RBS National Cup Quarter-Final Gala 35-3 Stirling County STIRLING County travelled to the Borders to take on high-flying Gala in the first of two back-to-back meetings. While in fortnight’s time the two rivals will contest vital Premiership points at Bridgehaugh, this encounter was for a place in the National Cup semi-finals.

County made a few enforced changes to the starting line-up that narrowly lost in their last outing at league leaders Melrose, with Ross Murray, Shaun McDonald, Stevie Swindall and Ben Addison coming in Garry Mountford, Will Bordill, Jamie Swanson and Rory Hughes respectively.

When the teams met earlier in the season at Netherdale, the hosts won a tight league match 18–12. This time out the margin between the teams was much greater predominantly due to the dominance of the Gala forwards who out-muscled the County pack in the set piece.

County opened the scoring with a 40-metre penalty by Brian Archibald after Gala handled on the floor. County failed to hold on to the re-start kick, allowing Gala to take play into the County 22, where the visitors were penalised for not releasing in the tackle, and from 20 metres Ewan Scott kicked the goal to level the score at 3-3.

Gala then spilled a try-scoring opportunity when Stuart Edward’s clearance kick was charged down and Gary Graham just failed to control the ball with the line at his mercy. Edwards then made a try-saving tackle on Gala winger Grant Sommerville as the home side mounted a period of sustained pressure, with County holding out and eventually managing to clear with a 60-metre field kick from Edwards which found touch ten metres from the host’s line. Unfortunately County couldn’t capitalise on this attacking position, with the visitors penalised for crossing as they moved the ball from the line-out take.

Young prop Billy Dineen made his 1st XV debut for County replacing Ross Murray in the front row.

Gala’s next attack was launched by Sommerville and full-back Andy Mclean who ran out of defence, with stand-off David Hagan finding touch inside the County 22. Gala secured possession at the line-out and from a driving maul towards the County line Opeta Palepoi crashed over to score the host’s opening try on 33 minutes, which was converted by Scott to give the Netherdale side a 10 – 3 lead. Just before the break Scott added a penalty for Gala after County were again pushed-up in the scrum giving them a 13-3 half time lead.

County attacked from the re-start but couldn’t find a way through the home defence. After a series of aerial field kicks, Gala won a line-out 10 metres from the visitor’s line.

Gala secured the throw-in and drove the visiting pack backwards before County were deemed to have collapsed the maul just short of their try-line, and the referee awarded a penalty try, converted by Scott, increasing the host’s lead to 20 – 3 on 45 minutes.

Reyner Kennedy, Matt Larson and Kris Burney replaced Alex Moffat, Craig Deacons and Jamie Bhatti, as County looked to shore-up their pack, but from another disintegrated scrum Gala were awarded a penalty 30 metres out in mid-field, from which Scott extended Gala’s lead to 23 – 3 after 55 minutes.

Gala rounded off the scoring with two tries in the final six minutes through prop Ewan McQuillan who was driven over for an unconverted try and Lewis Bertram who was on the end of a scoring pass, which was converted by O’Hagan.