Stirling County 17
LEWIS STUART @ Bridgehaugh
“COME the end of the season, we will remember this because it was four points we did not think we would get,” reflected Heriot’s coach Phil Smith after seeing his team snatch victory from the jaws of defeat. It was a game they could, arguably should, have lost – Eddie Pollock, his opposite number, felt it was points his side had thrown away – but luck and sheer determination were just enough to pull them through.
It all came down to the final play of the game. Sitting on a two-point lead and having already seen a penalty from Stirling’s Johnny Hope from almost straight in front of the posts sail wide, they were defending grimly on their own line.
Stirling won the ball. They had men spare on the right. The ball spun wide, Ratu Tagive, the wing, pulled in the final defender and threw the ball over the top to Andrew McLean, his wing partner, thinking it was the scoring pass.
Heriot’s replacement Callum Marshall didn’t see it that way. He hurled himself behind Tagive in a desperate attempt to get to the attacker. He only just got a hand in there, but it was enough – the ball went free and Heriot’s had won.
“It was all hanging, we could not get out of our half, they will remember that effort to the end of the season,” Smith added. “The heart for that last-ditch effort was amazing. From where I was standing it looked as though that was it, he was in, but Marshall made an unbelievable last-ditch tackle. We talked about the belief and heart and there we saw it in screeds.”
Playing into the wind in the first half, Heriot’s had given Stirling a lesson in clinical finishing. The hosts defied the elements to have most of the pressure and territory, but whatever they tried, they could not score until the 40 minutes were almost up.
They had managed to get across the line once after a series of forward drives and penalties on the visitors’ line, but flanker Shaun Macdonald lost the ball as he was trying to roll over and ground it.
In the meantime, Heriot’s had few chances, but two visits to the opposition 22 produced two tries. After 10 minutes they managed to work full-back Jack Blain down the right touchline to put them in an attacking position, and after a few of his fellow forwards had had a go, No 8 Iain Wilson found the space to canter over the line.
They had to defend for most the next 15 minutes but again, when Heriot’s broke the siege, they turned it into a score. The formula was simple – win a penalty and kick for touch; maul the lineout and get another penalty; drive again to suck in the defence. By the time then ball went wide there were two men spare as Ross Jones, the centre, went over.
The winds of change
It looked ominous for Stirling, but when they were starting to wonder if the wind was enough for a 12-point comeback, they suddenly remembered how to find the try line, Grant Hughes, the lively centre, putting wing Andrew McLean in seconds before the teams went in for the half-time break.
It changed the momentum of the game. With the wind now behind Stirling they were able to shift the ball quickly into the Heriot’s half where Ewan Macgarvie, the centre, cut a clever line to wrongfoot the visiting defence and gain the space to jink his way through the scattered cover.
Ten minutes later, he was at it again, this time appearing on the shoulder of fellow centre Grant Hughes to take the scoring pass for the try that put his side ahead for the first time.
Stirling never looked comfortable with their noses in front, however, as Heriot’s began to find spaces for their big forwards to run into. They did mess up one chance thanks to a forward pass when they had three men spare, but when it mattered they came up trumps again.
Blain had set up the position, but when Wilson came rampaging through and offloaded to Charlie Simpson, the replacement wing had more than enough room to go over. With Ross Jones adding the conversion, the lead had changed hands again. It stayed that way to the end, but goodness knows how.
“That was a game we should have won, four points lost because we had the game won and threw it away,” said Pollock. “We went against a huge wind, came out of it well and dominated most of the game, but just made a few errors at crucial times.”
In other news:
Stirling County: J Hope; A McLean, E McGarvie, G Hughes, R Tagive; A Goudie, P Jericevich; R Chies, R Kennedy, M Walker, J Pow, C Henderson, G Arnott, S Macdonald, H Burr. Subs: K Bryce, B Dinesen, A Grant-Suttie, R Bundy, C Jardine.
Heriot’s: J Blain; R McMichael, R Jones, S Edwards, C Robertson; D Steele, A Simmers; M Bouab, A Johnstone, S Cessford, R Leishman, A Sinclair, M Hughes, J McLean, I Wilson. Subs: M Liness, J Scott, C Marshall, A Ball, C Simpson.
Referee: D Sutherland
Stirling County: Tries: McLean, McGarvie 2; Con: Hope.
Heriot’s: Tries: Wilson, Jones, Simpson; Cons: Jones 2.
Scoring sequence (Stirling County first) 0-5; 0-12; 5-12 (h-t) 10-12; 17-12; 17-19.
Yellow card –
Man of the Match: In the end, Heriot’s got just enough go-forward ball thanks to No 8 Iain Wilson.
Talking point: The sheer determination from Heriot’s to keep Stirling out in the final play augurs well for their season.