Three tries in the first 15 minutes gave the Borderers a healthy lead in this clash between the top two in the BT Premiership as they looked like they might run away with the contest. However, County showed considerable resilience as they battled back to close the gap, only to concede again on the stroke of half-time.
First to start the scoreboard moving was Fraser Thomson when he crossed the line as early as the second minute, Craig Jackson converting. Six minutes later back-rower Ally Miller barged over for an unconverted try, before Sam Pecqueur followed suit, Jackson this time on target with the extras and to secure a bonus point.
Stirling looked in deep trouble but finally got into the game when Matt Lamb scampered in after 21 minutes, full back Jonny Hope goalling the score, and then nudging two penalties in quick succession to close to 13-19.
However, right before the break Miller stole a lamentable lineout throw to go over for his second try, Jackson again converting with the last action of the opening 40 minutes.
It was a bitter blow for the home fans but no less than Melrose deserved as reward for their slick running and expansive approach.
County took the game to Melrose after the interval and pinned the visitors back into their own final 10 metres but could not convert the pressure into points, and they were made to pay as Melrose again showed flair with a sweeping move upfield that Ross McCann finished, Jackson converting to make it 13-33.
Stirling once again displayed resilience, however, with Lewis Wynne forcing his way through, Hope adding the conversion. Any hopes of a renaissance among the Bridgehaugh faithful were dashed three minutes later when Miller notched his hat-trick, Jackson chipping the extras.
County again managed to put Melrose under the cosh but the visitors’ defence was doughty and they repeatedly cleared their lines until very late in the game when Craig Robertson touched down, Hope converting.
In fairness to the home side, they played well in patches but were missing a number of key players. Stirling coach and stand-off Peter Jericevich had said in his programme notes that there had been a strong emphasis on defence this week, having leaked 46 the previous Saturday at Ayr. Given this performance, they will have to go back to the drawing board.
As for Melrose, they are not unbeaten and top of the pile without good reason, and after this display they will remain hot favourites to stay there.