Aberdeen Grammar 27 Stirling County 28
Recent matches between Stirling County and Aberdeen have been close run and this basement battle on an unseasonally mild and dry January afternoon in the Granite City proved no exception.
When they met earlier in the season they shared 84 points in a high-scoring draw at Bridgehaugh, and given the importance of this match to both clubs another enthralling encounter was anticipated and so it proved to be.
The Rubislaw outfit dominated possession and territory in the early stages, but County’s defence was up to the mark, and in their first attack the visitors were awarded a penalty on five minutes for a high-tackle, but the kick at goal went just wide.
The homeside continued to press County back into their own half, but a break by Tim Clarke was offloaded to Rob McAlpine, who moved the ball through the hands of Stevie Swindall, Danny Gilmour and Ross Aitken, to put Mark Bennett into space and the outside- centre waltzed past the remaining defenders to score the opening try under the posts, converted by Stuart Edwards.
County were unfortunate not to add to their score when Edwards broke clear within the homeside’s 22, but the supporting Clarke couldn’t take what would have been a try- scoring pass with the line at his mercy.
Aberdeen responded and from a lineout take on the County 22, they swiftly moved the ball across the pitch for Steve Aitken to squeeze through the visitors’ defence and score an unconverted try.
Stirling upped the pace, and from a second penalty line-out catch and drive, the visitors’ pack were marching their opposite numbers towards their try line, when an Aberdeen defender came in illegally from the side and killed the ball, leaving the referee no alternative but to award a penalty try, converted by Edwards.
Then just before the break, Swindall charged over to score a try close to the posts, converted by Edwards to give County a 21-5 half-time lead.
The points looked secure two minutes after the re-start when Byron McGiugan intercepted an Aberdeen pass on half-way and sped under the posts to score County’s fourth and bonus point try converted by Edwards.
But the home side didn’t give up. Cameron Eyre scored an unconverted try before prop Mike McDonald was sin-binned for killing the ball and Aberdeen made their numerical advantage count and after two penalty scrums, the ball was fed out to Eyre who crashed through the visitors’ defence to score an unconverted try.
Aberdeen continued to push forward at every opportunity, pinning County back in their 22, and following an early hit in the scrum, Aberdeen were awarded a free-kick, which Sandy Warnock took quickly and ran through three despairing County tackles to score under the posts, which Scott White converted to take the score to 28-22 with17 minutes remaining.
Edwards missed a long-range penalty that would have eased the tension, before Aberdeen‘s Cammie Anderson raced over the line to score his side’s fifth try in the right corner on 77 minutes, but White’s conversion kick from the touchline drifted wide, and County held on to their lead by the narrowest of margins.
County’s Head Coach Graeme Young was pleased with his team’s overall performance and character under pressure, and was delighted to take five points in the battle to move away from the relegation places.
County remain eighth in the table on 26 points, but are only 10 points from third position, in what is becoming a fascinating end to the season with five matches remaining.
County take a break from domestic action over the next two weeks, as they focus on their final Pool 2 matches in the British & Irish Cup with the visit of high-flying English Championship side Bedford Blues on Saturday. Kick-off at Bridgehaugh is 2pm.
Thanks to County’s main sponsor Ondeo Industrial Solutions and all others who continue to support the club.
Man of the Match, sponsored by John Graham Metals, was Mark Bennett.
ABERDEEN GRAMMAR: Aitken, Anderson, Wardlaw, Nacavamuto, Oag, White, Ward; Dixon, O’Connor, Corsar, Smith, Douglas, Warnock, McGuiness, Eyre. Replacements: Bingham, Fraser, Ryan, Lauder, Aloe, Hagart.
STIRLING COUNTY: Addison, McGuigan, Bennett, Gilmour, Aitken, Edwards, S Kennedy; MacDonald, Moffat), Mountford, McAlpine, Deacons, Ashe, Clarke, Swindall. Replacements: Bhatti, R Kennedy, Boswell, Archibald.
REFEREE: C. Rudkin.