Heriot’s halted the Stirling bandwagon in its tracks with a quickfire treble of tries either side of half time that dismantled opponents who up to that point had been well-organised and tactically astute.
Any illusion Stirling had that life in the Premiership was going to be easy after early-season wins over newly promoted Boroughmuir and last season’s champions Melrose was dispelled as Heriot’s came from behind and turned the screw to score five tries by the end.
Stirling coach Graeme Young said: “I don’t think we are the only team that Heriot’s is going to beat here this season.”
Heriot’s coach Phil Smith explained: “We tried to play with a lot of width in the first half but couldn’t get round them. So then we made a change and tried to do more tight stuff and go through them and it worked. It was a really good win for us.”
Heriot’s lined up with Scotland club international Murray Douglas playing his last game at lock before emigrating to Australia and Edinburgh pros Neil Cochrane and Ben Toolis on the bench. Stirling called on a couple of Glasgow pros: Adam Ashe to strengthen their pack, and Rory Hughes out on the wing.
The game started at a furious pace, and the home side were soon penned inside their 22 by Stirling, who won an attacking five-metre scrum from which centre Danny Gilmour forced his way over for a try. Full-back Jamie Urquhart added the extras.
A minute later Urquhart’s penalty attempt from 40 metres had come back off a post and Heriot’s were once again obliged to put in the tackles in their own territory as Stirling squeezed them back until the ball was transferred wide to Colin Goudie, whose kick and chase on the right wing took them to within ten metres and eventually resulted in an easy three points from a Graham Wilson penalty.
The scrums were evenly matched but Heriot’s had the advantage at the lineouts where Stirling often didn’t bother to challenge, preferring to spread their defence across the pitch and soak up the forward drives.
Stirling’s second try came just before half time when slick passing meant Heriot’s ran out of bodies and Hughes was able to offload to outside centre Archie Russell who cruised in behind the posts, making Urquhart’s conversion a formality.
But there was still time for Heriot’s to hit back, especially after Urquhart fumbled a pass in his own in-goal area and only just managed to prevent onrushing Heriot’s players from getting a touchdown. After two five-metre scrums, Jason Hill picked up and charged for the line. He was stopped but after the ball was recycled there was no stopping Heriot’s captain Jack Turley. Wilson converted to make it 10-14 at half-time.
Heriot’s came out fighting after the interval but blew an early chance when they had a three-on-one overlap yet contrived to lose the ball forward. The try was coming though, with Stirling disorganised by the speed of the attack, and it was Hill who grabbed it to put his team ahead by a point. Within a minute Heriot’s claimed a third try when replacement lock Ben Toolis went over. Wilson converted.
Now it was Stirling penned inside their own 22 as Heriot’s moved in for the kill which came, along with the bonus point, when the ball flew wide and left winger Harry Boisseau ran in to dot it down in the corner. Wilson converted from the touchline.
Just when Heriot’s looked to be running away with it, however, Stirling rallied and former Scotland under-20 scrum-half Ali Price scrambled over for a try. Urquhart couldn’t provide the conversion.
The game was in its final quarter when Wilson kicked a penalty from 25 metres and then another from 30 metres to stretch the lead to 16 points and put it beyond a tiring and soundly beaten Stirling. Heriot’s added a fifth try when Turley burrowed over for his second and Wilson once more kicked the conversion.
Scorers: Heriot’s: Tries: Turley 2, Hill, Toolis, Boisseau. Cons: Wilson 4. Pens: Wilson 3. Stirling County: Tries: Gilmour, Russell, Price. Cons: Urquhart 2.
Heriot’s: C Simpson; C Goudie, K Buchan, R Carmichael, H Boisseau; G McNeish, G Wilson; N Borel, D McGregor, S Cessford, R Nimmo, M Douglas, J Turley, C Mulligan, J Hill. Subs: G Cameron, N Cochrane, B Toolis, S Edwards, M Learmonth.
Stirling County: J Urquhart; M Lamb, A Russell, D Gilmour, R Hughes; F Lyle, A Price; J Bhatti, R Kennedy, G Mountford, M Minari, R Leishman, S Robertson, A Ashe, S McDonald. Subs: S Govan, B Dineen, A MnCube, M Smith, A Black.
Referee: G Wells.