Bedwas 25 Stirling County 26
A last minute try by centre Danny Gilmour and conversion by Stuart Edwards saw Stirling County make history on Saturday when they won their first ever competitive match on Welsh soil in the return British and Irish Cup head-to-head with Bedwas at a sodden Bridge Field.
Following the previous week’s 32 -22 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 but Edwards was sin-binned after five minutes for an innocuous push on a Bedwas player while chasing his high-kick.
The home side exploited the early numerical advantage when 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.
Stirling responded immediately, and from a line-out take ,the ball was moved from Black to Edwards whose pass to Mark Bennett wrong-footed the home defence and the centre sprinted over the try-line from 20 metres to tie the scores at 5-5 after 14 minutes, 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 but Bedwas forced County’s pack to buckle in the mud at a scrum under the posts and Ethan Davies converted the resultant penalty try.
The home side went further ahead when Ross Wardle scored an unconverted try but Edwards kept Stirling in contention just before the break with a penalty.
He made it 17-14 after the re-start but Pewtner’s second try and a Thomas penalty mad things look grim at 25-14 for the homesters.
County brought Jamie Bhatti on for Mike MacDonald in the front row, and from a line-out penalty catch and drive, the young replacement prop dived over to score an unconverted try in the right corner to put County within six points of Bedwas entering the final quarter.
Stirling piled on the pressure in the closing stages and kept Bedwas pinned into their own 22 and they 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.
Coach Hendry Edwards was pleased with this latest win in the British and 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.
On Saturday they face RBS Premiership League leaders Ayr at Bridgehaugh, kick-off 3pm. This is a vital match for County, currently lying eighth in the table, as they look to win their first home league in three months.
Thanks to County’s main sponsor Ondeo Industrial Solutions and all others who continue to support the club.
Bedwas: Thomas, John, Wardle, Williams, Pewtner, E Davies, Rowlands; Preece, Hutcherson, George, Maiden, Rees, Grainger, Organ, Feehan. Replacements: Dee, Petit, Lodge, L Davies, Budina, Hudd, Harris.
Stirling County: Addison; Lindsay, Bennett, Gilmour, Aitken; Edwards, Black; M MacDonald, Kennedy, Hutton, Robertson, Deacons, Ashe, Clarke, Swindall. Replacements: Bhatti, Raby, S McDonald, Forrester, Turnbull, Archibald, Lamb.
Referee: E O’Dowd (Ireland).