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County Lose Out to Late Tries from Ayr


County Lose Out to Late Tries from Ayr

Stirling County 14 - Ayr 29       

BT Premiership - Match Sponsored by DSE Electrical & Heating Engineers


Kevin Robertson reports from Bridgehaugh

Three late tries saw Ayr come from behind to beat Stirling County, as the west-coast side completed a league double over their hosts; a result which keeps the Bridgehaugh side just above the relegation places in the BT Premiership.

County continued to be without their Club captain and second-row forward Callum Hunter-Hill, who has returned from his spell at London Scottish, but was decreed unavailable for this match.  Also missing from County's back-line for the remainder of the season is full-back/winger Bruce Sorbie who has been sent by Scottish Rugby to South Africa, as part of his continuing rugby development.

In a reshuffled forward pack, County welcomed former New Zealand international hooker Corey Flynn (left) to the front row, in place of the injured Reyner Kennedy, and the All-Black was joined by returning loose-head prop Fergus Bradbury; with Matt Emmison moving back to cover open-side flanker.

In the backs Shaun MacDonald, who usually plays flanker, started in his not unfamiliar position of right-wing, with Alex Black (at inside-centre) and Logan Trotter (on the left-wing) both returning from injury.

Ayr kicked-off and kept County pinned back in their own half during the early stages.

The home-side eventually relieved the pressure and were awarded a penalty on half-way, which stand-off Ross Jones kicked to the right corner. From their line-out County secured possession and following a series of promising attacking phases, the ball was offloaded to centre Craig Pringle who was tackled just short of the Ayr try-line, but the visitors stole possession at the resultant breakdown and cleared the ball from their 22.

Ayr's Craig Gossman came close to touching down in the left corner from a cross-field kick-ahead from the visitors' play-maker Frazer Climo, but the bouncing ball just eluded the winger.

Ayr went ahead after 13 minutes, when County tried to move the ball left in midfield, but stand-off Climo intercepted the loose pass and offloaded to centre Danny McCluskey who sprinted clear from 45 yards out to score the opening try to the left of the posts.  Climo added the conversion to put Ayr seven points ahead.

County hadn't seen any competitive rugby action for the past five weeks, and rustiness in their play was evident, with a succession of handling errors gifting Ayr possession and territory, and keeping the hosts on the back-foot, but to their credit the home defensive line stood firm against the visitors' onslaught.

In a rare attack, County secured their penalty line-out on the left side within the Ayr 22, and the home pack drove forward, but the ball was carelessly spilled, allowing the visitors to clear their lines.

Ayr increased their lead to 0-10 on the half-hour mark with a successful 30-metre penalty from Climo, after the Ayr forwards drove their opponents back 20 metres and County were penalised for illegally handling in the ensuing ruck.

Three minutes before the interval, a flat-pass from County stand-off Jones on half-way put number eight Ruairidh Leishman through a gap, and supporting winger Sean MacDonald carried possession into the Ayr 22, before the ball was quickly recycled to Jones (below right) who sent a perfectly weighted kick into the left-corner for winger Logan Trotter to gather and dive over the line to score a try.

County's captain Jonny Hope successfully kicked the difficult conversion from the touchline, to bring the home-side right back into the match.      

Half-time:  Stirling County 7 - Ayr 10


County withstood a spell of Ayr attacking play from the re-start, with home full-back Hope relieving the pressure when he picked-up a loose ball and quickly passed to Trotter who brought the home crowd to their feet, as the winger travelled fully 60 metres up the left-hand touchline before finally being tackled in touch inside the visitors 22.

County's Andrew Grant-Suttie came off the bench to make his 1st XV debut, replacing the injured flanker Alex Taylor, as the County scrum appeared to be gaining the upper-hand. Indeed the home forwards pushed their opponents off a scrum on half-way and Jones kicked the resultant penalty 50-metres to the right corner. County secured possession from their line-out but the home-pack were unable to drive through the Ayr rearguard, and the visitors were eventually awarded a clearing penalty.

The home-side deservedly took the lead for the first-time in the match on 59 minutes, following a move which started with a crunching tackle by outside-centre Pringle on his opposite number Archie Russell on half-way, with possession turned over to County, who kept the ball in the hands of Fergus Bradbury, Logan Trotter and Hamilton Burr (right) as they advanced into the Ayr 22, with Corey Flynn, the Glasgow Warriors professional and former New Zealand 2011 World Cup winner, providing the scoring assist to Grant-Suttie who touched down for a try close to the left-hand upright. Hope (left) slotted the conversion to give County a 14-10 advantage.

County were now in the ascendency, playing fast flowing rugby and attacking down both flanks, with Jones conducting the play and keeping Ayr hemmed into their 22.

A key turning point in the match occurred on 65 minutes, with the County forwards driving forward in their opponents' 22, an Ayr forward appeared to illegally enter a ruck from the wrong side, stealing the ball and setting up a counter-attack. This should have resulted in a penalty for County, but the referee and adjacent touch judge allowed play to continue, and Ayr made the most of their gained possession by establishing their own attacking field position. With the home-side scrambling back to defend, Ayr were awarded a penalty, which Climo kicked to touch on the left-side deep in the County 22. Ayr secured their line-out and the ball was quickly worked in-field and after a series of attacking drives by the visiting pack, their prop George Hunter bulldozed over the line to score a try under the posts. Climo converted to put Ayr back in front 14-17, with thirteen minutes remaining.

County brought on Mark Hunter for Bradbury at loose-head prop, as the visitors sensed victory with County visibly tiring. In the closing stages, Ayr utilised their rampant pack to make ground into the home 22, before moving the ball wide and exploiting gaps in the County defence, with both Richard Dalgleish and Grant Anderson each scoring tries in the left-hand corner in the final four minutes, the latter converted by Climo, to secure a bonus-point win for the joint league-leaders, and deny County a valuable losing bonus-point.

Final score: Stirling County 14 - Ayr 29


Stirling County
Tries: Trotter (37 mins), Grant-Suttie (59 mins).
Conversions: Hope (2).

Ayr - Tries: McCluskey (13 mins), Hunter (67 mins), Dalgleish (76 mins), Anderson (78 mins).
Conversions: Climo (3). Penalties: Climo.

Scoring Sequence (Stirling County first): 0-5, 0-7, 0-10, 5-10, 7-10 (half-time), 12-10, 14-10, 14-15, 14-17, 14-22, 14-27, 14-29 (full-time).


Stirling County - Jonny Hope (capt.), Shaun MacDonald, Craig Pringle, Alex Black, Logan Trotter, Ross Jones, Matt Donaldson; Fergus Bradbury, Corey Flynn, Adam Nicol, Hamilton Burr, Adam Sinclair, Alex Taylor, Matt Emmison, Ruaridh Leishman.  Replacements: Dougie Westwood, Mark Hunter, Andrew Grant-Suttie, Colin Turnbull, Logan Bonar.

Ayr - Grant Anderson, Jamie Bova, Archie Russell, Danny McCluskey, Craig Gossman, Frazier Climo, David Armstrong; George Hunter, Lewis Anderson, Steven Longwell, Rob McAlpine, Scott Sutherland, Blair McPherson, Will Bordill, Pete McCallum (capt.). Replacements: Robbie Smith, Adam Prentice, Craig Stevenson, Richard Dalgleish, Stafford McDowall.

Referee: Graeme Wells

County's Man of the Match, sponsored by John Graham Metals, was Ruaridh Leishman (sponsored by Inverlochlarig Venison)

Ayr retained the Cairdeas Quaich, a trophy played for by the two clubs, which is sponsored by United Auctions

Reflecting on another disappointing defeat for the Bridgehaugh team, County Head Coach David Adamson said "it was our first game in five weeks. We had trained really well and we were looking forward to getting back into it, but in those last 20 minutes we were just really fatigued, and from playing pretty well in parts we gave away two sloppy scores at the end. We really targeted this game because we played very well against Ayr down there with a weakened side, so we were confident - but Ayr are a big, powerful team and you've got to make your tackles against them."

County stay in seventh position in the BT Premiership, only three points above the relegation places, with three matches remaining - league table, results and fixtures at:

Next Saturday (28th January) County travel to play Dundee in the third-round of the BT Cup - with an early kick-off at Mayfield of 1:30pm. See Club website for full match preview.

Thanks to match sponsor DSE Electrical & Heating Engineers of Stirling, County's main sponsor United Auctions and all others who continue to support the Club.


Rugby Round-up:  County Reach Youth Cup Semi-Final

In the National Youth League Cup - quarter-final, Stirling County Under-18s beat Biggar Colts 3 - 13 Hartree Mill, to earn a home semi-final against Perthshire Colts next Saturday (28th January) - kick-off at Bridgehaugh is 2pm.

Thanks to Stirling County Rugby Academy sponsors Kilgannon Motors of Bannockburn.

Stirling County's 2nd XV drew 27-27 with Dundee Titans at Mayfield in a match that ended with un-contested scrums. County scored five tries to secure a bonus-point and stay top of BT National Reserve League Division Two. County's tries were scored by Adam Wood, Ross Drummond, Craig Mundell, Stephan Yarrow and Cormac Wcislo, with Ross Drummond adding a conversion. The Seconds next league match is scheduled for Saturday 18th February at home to West of Scotland.

County 3rd XV, who had already been confirmed as winners of BT Caledonia League Three Midlands (South) Division, lost their final league match 25 - 22 to Fife Southern in Rosyth. The 3rd XV will play-off against the four top sides from both BT Caledonia League Three Midlands (North) and (South) Divisions for the overall Division Three Championship - fixtures to be announced by Scottish Rugby.

See Stirling County website for all teams results and details of forthcoming fixtures at:

Stirling County's popular annual fund-raising Race Night will be held on Saturday 28th January in the Bridgehaugh 'Marquee' - there are still a few tickets available for this exciting evening, please contact Ally Logan to reserve your place / table.

There are Pre-match Lunches before County's 1st XV home BT Premiership matches at Bridgehaugh - the next lunch is on Saturday 18th February at 1pm before County v Heriot's. Cost is £15 for members / £25 for non-members (includes 2-course lunch, match admission and seat in stand) - please contact either Alastair Cunningham or Emma at the Club Office on 01786-478866 / e-mail: to book your seat or table.

Stirling County's annual fund-raising Sportsman's Dinner will be held on Friday 3rd March in the Bridgehaugh 'Marquee', with renowned after-dinner speakers Lindsay Wood and Murdo McLeod, joined by former Scotland captain Rob Wainwright - to book your table or seat at this very popular and highly enjoyable evening of entertainment, please contact Ally Logan or Club Office on 01786-478866.

Tickets are on sale for Stirling County's #OneClub Grand Raffle to raise funds for the rugby club and for the Minis' and Under-15s' 2017 Tours. With great prizes to be won (details on club website and facebook), tickets cost £1 each and are sold in books of five tickets - available from the Club Office and Bar.

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