Watsonians 20 - 14 Stirling County: Sonians recover from slow start

Scotland Under-20 international Scott McLeod. Picture: SNS
Scotland Under-20 international Scott McLeod. Picture: SNS
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Watsonians recovered from a slow start to score three tries and win the first game of the new season as Stirling County fell just short on the day.

The two Super Six clubs have to negotiate this Tennents Premiership season before the franchises kick in. Final standings in the 2018-19 table will be an important matter of honour before radical change takes hold.

Stirling, the losing cup finalists, began yesterday’s match with the confidence-builder of last week’s Charity Shield victory over Melrose but also the knowledge that Watsonians won both of last season’s league encounters on their way to a play-off place.

Both teams are hoping to establish a greater degree of consistency on the pitch to demonstrate that it is the way the game that marks them out for the brave new rugby world of the future.

In the here and now it took Stirling less than two minutes to score. A first attack up the right touchline, a steal at the five metre lineout and prop Murphy Walker got the try. Full back Johnny Hope added the conversion.

Watsonians responded with a slick piece of inter-passing that put full back Josh Rowland over, almost unopposed. The conversion was missed.

Watsonians were doing all the defending and the Stirling pack combined to push a rolling maul into the home 22. The ball was carried over the line but there was no clear grounding but moments later hooker Reyner Kennedy gathered the ball behind a ruck and went through a huge gap to touch down beside the posts. Hope converted.

Watsonians finally shook off their lethargy and managed a sustained attack that created the space for left winger Scott McLeod to cross. Stand-off Lee Millar again failed to convert but Watsonians were on a roll and scrum half Ali Harris emerged from broken play to scorch down the right for the try. This time Millar’s conversion kick was true and Watsonians had a narrow lead they scarcely deserved.

The home side continued to apply pressure after the restart and Millar added a penalty to stretch their lead. but Stirling came straight back at them without putting any points on the board.

It was now Stirling who were doing all the defending, apart from the occasional break-out, as the game went into its final quarter. In the end it was a test of stamina and Watsonians had enough of it to see them over the finishing line.