BT Premiership BT Premiership Stirling County ........................ 16 Gala ......................................... 21 Kevin Robertson reports from Bridgehaugh STIRLING County failed to move into the top-four of the BT Premiership, when they lost to a hungrier Gala side, who avenged their previous week’s cup defeat to the Bridgehaugh team, in a closely-contested match.

County made a number of enforced changes to their starting line-up, with Colin Hutton starting in the front row, Aubrey Mncube moving to blindside flanker in place of the injured Struan Robertson, with Stevie Neill coming in at No.8 John Brogan started on the left-wing.

The Graham brothers George and Gary along with Craig Borthwick returned from injury to bolster Gala, as they sought to make amends for the 5–40 thrashing they received from County only seven days before.

County made the early running in blustery conditions and missed a kickable penalty attempt at goal after just two minutes of play, with Gala penalised for not releasing in the tackle.

On 8 minutes, a break from half-way by stand-off Fraser Lyle was taken on by inside-centre Danny Gilmour who split the visiting defence before giving John Brogan a scoring pass for the winger to finish off with the opening try in the left corner. The conversion, into a strengthening wind, was missed.

Six minutes later, County went 10–0 up, when Rory Hughes playing at outside-centre, made a strong run through midfield before off-loading to the supporting Ruaridh Leishman, who galloped 30 metres down the left-flank to touchdown for an unconverted try in the corner.

Gala responded positively as the overhead conditions deteriorated, with Keith Young scoring a try under the posts, following a penalty-line out catch and drive, from which the visitors quickly moving the ball in-field, wrong-footing the County defence. Ewan Scott added the conversion to make it 10–7.

With renewed confidence, Gala continued to press forward and went ahead after 26 minutes, when from another penalty line-out, the visiting pack secured the ball and drove over the County line for drafted Edinburgh loosehead prop Grant Shiels to touchdown for an unconverted try, putting the Netherdale side 10–12 ahead, a lead they never relinquished for the remainder of the match.

Gala added a further three points with a 35-metre penalty kick from Ewan Scott on 33 minutes, and in the closing minutes of the first-half County’s defence weathered an onslaught from the visitors to go in at the break five points down.

County brought on Matt Smith for Aubrey Mncube for the second-half, and the home side attacked from the re-start but failed to create any clear scoring opportunities, as the visitors’ defence stood firm.

Gala took play into County’s 22, and following a succession of infringements by the home defence, Stevie Neill was yellow-carded. Ewan Scott kicked the resultant penalty from in front of the posts, to extend the visitor’s lead to 10–18 after 48 minutes.

County replied with a successful 30-metre penalty kick from Jonny Hope after Gala failed to release in the tackle, bring the score to 13–18 with 51 minutes played.

Ali Price came on for Alex Black at scrum-half, as County tried to inject pace in to their attack, but it was Gala who extended their lead with another successful penalty kick from Ewan Scott on 71 minutes, after County were adjudged to have illegally stripped the ball in their own 22.

Two minutes later and County were back to within five points of their opponents when Jonny Hope kicked a straight forward penalty from in front of the posts, after Gala killed the ball on the ground, taking the score to 16–21.

In the closing stages County mounted a series of forward drives on the Gala try-line, but were eventually held-up. Gala won the resultant scrum against the head, and kept possession before kicking the ball out of play to secure a deserved victory.

County picked up a losing bonus-point as the match ended in a 16-21 defeat.