This was an odd game that swung one way then the other before coming down to a photo finish at the wire when the Southern Knights’ full-back Ciaran Whyte levelled the scores with the last kick of the game.
It capped an astonishing fightback for the Knights who were trailing 19-3 at the break after failing to turn up for the opening 40 minutes.
Stirling County dominated the first half, struggled after the break, but still thought they had done enough when scrum-half Caleb Korteweg scored their fourth try 15 minutes from time to give them a seven-point lead and some breathing space. It wasn’t enough.
The Knights went on the attack and the pressure resulted in a yellow card for County flanker Matt Smith who watched the final seven minutes of the match from the sidelines. The Knights pounded hard and County defended bravely but eventually conceded yet another penalty at a set scrum and, from the ensuing lineout, centre Patrick Anderson scored the crucial try to allow his nerveless full-back to snatch an unexpected draw.
The home side got out of the blocks quickly, the opening try of the match going to No.8 Dean Taylor-Menzies who made best use of the attacking position that Josh Henderson earned his side with a classic fly-half break.
That seemed to wake the Knights from their slumber as the visitors got three back off the tee, courtesy of full-back Whyte, but that was about as good as things got for the visitors who spent much of the first half in desperate defence.
The penalty count was beginning to favour the home side as was the injury count, the Knights losing Neil Irvine-Ness and Ewan McQuillan in quick succession.
The home side took full advantage of the Knights’ poor discipline to set up an attacking lineout from which skipper Reyner Kennedy was the last man up. Henderson added two more to the home total and County’s confidence was personified by Robbie Kent who chipped ahead and was only denied another score before the break when the ball beat him into touch.
If Kent fell short, Andrew Davidson did not. Showing admirable patience County went through the phases in attack until eventually the big lock burrowed his way over from close range after several pick and drives.
Trailing by 19-3 at the break, the Knights needed the first score of the second half and they went one better, claiming the next two touchdowns. First up lock Ruaridh Knott finished off their best attacking move of the match just four minutes after the restart before winger Michael Mvelase-Julyan was sent over the line with a clever inside ball from scrum-half Murdo McAndrew.
It was a two-point game as the match moved into the final quarter only for the Knights’ lineout to let them down, and not for the first time. A loose bobbling ball was hacked ahead and County’s Kiwi scrum-half Korteweg claimed the score that gave the hosts that seven point lead which wasn’t quite enough on the night.