Stirling County may be sucked into the last play-off place after eight straight defeats including this loss to already-relegated Accies, who came back from 12 points down to snatch victory as they waved goodbye to the BT Premiership and promised to bounce straight back.
Scorers: Edinburgh Accies – Tries: Pearse, Campbell, Niven. Stirling – Tries: Price, Jack Urquhart. Con: James Urquhart.
Glasgow Hawks currently occupy the unwanted ninth place in the league where the incumbent team will have to play off with the runners-up in National 1 for the privilege of spending next season among Scotland’s elite clubs.
Hawks are two points behind Stirling but have a game in hand against Currie, who are still in contention for the fourth play-off place at the other end of the table. Whatever happens there, it will be the Stirling v Hawks confrontation that is the decider.
Stirling coach Graeme Young said: “We are now staring down the barrel of ninth place, which is hard to swallow when it is not so long ago we were in fourth, but we know we need to improve and do the best we can and stay together as a group for this match against Hawks. The fact that we have lost so many games by less than seven points tells its own tale about us not closing games out. That is the challenge we have.
“Today, I think the first half represented everything that is good about us and the second half everything that is not good. Accies fought really hard in the second half, disrupting us and denying us the quick ball we had in the first and that hurt us. We said we were going to come out firing after half-time but we didn’t do that and, in the end, the pressure told.”
Stirling started well before they lost concentration, conceded control and finally capitulated in a second half where, despite periods when the opportunities presented themselves thick and fast, they couldn’t add a single point.
The first try was scored after only five minutes when constant pressure from the kick-off bore fruit and scrum-half Ali Price stepped round a pile-up of bodies on the line for the touchdown. Full-back Jamie Urquhart kicked the conversion.
Accies briefly grabbed the initiative and Alex Godsmark carried deep into the County 22 but most of the pressure was on the home side and lock Ed Howgate would have been clear if the pass to him had not been forward.
The pressure told, though, and a second try was carefully constructed after 25 minutes when a lineout take inside the Accies 22 was flung wide across the full width of the pitch to open up space for left-wing Jack Urquhart to run in. His brother’s conversion attempt hit the post.
Stirling seemed to relax at that stage, perhaps thinking a lot of the hard work had been done, and allowed Accies to get back into the game a few minutes before half-time. In a sustained drive up the left side of the field, young loosehead prop James Pearse crashed over the line. Scrum-half Alex Glashan missed the first of what would be a hat-trick of missed conversions.
Both teams were on the receiving end of changing-room rants on the need to up the intensity, but it was Accies who emerged the stronger and more focused. Minutes after the break, another Accies forwards surge swept captain Greg Campbell over the line for a second try that brought them within two points and led to Stirling try-scorer Price being sin-binned.
Accies had most of the play but couldn’t cash in on their numerical advantage before Price returned to the fray.
The third try that nudged them into the lead for the first time in the match came after 58 minutes, when replacement prop Lewis Niven finished after a series of five-metre line-outs and close-quarter charges wore down the Stirling defence.
Stirling rallied for the final quarter, with inside centre Danny Gilmour prominent as Accies were forced on to the back foot and stretched almost to breaking point when stand-off Iain Berthinussen was yellow carded in the dying minutes but they held on for a deserved valedictory victory.
Accies coach Phil Leck said: “This is our pre-season. We are starting from now in finding our way back up and we have a very positive bunch of lads who are staying for the challenge. In today’s game we could have contrived to lose for all the same reasons we have lost throughout the season but I couldn’t have asked for a better response.
“We have identified what we need and where we need to improve but we have not had the facility to put it in place this year.
“Next year we will have the facility and we are intending to bounce back straight away.”
Edinburgh Accies: R Young; M Coupar, J Marples, R Wilson, A Godsmark; I Berthinussen, A Glashan; J Pearse, C Black, C Lacour, R Seydak, G Campbell, M Fedo, J Sole, T Stuart. Replacements: M Liness, L Niven, R Snape, R Munro, J Pevqueur.
Stirling County: James Urquhart; M Lamb, R Hughes, D Gilmour, Jack Urquhart; F Lyle, A Price; J Bhatti, C Fenton, G Mountford, E Howgate, R Leishman, S Robertson, S McDonald, S Neil. Replacements: D Westwood, C Hutton, A Mncube, E Dewar, C Hughes.
Referee: D McClement.