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County clip Hawks Wings at the End

28/10/2018

County clip Hawks Wings at the End

Stirling County 34  Glasgow Hawks 30
STEPHEN BRUNSDON @ Bridgehaugh

Despite an error-strewn first half that bordered on the embarrassing at times, Stirling County atoned for last week’s defeat to Hawick with two tries in the final five minutes to edge out Glasgow Hawks at the end of a thrilling encounter.

It was a typically topsy-turvy match between two sides in the lower half of the Tennent’s Premiership and one which began with the visitors dominating physically, as well as on the scoreboard.

Bobby Beattie’s fifth-minute try and five points from the boot of Ross Thompson gave Fin Gillies‘ side a handy 10-0 advantage, as County struggled to string two phases together with ball in hand.

The hosts bounced back in a dizzying three-minute spell that produced three tries, from Ally Mackie, Andrew Goudie and Grant Hughes giving County a 21-13 half-time lead.

Both Hawks and County bagged two second half tries, before Hawks number eight Fraser Hastie was yellow carded for a high tackle with five minutes remaining. County pounced and scored twice in the remaining minutes to steal their fourth win of the campaign.

  “I thought we were very calm in the last five minutes, we did very well to control the game and score a really good try,” said County head coach Eddie Pollock. “The first half of the season is finished and we’ve won four out of five games, so we’re starting to make this place a bit of a difficult place to come to again.”

In reality, the home side made life difficult for themselves during the opening period as a calamitous series of handling errors stunted any momentum in attack. While the forwards did the hard work up front – and they rarely went backwards with ball in hand – the backs failed to click and far too often the ball ended up on the ground rather than in hand.

This period was typified when, after countless punishing phases deep in Hawks territory, second-rowerJames Pow knocked the ball on while reaching for the line.
“I thought we were nervous at the start. We were very poor at Hawick and I thought there was a bit of a hangover in the first 20 minutes. The guys made a lot of mistakes and we gave away a pretty soft try to Hawks,” Pollock added. “We then clicked into gear and then in that 10 or 15 minute period we scored some really nice tries.”

Eventually, County managed to breach the Hawks defensive line with Mackie’s superb full-arm stretch for the line, following a penalty line-out five yards out. Fly-half Goudie converted and then ran in a sensational try from his own 10m line as Hawks coughed up the ball at the restart.

Hawks caught themselves napping in defence at the following restart and County flew up-field once more, this time through Hamilton Burr. Quick recycling by Peter Jerecivich and a neat flat pass from Goudie sent centre Hughes – who left the field injured before half-time – slewing through the defence to bag the third try in as many minutes.

Despite conceding three tries in quick succession, Hawks remained the dominant force at the scrum and duly used this as a platform to orchestrate their second try of the match, courtesy of winger James Couper.

Fly-half Thompson’s second penalty shortly before the break gave Hawks some respite from the County onslaught and it was Thompson’s pass following waves of attack on the County line which gave replacement Jack McCready an easy walk in. Thompson’s brilliant touchline conversion made it a one-point game, with Hawks now firmly back in the dogfight.

At this point, County’s inaccuracies with ball in hand began to reappear and the hosts coughed up possession once more, allowing Hawks to secure a five-metre line-out.

Thompson again proved the key as his perfectly-weighted chip over the on-rushing defence sent Couper – playing on the right wing after switching with Glen Faulds pre-match – in for the try. The successful conversion gave Hawks a six-point lead heading into the final 10 minutes, but they paid the price for Hastie’s reckless tackle on Goudie five minutes from time.

It was a needless challenge with County offering little at that point in attack. The consequences were severe for Hawks as they were immediately on the back foot as County pressed on.

Ross Bundy scrambled over with three minutes left to play, the second-rower got his body position just right as he ended countless phases of pressure from the home side. Agonisingly, Goudie’s conversion strayed wide of the uprights, forcing County to launch one final attack.

Hawks could not hold on for much longer, and their defiance proved in vain as Matt Emmison sprinted in at the corner with time almost up. Goudie again missed the conversion but County only had to re-gather the restart to secure a hard-fought victory.

It was hardly a vintage encounter but an important one all the same for County, who maintain their good form at home in the Premiership ahead next week’s clash with Watsonians. For Hawks, it was another case of what could have been, as they now travel to Goldenacre to face Heriot’s next week.

“For 70 minutes, I thought we were genuinely the better team. That period in the first half where they scored three tries back-to-back absolutely killed us,” said Gillies afterwards.

“We shouldn’t have been in that position, we should have come in 13-0 [at half-time] and instead we had three of the worst minutes we’ve played all season. The rest was pretty good but I’m devastated for the boys, they put a lot into this game this week.”

Teams –
Stirling County: C Robertson; A McLean, E Magarvie, G Hughes, J Brogan; A Goudie, P Jericevich; R Chies, R Kennedy©, M Walker, J Pow, C Henderson, H Bur, G Arnott, A Mackie. Subs: M Emmison, A Nicol, R Bundy, H Henderson, B Sorbie.

Glasgow Hawks: R Beattie; J Couper, M New, C Symes, G Faulds; R Thompson, K Barreto; G Strain©, P Cairncross, L Skinner, A Kirkland, C Thomson, J Gemmell, S Dow, F Hastie. Subs: P Henderson, D York, P Boyer, L Brims, J McCready.

Referee: M Todd

 Scorers –
Stirling County: Tries: Mackie, Goudie, Hughes, Bundy, Emmison; Cons: Goudie 3; Pens Goudie.

Glasgow Hawks: Tries: Beattie, McCready, Couper; Cons: Thompson 2; Pens Thompson 3.

Scoring Sequence (Stirling County first): 0-5, 0-7, 0-10, 5-10, 7-10, 12-10, 14-10, 19-10, 21-10, 21-13 (h-t), 21-18, 21-20, 21-25 21-27,21-30, 24-30, 29-30, 34-30.

 Man-of-the-Match: About the only County player to keep a cool head during a first half littered with errors, fly-half Andrew Goudie kept the scoreboard ticking for the home team even when it shoudn’t have been. Efficient from the tee throughout and a brilliantly taken breakaway try in the first half, he also controlled territory well out of hand which edges him ahead of his opposite number, Ross Thompson, who also had a solid game for Hawks.

Talking point: Hastie’s yellow card was a massive turning point in the game and County capitalised on their numerical advantage with cutting efficiency. Two tries in the final minutes which proved the home side could produce the goods when needed to, got Stirling the line in a game made difficult by their own mistakes. It was a game won by the side who made fewer errors at critical moments, and while County’s handling was shocking in the opening half, they made sure they struck when they had to.


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