BT Premiership

Match Sponsored by Belhaven Best

Stirling County ............................ 3

Hawick ........................................ 15

Kevin Robertson reports from Bridgehaugh Park

ANOTHER poor performance at home saw Stirling County go down to Hawick, and lose vital ground in the race for a top-four finish in the BT Premiership.

With no professional players allocated to County for this match and with a few regular players injured, the Bridgehaugh side were forced into a number of key positional changes in their starting line-up, testing the strength and depth of their senior squad. Cameron Hughes replaced the rested Danny Gilmour at centre, whilst Colin McInally came into the second-row, with Ruaridh Leishman moving to No. 6 in place of the injured Struan Robertson. Prop Mark Hunter took over the captaincy, and Angus Leishman was called-up to the bench.

From the kick-off County put the visitors under pressure and for the first twenty minutes all the play was in the Hawick half of the field, as the home-side put together a series of attacking moves, but a combination of handling mistakes, inaccurate line-outs, poor field-kicking and a general lack of incision, coupled with resolute defending by the Greens, prevented County from getting a score. Prop Mark Hunter came closest, but was adjudged to have been held-up over the Hawick line.

In their first visit into the County half, Hawick put in a speculative up-and-under, which the home-side failed to effectively deal with. From the resultant scrum 40 metres out, Hawick quickly moved the ball to stand-off Rory Hutton, who ran straight through a gaping hole in the County rearguard to score the opening try under the posts. Full-back Ali Weir added the conversion to give Hawick a 0 – 7 lead after 21 minutes, against the run of play.

County’s Colin Hutton replaced prop Garry Mountford, and for the remainder of the first half Hawick took control of possession and dominated territory, but could not find a way through the County defence as the half ended 7-0 in Hawick's favour.

From the re-start, Hawick continued to keep County pinned back for long periods in their own 22. County’s Alex Black and Mike Dewar replaced Patrick Nicol and Shaun McDonald respectively, as the home side tried to find a way back into the match, but could not retain any meaningful possession to provide an attacking threat, as their error-strewn play became more dis-jointed.

Only a last-ditch try-saving tackle close to the home line prevented Hawick from adding to their score, but Weir kicked a 25-metre penalty to extend the visitors’ lead to 10 on 58 minutes, after County were penalised for coming in from the side.

Two minutes later, County scored their only points of the match when Jonny Hope successfully goaled a 40-metre penalty kick, following a dangerous tackle by Hawick.

County’s McDonald and Mountford returned for Ed Howgate and Hutton respectfully and in the closing stages Adam Woods replaced Mountford and Angus Leishman came on for Matt Lamb on the wing.

Four minutes from time Hawick sealed a deserved victory when replacement Lee Armstrong was fed the ball from a penalty-line-out and the back sprinted 30-metres through a gap in the County tiring defence to score an unconverted try to the left of the uprights, thereby denying the home-side a losing bonus-point as they went down 15-3.