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County win in Wales


County win in Wales

 British & Irish Cup – Pool 2

 Bedwas 25 – Stirling County 26

Stirling County made history on Saturday when they won their first ever competitive match on Welsh soil, in the return British & Irish Cup head-to-head with Bedwas at a sodden Bridge Field.

 Following the previous week’s 22 – 32 ‘home’ defeat at the hands of the Principality Premiership league leaders in Dunbar, County arrived in the valleys with a squad depleted by injury, illness and unavailability.  Reyner Kennedy and Colin Hutton retained their starting position in the front row, Alex Black made his first start for County at scrum-half and County’s only allocated professional Mark Bennett from Glasgow Warriors was drafted in at outside centre.

 With torrential rain in the days and hours leading up kick-off, the Bedwas ground staff did an excellent job in getting the pitch playable, albeit the surface was heavy and conditions were difficult underfoot.

 County started well and put Bedwas under early pressure before stand-off Stuart Edwards was sin-binned after five minutes for an innocuous push on a Bedwas player while chasing his high-kick.  Bedwas exploited the early numerical advantage four minutes later when home full-back Stuart Thomas broke clear and off-loaded to left-winger Mathew Pewtner to score the opening try in the corner.  The conversion came back off the upright, giving Bedwas an early 5 – 0 lead.

 County responded immediately, and from a line-out take against the head just outside the Bedwas 22, the ball was moved from Black to Bennett who wrong-footed the home defence and sprinted over the try-line from 20 metres to tie the scores at 5-5 after 14minutes, with Bennett’s conversion also hitting the post.

 Edwards returned to the fray and kicked a 30 metre penalty to give County an 8 – 5 lead on 17 minutes, after Bedwas were penalised for holding on.

 Bedwas began to exert pressure on the County defence, and from a five-yard scrum, County’s pack buckled in the mud, and surprisingly the referee ran straight under the posts and awarded a penalty try on the first offence, converted by Ethan Davies, to re-gain the lead for the homeside at 12 – 8 with 24 minutes played.

 Good foot-work by Bennett again carved open the Bedwas defence only to be tackled just short of the try line.  Next Graham Lindsay burst through a gap but couldn’t find the final pass to supporting runners.  County then carelessly lost possession on the Bedwas 22, and Rory Budina (right) sprinted clear before drawing the covering defence to allow Ross Wardle to score an unconverted try, extending Bedwas’ lead to 17 – 8 after 33 minutes.

 Edwards notched another penalty for County just before the break to keep the visitors in contention, after Bedwas strayed offside.

 Half-time: Bedwas 17 – Stirling County 11.

 Edwards added another penalty for County four minutes after the re-start to reduce the leeway to 17 – 14, after Bedwas were adjudged offside.  With the wind and rain picking up and blowing into County’s faces, the home side upped the tempo and Pewtner scored his second and Bedwas’ fourth bonus point try on 50 minutes in the right corner, to put Bedwas 8 points clear, with the conversion missed.  Thomas then added a penalty after County were penalised for collapsing the scrum, to increase Bedwas’ lead to 25 – 14, with 25 minutes remaining.

 County brought Jamie Bhatti on for Mike MacDonald in the front row, and from a line-out penalty catch and drive, the pack drove Bedwas back over their own line, with Reyner Kennedy touching the ball down to score an unconverted try in the right corner, putting County within six points of Bedwas entering the final quarter.

 County rang the changes with Colin Turnbull replacing Alex Black at scrum half, Josh Forrester coming on for Kennedy at hooker, Steve Raby for Colin Hutton at prop, Shuan McDonald for Adam Ashe in the second row, Matt Lamb for Mark Bennett at outside centre and Brian Archibald for Ben Addison at full-back.  

 Bedwas missed a penalty, before County piled on the pressure in the closing stages and kept Bedwas pinned into their own 22, retaining possession through numerous phases, and following a succession of drives to the home try-line, County were awarded a penalty after a  Bedwas defender came in from the side.  A quick-tap by Turnbull to Edwards found the supporting Danny Gilmour and the inside centre powered over the line under the posts to score a decisive try converted by Edwards to regain the lead for County at 26 – 25 with a minute remaining, which the Bridgehaugh team saw out to celebrate a fine comeback win.

 Final score: Bedwas 25 – Stirling County 26.

 Scorers: Bedwas – Tries: Pewtner (2), Penalty Try, Wardle. Conv.: Davies. Pen.: Thomas. 
Stirling County – Tries: Bennett, Kennedy, Gilmour.  Conv.: Edwards.  Pen. Edwards (3).        

 Bedwas:  Stuart Thomas, Mathew John, Ross Wardle, Scott Williams, Matthew Pewtner, Ethan Davies, Tom Rowlands; Dan Preece, Rhys Hutcherson, Ian George, Kyle Maiden, Phil Rees, Simon Grainger (Capt), Tom Organ, Sam Feehan.  Replacements: Elliot Dee, Mathew Petit, Craig Lodge, Liam Davies, Rory Budina, Lewis Hudd, Aaron Harris.

Stirling County:  Ben Addison; Graham Lindsay, Mark Bennett, Danny Gilmour, Ross Aitken; Stuart Edwards, Alex Black; Mike MacDonald, Reyner Kennedy, Colin Hutton, Struan Robertson, Craig Deacons, Adam Ashe, Tim Clarke, Steve Swindall. Replacements: Jamie Bhatti, Steve Raby, Shaun McDonald, Josh Forrester, Colin Turnbull, Brian Archibald, Matt Lamb.

Referee:  E O’Dowd (Ireland).

 Coach Hendry Edwards was pleased with this latest win in the British & Irish Cup, particularly given the conditions and the way the team fought back from behind to win against one of the top sides in Wales.  County will get the chance to do it again when they visit Neath in the New Year, with the aim of securing a credible second place in Pool 2.

 County now re-focus their attention on domestic matters, with RBS Premiership league leaders Ayr visiting Bridgehaugh on Saturday – kick-off 3pm.  This is a vital match for County, currently lying 8th in the table, as they look to win their first home league in over 3 months.  See Club website for full match preview.

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

 Rugby Round-up:

 Bridgehaugh / 3rd XV lost 12 - 19 to Hillfoots 2nd XV at home on Saturday in Midland Division Four.

 Next Saturday (22 December), County’s 2nd XV are at home to Ayr in National Reserve League One.

 Members and supporters are reminded that the popular Christmas Pre-Match Lunch is on Saturday 22 December in the Marquee before the RBS Premiership match against Ayr – there is still a few places left.  The Red White & Black Christmas Ball is being held on Saturday 29 December at 7:30pm. Please contact the Club Office on 01786-478866 to book your place at these festive events – all welcome.

Report by Kevin Robertson



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