County did their chances of beating the drop a world of good when they edged out Gala in a towsy affair that finally ended the Borderers’ already slim title ambitions, writes Martin Laing at Bridgehaugh.
This was always destined to be an attritional encounter with so much at stake, Stirling being locked in a dogfight to avoid relegation while the Borderers desperately needed victory to keep the pressure on Ayr in the chase for the championship.
In the end, County’s Graeme Young was the coach with most to celebrate as his team secured the bragging rights. For Gala, George Graham’s return to the club where he played in the front row was not a happy one.
Tempers frayed on several occasions as the match officials struggled to maintain discipline during a feisty affair, with seldom much between two well-matched sides. County’s cause, however, was certainly not helped by having Craig Deacons and Ben Addison sin-binned in separate incidents either side of the interval, while Gala’s Bryce Turner was also yellow-carded for a dangerously high tackle.
It was Gala who were first to show, stand-off Lee Millar chipping over an early penalty, but thereafter Stirling took control, with two tries by winger Matt Lamb, the second converted by centre Brian Archibald, who also nudged a pair of penalties.
Gala, though, have plenty of resilience and powered back before the break with touchdowns late in the half for Andy McLean and Grant Somerville, Millar goalling the latter. Millar then brought Gala level shortly after the restart.
The usually reliable Archibald squandered a pair of attempted kicks that would have settled his side again. However, with five minutes left to play, he booted County in front before Garry Mountford barged over for a try that sealed a memorable win, despite a Millar penalty in injury time.