Courtesy of County website
By Hugh Barrow
Thanks to Kevin Robertson
Stirling County lost their third BT Premiership match of the season to Glasgow Hawks, as the Bridgehaugh side slumped to second-bottom of the league table.
County captain Struan Robertson (right) came back into the team at blindside flanker in place of the injured Lewis Wynne, and scrum-half Luke Earle-Wright regained his place on the bench alongside forward Ed Howgate. Otherwise the starting XV was the same as the side that narrowly lost at Hawick the previous week.
Both sides tested each others’ defence in the early exchanges in ideal conditions for rugby in front of a healthy crowd at Bridgehaugh. Jonny Hope missed a long-range penalty attempt for County after 10 minutes, and his team-mate winger Matt Lamb went close only to be tackled in touch with the try-line beckoning.
Hawks opened the scoring with a try on 20 minutes, following a break from midfield by winger Robert Beattie, who was tackled deep in the County 22 before the ball was quickly recycled for hooker Jack McFarlane to touchdown. The try was converted by Gregor Hunter to give the visitors a 0 – 7 lead.
Loose play by County handed possession and territory to Hawks, and with visiting pack gaining the upper-hand in the set-piece, Hunter increased their lead with a successful penalty on 28 minutes, after County collapsed a retreating scrum on their 22.
Three minutes later County’s Hope (left) kicked a penalty goal from in front of the posts to reduce the leeway to 3 – 10, after Hawks were penalized for playing the ball on the ground.
Too many unforced handling errors prevented any cohesion to County’s play, combined with lack of discipline, saw the home-side on the back-foot. County won a relieving penalty, which was taken quickly, but no advantage was gained, and inexplicably the referee allowed Hawks to play-on and scrum-half George Horne scored an unconverted try for the visitors in the right-hand corner just before the break.
Half-time: Stirling County 3 – Glasgow Hawks 18.
County brought on Billy Dineen for Garry Mountford in the front-row, but it was Hawks who continued to dominate play after the re-start, and the visitors were held-up over the County try line before Hunter increased the lead to 3 – 18 with a straight-forward penalty goal after 43 minutes.
Three minutes later and Hawks effectively secured their victory with a try from winger Beattie, who sprinted unchallenged from half-way through a weak County defence to score a try under the posts, converted by Hunter to give the visitors a 3 – 25 lead.
County responded and winger Dylan Taikato-Simpson (right) scored an unconverted try in the left corner after 56 minutes.
Following a series of County replacements with Mike Dewar, Luke Earl-Wright and Ed Howgate entering the fray along with the returning Mountford, home outside-centre Danny Gilmour eluded the Hawks defence with ten minutes remaining to score a try under the posts, converted by Hope.
Final score: Stirling County 15 – Glasgow Hawks 25.
Scorers: Stirling County - Tries: Taikato-Simpson, Gilmour. Conv.: Hope. Pen.: Hope.
Glasgow Hawks - Tries: McFarlane, Horne, Beattie. Convs.: Hunter (2). Pens.: Hunter (2).
Stirling County: Jonny Hope (capt.), Matt Lamb, Danny Gilmour, Nick Grigg, Dylan Taikato-Simpson, Shaun Treweek, Alex Black; Colin Hutton, Reyner Kennedy, Garry Mountford, Ruaridh Leishman, Callum Hunter-Hill, Struan Robertson (capt.), Shaun McDonald, Vaka Manu. Replacements: Billy Dineen, Blair Gilchrist, Ed Howgate, Mike Dewar, Luke Earle-Wright.
Glasgow Hawks: Jack Steele, Tom Steven, Brendan McGroarty (capt.), Ally MacLay, Robert Beattie, Gregor Hunter, George Horne; Steven Findlay, Jack MacFarlane, Gary Strain, Andrew Kirkland, Andrew Linton, Andrew Redmayne, Angus Neilson, Andrew Hill.
Replacements: Callum Kerr, Chris Barnes, Matt Smith, Paddy Boyer, Pierre Mounal.
Referee: S. Grove-White.