Stirling County 19
ELÉNA de MELLO HOGARTH @ Bridgehaugh
FOURTEEN-MEN Melrose fought their way to victory against a much improved Stirling County in a match that only hit the heights in the final ten minutes.
Both teams had a slow start, with Stirling shaking themselves out of their post-Christmas stupor slightly sooner than Melrose. The home team harried the visitors where they could in the first quarter, with centre Craig Robertson looking lively, but points were not forthcoming.
Melrose held firm in the scrum, but mistakes at the line-out plagued them during this period. Their heavy-hitting captain Grant Runicman strolled through mid-field but his backs were unable to press for Stirling’s line.
Stirling sniffed out an interception through speedy winger Logan Trotter, who, along with Robertson, was one of his team’s danger men all day.
It wasn’t the backs who got the first points, though. After Stirling plunged for the line several times – and after several warnings for Melrose – referee Ross Mabon awarded a penalty try.
Melrose didn’t wait long to reply, using their strength to dominate the breakdown. They fired the ball out to Iain Sim on the wing and he snuck in for the try, fly-half Struan Hutchison curling in the touchline conversion.
Stirling went back into the lead after a thrilling try by openside flanker George Arnott, who took a perfectly timed pass from scrum-half Peter Jericevich after a jinking break by Robertson. Andrew Goudie converted but then left the field for ten minutes soon after, after receiving a perhaps harsh yellow-card for a tackle on Hutchison, which saw him leap over the top of his crouching opposite number as they competed for a high ball.
Just before half-time, Melrose used all their instinct to keep the ball alive and strike back through outside centre Patrick Anderson. Gavin Wood, on the right wing, was headed for the line before Stirling full-back Jonny Hope knocked the ball from his hand, but Melrose just picked it back up, and swiftly got it to Anderson on the other side of the pitch. Hutchison couldn’t convert.
Premiership Match Reports:
Not long into the second half and Melrose found themselves a man down, with second-row James Head shown a red card for foul play. The Borderers seemed to use this to galvanise themselves, and they battled their way back into the lead when Hutchison landed a penalty.
Stirling just didn’t quite have the fire-power to take advantage, and they were all even numbers-wise – at least for 10 minutes – after replacement prop Gary Holborn was yellow-carded. There was then a fairly lengthy stoppage for Melrose’s open-side flanker Rory Darge to be treated and stretchered off with a knee injury.
With less than 10 minutes to go, the action suddenly cranked up. Melrose replacement Angus Runciman burrowed his way over for a try, with Hutchison getting the conversion. Then Stirling perked up, Trotter sliding into to catch a kick before a long pass found Glasgow Warriors’ Ratu Tagive, who sprinted for the line. Goudie’s conversion was wide.
Stirling battled on but the clock had run down and they were out of time. Head coach Eddie Pollock was pleased with his players’ spirit though.
“I was very proud of their efforts and I thought we played well at times,” he said. “We were the best team for long periods.”
Citing the Melrose red-card as the turning point, he added: “I think we relaxed at that point, thinking the game would be won. We made it quite easy for Melrose. But credit to them, they kept the ball really well.”
Melrose head coach Rob Chrystie was happy with the result.
“To win up here and play a full second half with 14 men shows what this club’s about,” he said. “Could we have been better? Yes, we could have, but to get over the line with fourteen men was really quite impressive.”
Stirling County: J Hope; L Trotter, E MacGarvie, C Robertson, R Tagive; A Goudie, P Jericevich; R Chies, A Orr, M Walker; R Bundy, C Henderson; H Burr, G Arnott, A Mackie. Subs used: B Robertson, G Holborn, S Yarrow, C Dineen.
Melrose: F Thomson; G Wood, P Anderson, C Jackson, I Sim; S Hutchison, M McAndrew; G Shiells, R Ferguson, C Young; J Head, I Moody; N Irvine-Hess, R Darge, G Runciman. Subs used: F Scott, R McLeod, A Runciman.
Referee: R Mabon
Stirling County: Tries: Penalty Try, Arnott, Tagive; Cons: Goudie.
Melrose: Tries: Sim, Anderson, Runciman; Cons: Hutchison 2. Pens: Hutchison.
Scoring sequence: 7-0; 7-5; 7-7; 14-7; 14-12. (h-t) 14-15; 14-22; 19-22.
Yellow cards –
Stirling County: Goudie, Holborn.
Red cards –
Melrose: J Head.
Man-of-the-Match: Scrum-half Murdo McAndrew was a constant thorn in Stirling’s side with his sniping runs, and he was always there to support his team-mates.
Talking point: Although it could be said that Stirling didn’t take their chances, Melrose’s ability to stamp their authority on a match meant the home team weren’t allowed to.