A CHANGE in tactics halfway through this fixture swung the game decisively in favour of Heriot’s and put Stirling firmly in their place, toppling them from the peak of the Premiership all the way down to sixth place.
Heriot’s 42-19 Stirling County
Scorers: Heriot’s – Tries: Turley (2), Hill, Toolis, Boisseau. Cons: Wilson (4). Pens: Wilson (3). Stirling – Tries: Gilmour, Russell, Price. Cons: Urquhart (2)
Stirling had been in control for most of the first half, scoring two finely crafted tries to which the home team’s reply had been a solitary penalty.
The problem was that Heriot’s were trying too often to go wide and round Stirling when the more effective route was to go through them.
It was a change in emphasis, according to Heriot’s coach Phil Smith, that worked remarkably well and Stirling had no answer to it. Heriot’s skipper Jack Turley showed the way with their first try minutes before the break, following up on a carry by No 8 Jason Hill. Once the ‘keep it narrow’ message had been reinforced in the dressing room, two more tries were quickly created with the ball kept no more than an arm’s length from the pack. First it was Hill and then it was Edinburgh pro lock Ben Toolis.
The bonus point try showed Heriot’s flexibility when it came from out wide just to keep Stirling guessing, winger Harry Boisseau planting it in the left corner after the ball had passed through numerous hands. But it was back to the narrow channels for a late fifth try and a second for blindside Turley. “We tried to play with a lot of width in the first half but couldn’t get round them,” Smith explained.
“They were gliding out and stopping us so we made a change and tried to keep it tighter and go through them. It was as simple as that, not a case of not going wide at all but of doing more tight stuff to suck in defenders before we went wide. And it worked.”
The game began at a furious pace that gradually slowed as Heriot’s applied a stranglehold. Stirling, so free-flowing and confident in the first half did manage to add a third try to their total, but were soundly beaten in the end – all part of the learning process according to Stirling Coach Graeme Young.
“We played well in the first half, scored some neat tries and retained the ball well,” he said. “In the second half Heriot’s got a roll on us and put us on the backfoot.
“We are probably not the only team that Heriot’s is going to beat here this season. We can use what happened to drive our growing, learning, and development mentality because it is a very young squad and it is our focus this year to keep improving. We played well for 40 minutes but we know we have to be able to compete for the full 80. So we will now work harder and come back stronger next week.”
The game itself was too close to call for a long time as Stirling raced into the lead with tries by the two centres Danny Gilmour and Archie Russell.
A lot of the play was confined into the middle third of the pitch. Turley then demonstrated the way the tide could be turned and Heriot’s duly did just that.
When Hill got the second soon after the break he muscled out his own team-mate Murray Douglas out of the way as they went for the touchdown, denying what would have been a fairytale ending to the big lock’s time at Heriot’s before he emigrates to Australia – time that has included being a Scotland club international, a Scottish Cup winner, and one appearance from the bench for Edinburgh in the Pro12.
Douglas’s fellow lock Toolis got the next before Harry Boisseau and Turley played their part in Stirling’s downfall. Heriot’s scrum-half Graham Wilson completed the job with four conversions and three penalties that added up to a personal haul of 17 points.
Before Saturday Stirling had been flying high in the league with victories against newly promoted Boroughmuir on the opening day, followed up by an against-the-odds win over champions Melrose in the second match. Heriot’s, however, proved too tough a proposition.
The visitors were soundly thrashed and now face a daunting trip to Ayr this weekend where their hosts will be anxious to bounce back after going down to Hawick.
Meanwhile, Heriot’s are nicely into their stride, having stumbled to defeat against Glasgow Hawks on the opening day of the season and then scraped past Hawick down at Mansfield Park.
They face the much easier prospect of travelling across the city to Edinburgh Accies who are rooted to the bottom.
Heriot’s: C Simpson; C Gaudie, 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 Co: 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.