Tuesday 13 February 2018

Match Report, BT Cup QF: Stirling County v Accies

Stirling County 22-15 Accies

Our pack was much-changed for our BT Cup quarter final with Stirling, with Callum Black, Clem Lacour and Robert Lovett returning to the starting line up and a new look back row of Angus Inwood, Rory Simpson and Robin Snape.

In the backs Sam Johnson started and Josh Pecqueur got the nod on the wing, after an impressive display off the bench last week.

After the overnight rain the Stirling pitch was heavy, not helped by having being under water earlier that morning as the tide was in on the River Forth, although it drained as the tide fell. The sun was out, at least for the first half, with a strongish wind blowing down the pitch.

We kicked off with the wind behind us and, having recovered the kick off, started brightly, taking play into their 22, winning a penalty at the first scrum and finishing up with a lineout on their 5m line.

We drove for their line but made little headway, so moved the ball to Richard Mill who pushed it through and was taken out by the Stirling No 8 as he followed up his kick: a penalty to us and a yellow card for Ruairidh Leishman. We chose to scrum, won the put in and Conor Hirini was stopped just short under the posts. We recycled quickly to the right but knocked on and Stirling cleared their line.

During the next seven minutes Stirling worked their way towards our line until the assistant referee flagged for offside under our posts. Jonny Hope converted the penalty for Stirling: 3-0, 15 minutes gone.

Five minutes later, from a scrum on the halfway line, Stirling moved the ball to the left and, with the blind side winger and full back coming into their line, created an overlap for their left wing, Kerr Gossman, to run in from 45m to score behind the posts. With the conversion: 10-0, 21 minutes gone

In the next period of play we had an opportunity to score, after James Pearse was brought down 1m short, but with the line ‘begging’ we dropped an unsympathetic pass right under their posts and found ourselves back on their 22. We won the lineout and Stirling were penalised for killing the ball. Mill converted: 3-10, 33 minutes gone.

From the kick-off we dropped a pass and found ourselves facing a scrum, midfield on our 22. Stirling made their way towards our line and, whilst playing advantage for us being offside, their captain, Jonny Hope, cleverly kicked the ball towards the corner, where all Ross Curle had to do was fall on the ball. 15-3 and the half time whistle went shortly after.

It had undoubtedly not been our best half of the season, with too many penalties given away, too much lost possession from dropped balls and turnovers in lineouts, and playing too much in our half.

Either there was something in the half-time tea, or harsh words spoken in the sheds, as we came out and played with far more intent and made good progress during the early minutes of the second half.

We were beginning to play our game, with passes going to hand, retaining the ball and making ground. 13 minutes into the half, following a lineout on the half way, Conor Hirini made a good break and moved the ball to Josh Pecqueur on the left wing. The Hirini brothers combined to continue the move to the 22, where replacement Max Love picked up from the breakdown and moved the ball back to the right, where we recycled the ball three times as we worked our way forward and across the field. Then an exquisitely timed pass from Mill to Matt Coupar just outside the 22 gave Coupar the opportunity to slip his marker, skip out of a tackle and score a well worked try: 15-8 with 15 minutes gone.

We were gradually getting more on top of Stirling and playing the game with more pace. We worked our way to the half way, where Pearse broke through a tackle and made his way to the 22 before he was stopped. With Stirling offside we put a kick across field to Coupar on the right wing. He recovered the ball and flipped it to Luther Hirini, who looked clear to the line, but to our players’ amazement the assistant referee said knock on.

We went back to the penalty on the 22 and chose to scrum. We took the ball and Love passed to Will Stephen who switched to Mill, who was stopped centimetres from the line. A Stirling player killed the ball to earn us a penalty and a 10-minute rest for their winger, but the opportunity for quick ball and a try had gone.

We chose a scrum instead of the easy kick at goal. Love picked up from the base of the scrum, broke to the right, ran across the pitch and cut between two players to score. Mill converted: 15-15 and 16 minutes left.

Two minutes later Ross Curle was also yellow carded for a tip tackle on Luther H, leaving Stirling with 13 men for the next five minutes. We began to make progress up field after Black ripped the ball in a tackle. Replacement Ali Wood was on Black’s shoulder to take a pass and on to the Hirini brothers to make further gains.

From the break down, Black moved the ball left and, after a switch move, prop replacement, Martin McGinley, blasted the first tackler away and showed a remarkable turn of speed as he made the 22 and then timed his pass to perfection to the supporting Mill. Mill was taken out before he got the ball and although Coupar tried to catch it he knocked on. The referee spotted the knock on but totally missed the early tackle.

On the sound track of the game the referee asks the assistant referee: “did he play him without the ball” as he was not sure but had been unsighted. The assistant said he did not see either. Scrum down, knock on and only six minutes left.

We were the fitter side and pressed for the next five minutes until a knock on gave Stirling the ball on our half way. They spread the ball wide and found a gap midfield, which Gossman exploited before passing to their centre, Ewan Macgarvie. He was stopped 1m out at the base of the posts but Leishman sneaked over from the breakdown. Hope converted and the final whistle went: 22-15 to Stirling.

In the second half we had given our all and pushed Stirling to the limit. We were the fitter side - Stirling kept resting starting players and bringing them back - but did not seem to get the rub of the green at times, with a number of decisions going against us.

In the end we came up short, mainly through our a very unaccustomed first half where we under-performed, but there is lots we can take from the game as we move back into National 1 League duty this coming week with Gala at Raeburn Place.

Man of the Match was Robin Snape, who looked to be everywhere around the field and made a good number of tackles and carries.

Tries: Couper (sponsored by Thistly Cross Cider); Love (sponsored by Whigham's Wine Cellars)
Conversion: Mill (sponsored by Graham + Sibbald)
Penalty: Mill.

Although we had a week off from the league, eight National 1 clubs were in action. With Aberdeen winning at Gala, Kelso and Selkirk both winning at home and Jed not having a game, there is no change to the top end of the table, where we are on 79 points, Jed on 69 and Gala on 53, although Jed have a game in hand.

Our next four games are all Border-centric, with Gala home this Saturday, 17 February; Selkirk away on 3 March; our rescheduled fixture away to Jed-Forest on 17 March; and then Kelso at home on 24 March. That should be an interesting run of fixtures.

Onwards and upwards!




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