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Stirling County 5-31 Munster A: A task too far

Stirling centre Sean Kennedy breaks away as County try to break the Munster stranglehold. Picture: SNS/SRU

Stirling centre Sean Kennedy breaks away as County try to break the Munster stranglehold. Picture: SNS/SRU

  • by MARTIN LAING AT BRIDGEHAUGH
 

Not even the staunchest of County fans had any real expectations of a positive result against their stellar opposition in this British and Irish Cup encounter. Indeed, even club president Kevin Robertson admitted at the start the task was daunting, with Stirling’s realistic aspiration to avoid injuries ahead of crucial league fixtures in the next few weeks.

Despite being bolstered by a trio of Edinburgh professionals in their starting line-up, County struggled to stem the tide of Munster attacks from the off. As early as the third minute, stand-off Johnny Holland squandered a penalty chance but it took only seven minutes more to get the board ticking over when Ronan O’Mahony went over, Holland adding the conversion.

Thereafter, Stirling battled hard and foiled a succession of Munster probes, putting in a gutsy display that nullified Irish pressure, with Holland again awry with the boot after 25 minutes.

In fact, Stirling showed commendable ambition and had a very welcome spell of pressure in the latter stages of the first half during which they battered at the Irish defence but they could not turn promising openings into points.

The half-time seven-point deficit was closer than many home fans could have dared hope but the end result was never in doubt. Superior fitness and strength – Munster took a string of scrums against the head by driving County back off their own put-in – would inevitably take their toll, and so it proved.

Six minutes after the restart Holland jinked through the Stirling defence for a try he converted himself. CJ Stander and Darren Sweetname then put the game beyond the Bridgehaugh side with two quick strikes, the first goalled by Gerry Hurley, though Holland’s replacement Rory Scannell fluffed the second.

Gerard van den Heever then breached the Stirling line in the right corner, and Scannell again failed with the extras.

Fraser Lyle had the Stirling faithful cheering when he scored a fine try after 65 minutes but it was never any more than a consolation.

 

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