LESS than 24 hours after the SRU had revealed that the number of orderings-off had increased this season, the players at The Greenyards did their best to add to that total.
The fact that referee Martin Valentine, making his debut at Melrose, issued only three yellow cards and no reds was surprising in view of the succession of brawls and fights which marred the end of this game.
Significantly, Melrose scored two crucial tries in a two-minute spell just after half-time when County were reduced to 13 men, with Malcolm Norval and Alex Moffat yellow-carded either side of the interval.
When Rob Lewis became the third County player to be sinbinned in injury time, the game was beyond the Bridgehaugh side. "We scored some good tries, played some pretty good rugby at times and were disappointed to lose," said coach Eddie Pollock. "A bit of the stuff going on was a bit unsavoury, but in between that there was a lot of good rugby."
County shocked Melrose with two tries in the opening 16 minutes. Alastair Hogg touched down for the first from a kick-ahead and fellow-forward Bob Wyllie finished off a superb handling move for the second.
But Melrose turned the game before the interval, first with a Scott Ruthven penalty and then a Geoff Caldwell try. Two minutes from the interval, Tom Weir burst through a gap from a free kick and Ruthven converted for a 15-10 interval lead.
By then, Norval was in the sinbin, to be joined by Moffat, and Melrose took advantage with tries from Steven Shiel and Callum MacRae, Ruthven converting the first. County’s other points came from two Craig Sangster penalties but the damage had been done.
Scorers: Melrose: Tries: Caldwell, Weir (2), Shiel. Cons: S Ruthven (2). Pen: Ruthven. Stirling: Tries: Hogg, Wyllie. Pens: Sangster (2).
Melrose: J Blackwood; G Caldwell, C MacRae, B Ruthven, P Rutherford; S Ruthven and S Shiel; I Cornwall, W Mitchell, H Fraser, J Henderson, S Aitken, J Dalziel, T Weir, A Clark. Subs: E Thomson for Dalziel 72.
Stirling County: M Fraser; C Harris, S McAllister, C Sangster, R Lewis; S Parlane, A Blues; C Reid, A Moffat, G Blackburn, M Norval, A Kellock, B Wyllie, A Hogg, C Deacons. Subs: C MacPhail for M Norval 66; S Cameron for G Blackburn 67; R Mailer for A Blues 71.
Referee: M. Valentine (Stewartry).