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County fall short in the Rain


 Stirling County 13 – Ayr 19  

 Stirling County returned to the RBS Premiership against league leaders Ayr, hoping to build on their success in Wales the previous week.  County’s elite development players Sean Kennedy and Rob McAlpine returned to the starting line-up, with Reyner Kennedy and Colin Hutton starting in the front row following their strong performances against Welsh Premiership leaders Bedwas in the British & Irish Cup.  Professional Mark Bennett retained his place at outside centre, with his Glasgow Warriors’ team mate Alex Dunbar on the bench.

 Ayr are the form team in Scottish rugby having won 11 of their 12 league matches going in to this encounter with County, with 4 successive wins taking them to the top of the league.

 A heavy pitch and damp overhead conditions ensured this wouldn’t be a classic, but both sets of players put all they had into a match which kept the large crowd enthralled on a cold winters’ afternoon.

 Ayr were first to score inside 4 minutes, when a penalty line-out catch and drive led to another penalty, which was tapped quickly by Murray McConnell and off-loaded to Glasgow Warriors’ lock Nick Campbell, who barged his way over the County try-line to touchdown. Former County youngster Finn Russell converted to give Ayr an early 7 – 0 lead.

 County responded and following a succession of forward drives were held up just short of the visitors’ line, before Ayr were awarded a clearing penalty.

 County kept pressing forward as the weather deteriorated, and on 20 minutes from an attacking line-out, full-back Ben Addison was on the end of a flowing move involving all the back line, to score in the right corner.  Eight minutes later Danny Gilmour sent a long miss-pass to stretch the visitors’ defensive cover and put Addison clear for his second try in the left corner to give County a 10 – 7 ahead.  Both conversions were missed in difficult kicking conditions with a swirling wind. 

 In the last play of the first half, from another penalty line-out, Ayr regained the lead after Hayden Wisnewski was driven over to score an un-converted try.

 Half-time score:  Stirling County 10 - Ayr 12.

 At the start of the second half County brought on Garry Mountford for Colin Hutton in the front row and Alex Dunbar replaced Graham Lindsay on the right-wing. On 47 minutes, Ayr attacked down the right flank, and a one-two between McConnell and Dean Kelbrick saw the scrum-half McConnell tackled just short of the try-line, with the supporting Wisnewski picking up the loose ball and scoring Ayr’s third try converted by Russell to increase the visitors’ lead to 19 – 12.

 A succession of field-kicking errors put County under pressure and handed Ayr the majority of possession and territory, but the visitors couldn’t find a way past a resolute home defence.

 Alex Moffat replaced Reyner Kennedy at hooker, and Gilmour was unlucky to put a foot in touch as he charged towards the right corner following a quick Sean Kennedy tap penalty.  County then missed two penalty kicks at goal, the latter from right in front of the posts.

 Brian Archibald replaced Stuart Edwards with 7 minutes remaining and the replacement stand-off salvaged a losing bonus-point from a late penalty.  In the final minutes County attacked, keeping the ball in hand through a succession of phases, but Ayr kept their discipline and held out to extend their lead at the top of the Premiership.

 Final score: Stirling County 13 Ayr 19.

County Man of the Match, sponsored by John Graham Metals, was Steve Swindall.          .

 Scorers: Stirling County – Tries: Addison (2). Pen.: Archibald.

Ayr – Tries: Campbell, Wisnewski (2). Conv.: Russell (2).

   Stirling County:  Ben Addison; Graham Lindsay, Mark Bennett, Danny Gilmour, Ross Aitken, Stuart Edwards, Sean Kennedy; Mike MacDonald, Reyner Kennedy, Colin Hutton, Rob McAlpine, Craig Deacons, Adam Ashe, Tim Clarke (capt.), Steve Swindall. Replacements:  Garry Mountford, Alex Moffat, Struan Robertson, Brian Archibald, Alex Dunbar.

Ayr: Grant Anderson, Richard Dalgleish, Robbie Fergusson, Dean Kelbrick, Craig Gossman, Finn Russell, Murray McConnell; Denford Mutamangira, Hayden Wisneski, Nick Cox, Nick Campbell, Scott Sutherland, Colin White, Andrew Dunlop, Callum Forrester (capt.).  Replacements: Stuart Fenwick, D’arcy Rae, Graham Fisken, Peter Jerecevich, Ross Curle.

 Referee: C. Rudkin.          .         .

County’s poor home form continues and remain in eighth placed in the Premiership, with a fortnight’s rest over the festive period before first-footing Aberdeen Grammar in a crucial bottom of the table clash on 5 January – kick-off at Rubislaw is 2pm.

Thanks to County’s main sponsor Ondeo Industrial Solutions and all others who continue to support the Club.

Rugby Round-up:

The wet weather wiped out the rest of the rugby card.

On 5 January, County’s Seconds are also away to Aberdeen Grammar in National Reserve League One and the 3rdXV / Bridgehaugh are at home to Harris Academy in the RBS Caledonian – Midland League Four – both kick-offs are 2pm. 

The popular Red White & Black Christmas Ball is being held on Saturday 29 December at 7:30pm in the Bridgehaugh ‘Marquee’. Tickets available from the Club Office on 01786-478866 – all welcome.   Members and supporters are also reminded that pre-match lunches are available before the next 1st XV home match against Bedford Blues in the British & Irish Cup on Saturday 12 January – please contact the Club Office on 01786-478866 to reserve your place. 

Stirling County thank their sponsors, members and all connected with the club for their support during 2012 and wish all a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.

Report by Kevin Robertson



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