hand, and on one occasion it took three Hawick players to haul him down. Eventually, County’s set piece enabled them to put points on the board, with a monstrous scrum-five marching over the try-line before Mackie flopped on the ball for the score. Andrew Goudie was unable to add the extras leaving County 5-7 down, but the stand-off soon made amends with a penalty which made it 8-7 at the break.
County took the momentum they had built at the end of the first half straight into the second half and it did not take them long to extend their lead. Centre Ewan Macgarvie collected the ball on the wing and picked a hole in Hawick’s defensive line to nip through for the score.
When Mackie picked up a yellow card eight minutes into the second half, Hawick looked to take advantage through their pack, battering the hosts’ line for a number of phases. But County repelled the threat and then managed to get back on the front foot, with centre Craig Robertson and flanker George Arnott breaking off lineout ball, and full-back Jonny Hope scoring in the corner.
A few minutes later, scrum-half Peter Jericevich also went over to complete a move instigated by the home forwards’ dominant scrum, with Hope adding the conversion.
From hero to zero, Jericevich soon found himself in the sin-bin for some skulduggery on his own line as Hawick tried to bounce back, leaving the hosts with 14 men for the remander of the match. Hawick capitalised with Stuart Graham going over in the corner. Hawick centre Mitchell looked deadly as he stormed up the wing in the closing minutes of the game. He kicked ahead but this time Trotter won the foot-race to the loose ball.
“We dominated the second half, and then unfortunately, we got those two yellow cards and that just stopped us kicking on,” County coach Eddie Pollock said. “But we defended pretty well with 13 or 14 men.”
On the other hand, Hawick coach George Graham was understandably less encouraged by his side’s performance.
“It’s a very disappointing result for us,” he said. “We didn’t cope with their rush defence. After 20 minutes we started making a lot of errors and we couldn’t build any pressure. I don’t think they really created anything, they just worked off of our mistakes.”
Stirling County: J Hope; L Trotter, E Macgarvie, C Robertson, B Sorbie; A Goudie, P Jericevich; G Holborn, A Orr, A Nicol, S Yarrow, L Bruinsma, G Arnott, H Burr, A Mackie. Subs: B Robertson, A Wood, A Rutherord, R Swan, C Dineen.
Hawick: A Weir; L Ferguson, A Mitchell, G Walker, L Gordon-Wooley; L Armstrong, G Welsh, S Muir, C Renwick, N Little, D Lowrie, G Redpath, J Linton, S Graham, B McNeil. Subs: M Carryer, D Johnstone, D Suddon, K Ford, K Davies.
Stirling County: Tries: Mackie, MacGarvie, Hope, Jericevich. Con: Hope. Pen: Goudie.
Hawick: Tries: Mitchell, Graham. Con: Armstrong.
Scoring sequence (Stirling County first): 0-5, 0-7, 5-7, 8-7 half-time, 13-7, 18-7, 23-7, 25-7, 25-12.
Yellow cards: Stirling County: Mackie, Jericevich.
Referee: Jonathan Cook.
Man of the Match: Stirling wing Logan Trotter’s pace and quick feet benefitted his side in both defence and attack.
Talking point: Having started well, Hawick fell away after 20 minutes, which was clearly a huge frustration to head coach George Graham. He knows they can play well away from home because they have done it in fits and starts – but why can’t they sustain it?