Stirling plot Heriot's downfall as revival gathers strength
TWO weeks ago Stirling County appeared to be dead and buried at the foot of the SHE Premier Division One table. With Ayr streaking clear at the top of the league, all the chat around the clubrooms of Scotland's top flight had turned to debating who would be accompanying the Bridgehaugh men through the relegation trapdoor.
But a fortnight is a long time in rugby, and after consecutive victories over Watsonians and Edinburgh Academicals, Stirling travel to Goldenacre this afternoon confident that a hat-trick of successes over Edinburgh opposition is a very real possibility.
Heriot's are second in the league and probably the only team with any realistic chance of catching Ayr at the top of the table, but that counts for nothing as far as visiting captain Alex Moffat is concerned.
"We've had a little bit of luck, we've had a few guys come back from injury, and all of a sudden you can feel the belief returning to the squad," he said.
"Things have started to click and I don't see any reason why we can't win this game, they are a good team with good coaches so it is going to be tough, but they've been beaten before this season and nobody in this league is invincible. People were maybe writing us off, but the coaches stayed pretty positive and so did the players.
"We had a couple of real hammerings, particularly against West of Scotland and Glasgow Hawks at the start of October, but we also pushed a few teams pretty hard, including Ayr and Heriot's, so we always felt that we had it in us to turn things around.
"At Stirling we're pretty used to being in relegation dogfights so we know how to handle it."
When Stirling lost several influential players at the end of last season – including former Scotland age-grade star Ben Addison, who has moved south; No8 Justin Mathieson, who returned to his native New Zealand in disgrace after failing a drugs test; and second-row forward Richie Gray, who moved to West of Scotland – it was decided to put faith in the club's youth programme rather than go on an all-out recruitment drive.
Moffat says this long-term approach is beginning to pay dividends. He highlights teenagers Grant Gilchrist and Robbie McGowan – second-row and stand-off respectively – as being particularly worthy of acclimation. He also recognises the influence in recent weeks of Edinburgh professionals Roland Reid and John Houston.
The presence of the latter of those two pros in the visiting XV this afternoon is a cause of frustration for Heriot's coach Bob McKillop. Houston came through the ranks at Hawick but earned his contract whilst playing at Goldenacre, and McKillop feels that it is unfair that the centre is now going to be lining up against his old team for a club he has no previous affiliation with and had no choice about being allocated to.
"It shows the ridiculous nature of the draft system," he said.
The other 2pm kick-offs today are Hawick versus West of Scotland at Mansfield Park and Melrose versus Selkirk at the Greenyards. Currie's home match against Edinburgh Academicals, Ayr's trip to Watsonians and Glasgow Hawks' encounter with Boroughmuir at Old Anniesland, all kick off at 3pm.
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Sunday 19 May 2013
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