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County pipped at the Post by Ayr

02/12/2018

Stirling County 25   Ayr 27

ERIN McRITCHIE @ Bridgehaugh

Ayr ground out a win against a youthful Stirling County outfit with a dramatic injury-time try. Relief rather than any sort of elation was the overriding emotion of victorious head coach Peter Murchie.

“I feel like I  aged a good couple of years during that last quarter,” he said. “I’m not too impressed with our line-out performance, and the players understand that it was not of the standard we expect. That is definitely something we will work on.”

Stirling County drew first blood when No 8 Ali Mackie battered his way across the line after several phases of attack from the hosts, with full-back Jonny Hope adding he conversion. The visitors responded straight away with Kyle Rowe dancing his way through the home defence – palming off a missed tackle from Logan Trotter in the process – before sending Frazier Climo in for a score under the sticks. The fly-half converted his own try to level the scoreboard.
County got themselves back onto the front foot, with a driven line-out taking play to five metres from the Ayr line, and then after some patient recycling, Ewan MacGarvie appeared on the right wing to run in five more points, although Hope was unable to add the conversion.

The power of the County maul was once again evident when it drove from just inside the 22 to within striking distance for hooker Andrew Orr to flop over for an unconverted score.

Ayr winger Paddy Dewhirst capitalised on a County fumble to pull a try back for the visitors, and while Climo couldn’t add the conversion, he was on target with a penalty soon after.

The remainder of the first half saw possession see-saw between the two sides, with neither able to add anything else to the scoreboard, meaning the hosts took a narrow 17-15 lead into the break.

Darkness falls as play get scrappy

With the natural light beginning to fade, the two teams ran out for the second half. County struck first after the restart with Peter Jericevich nabbing an overthrown line-out and lunging across the line.

When Ayr’s Blair Macpherson was penalised for a high tackle well inside his side’s half, Hope’s decision to kick for goal paid off, as it allowed County to stretch their lead by three more points.

After being held up over the line twice, Ayr finally got some reward for a sustained period of pressure when Steven Longwell gathered lost ball from a County lineout and smashed over the whitewash. With Climo’s conversion good, Ayr were back in the hunt.

The intensity nearly got the better of both sides with handbags swung on a couple of occasions during the final ten minutes.

It was messy and hard fought for in the end, but Ayr got the score they needed when Scott Lyle broke clear and fed Dewhirst for an 81st minute try. Even with the conversion missed, it took the league leaders two points ahead of the home side.

As the referee blew the whistle for full time, the frustration – of both sides – seemed evident as County had so excruciatingly lost their advantage, and Ayr had by no means played their best rugby.

“I thought we played really well, dominated a lot of the possession. We really upset their line-out, they didn’t have a base there at all,” said Stirling County head coach Eddie Pollock.

“Eight points or so up with about 10 minutes to go, we should have won the game. We should have closed it out from there, but we missed a line-out throw, and that was the turning point in the game. We had defended really well up until then and we should really have been able to exit quite easily from there, but that sort of changed the game there from our point of view.”

Teams –
Stirling County: J Hope, L Trotter, J Brogan, E MacGarvie, C Dineen; P Jericevich, C Turnbull; R Chies, A Orr, M Walker, J Pow, C Henderson, H Burr, R Bundy, A Mackie. Subs: B Robertson, A Nicol, S Yarrow, G Arnott, C Jardine.

Ayr: G Anderson, P Dewhurst, O Smith, D McCluskey, K Row; F Climo, H Warr; R Sayce, R Smith, S Longwell, D Corbenici, L Morrice, T Spinks, P McCallum, B Macpherson. Subs: A North, C Miller, A McGuire, A Rademaker, S Lyle.

Referee: Ben Blain

Scorers –
Stirling County: Tries: Mackie, MacGarvie, Orr, Jericevich; Cons: Hope; Pen: Hope.
Ayr: Tries: Climo, Dewhirst 2, Longwell; Cons: Climo 2; Pen: Climo.

Scoring sequence (Stirling County first): 5-0; 7-0; 7-5; 7-7; 12-7; 17-7; 17-12; 17-15 (h-t) 22-15; 25-15; 25-20; 25-22; 25-27.

Man-of-the-Match: Despite being on the defeated side, Ewan MacGarvie was excellent. He showed real intensity when pushed onto the wing. His pace with ball in hand was impressive, as too was his aggressiveness in taking the ball in to contact. All of this ultimately helped him score Stirling County’s second try.

Talking point: The set-piece was lacklustre for both sides. Perhaps Ayr were rusty – having had their game against Dundee cancelled last week – whilst County may have felt a lack of experience due to their youthful line-up. But both teams will look to improve this before heading in to their next clash.


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