IT WAS men against Bairns as Ross County ripped apart a feeble Falkirk, with Liam Boyce scoring a rapid first-half hat-trick.
The Northern Ireland international’s treble – all inside 10 minutes – took his tally to nine for the season, with all of those goals in the last seven games.
Falkirk were back in knock-out action for the first time since the heartbreak of last May’s Scottish Cup final defeat to Inverness.
The form that has lifted Peter Houston’s side to second place in the Championship has featured good organisation, and, initially, his side showed that trait.
But the dam burst on the half-hour. A Jonathan Franks’ corner broke deep to Richard Foster and the defender’s whipped cross was headed home close in by Boyce.
Five minutes later, Boyce executed the cheekiest of back-heel finishes for the second after Jackson Irvine had flicked on a Franks’ corner. It was a disastrous collapse from the Bairns and worse was to come after 40 minutes.
Another terrific centre from Foster from the right saw Boyce, six yards out, head into the roof of the net.
A double substitution at the break by Houston underlined his unhappiness, but there was no respite as the fourth arrived almost immediately.
From Brian Graham’s supply, Raffaele De Vita tore away on the left and hit a low, angled strike in off the goalkeeper’s glove.
Falkirk’s misery heightened with the fifth after 55 minutes. Boyce laid the ball wide to De Vita, who was pinpoint in his delivery for Franks to thump home.
Three minutes later, it was six as Graham claimed his first County goal with a header from a cross by former Falkirk player, Stewart Murdoch, and a seventh arrived with nine minutes left when a volley by substitute Darren Holden found the net.
Ross County: Fox, Foster, Robertson, Boyd, Reckord, Franks (Holden 58), Murdoch, Irvine (Dingwall 72), De Vita, Boyce (McShane 63), Graham. Subs not used: Woods, Gardyne, Fraser.
Falkirk: Rogers; Vaulks, Watson, Grant, Leahy; Alston, Kerr (Muirhead 67), Blair (McHugh 46), Sibbald, Taiwo; Baird (Miller 46). Subs not used: Bowman, McCracken, Smith, Cooper.