Saturday, 3 September 2011

Stirling County - Bridgehaugh

3rd September 2011

Stirling County 13-29 Heriots

Way back in the 1970s, when I first began taking a more than passing interest in rugby union, it appeared to me that the club scene at least, was dominated by teams of hairy-arsed farmers and grain merchants from the Borders.  Of the first 20 titles following the inauguration of the National Leagues in 1973, only two were won by clubs north of Galashields.  But the early 1990s witnessed the emergence of a new name on the scene: Stirling County, who slowly but purposefully had wound their way to the top league from Division 7.  Season 1994/95 saw this remarkable rise to prominence peak when Stirling County were crowned Scottish Champions.  The club’s most prominent player around this time could arguably be said to have been the future Mr Gabby Yorath: Kenny Logan – he of the Dennis the Menace haircut and Desperate Dan chin.

County never quite managed to scale those heights again and, indeed, endured a few relegations along the way.  But promotion at the end of season 2009/10 had brought the club back into competition with the Big Lads.

This particular match found Stirling County looking to bounce back following a hefty bashing at the home of Glasgow Hawks on the opening day of the 2011/2012 season, seven days previously.  And things began reasonably well as, just as I was entering the ground, County’s Brian ARCHIBALD was plopping over a penalty.  However, that was about as good as it got in the first-half for his side, as visitors Heriots proceeded to monopolise both possession and (inevitably) scoring to build up a 15-3 lead at the break.

When County’s sloppy defending at a line-out gifted the visitors a third try just seconds into the second-half, I genuinely feared for the home lot, thinking this could end up a 40 or 50 point rout.  But to their credit they didn’t buckle, and proceeded to enjoy their most productive spell of the match, camping out on the Heriots line on three occasions.  Unfortunately, they were only able to make one of these count, when the marvellously named Bengy BARSANTI galloped over for a try. 

But as the County lads began to tire the match meandered to its inevitable conclusion, although both sides did succeed in adding to the scoring late on; Heriots eventually running out 29-13 winners.

Steve SWINDALL's last minute try for County.

A pair of dejected homestars trudge off - the scoreboard saying it all.

County’s home Bridgehaugh looks to lie almost equidistant between the two prominent local landmarks Stirling Castle and The Wallace Monument.  Stirling Bridge is about a stone’s throw away, but this is a relatively recent build and most certainly not the one on which William Wallace, along with Andrew de Moray and 2,500 countrymen routed an English army five times their size back in 1297.

The ground itself boasts a neat little stand, and an odd wooden terraced affair opposite.  I chose to watch the second-half from the stand, where I was serenaded by a band either performing or rehearsing in a function suite below me.  Quite who their intended audience was I could not imagine, as their repertoire ran from This is the Life through Riverdance to Smoke on the Water.  The term eclectic barely covers it.

I get high with a little help from my friends

The chap in the checked shirt looks to be eyeing the burgers with no small degree of suspicion,
but I can attest they were fine.

Stirling Castle on the hill, with the recently tarted-up Great Hall prominent

I initially wondered what was the point of having the sponsor's name on the back of the shorts,
but it all becomes apparent at a scrum.

The unusual wooden terracing opposite the main stand.

The stand, Bridgehaugh, Stirling County RFC.

This was a particularly painful looking coming together of bodies, with a number of ouches and ooyahs.

The view north towards the Wallace Monument, looking rather as I imagined Orthanc would
(in the days before Peter Jackson).

Behind the other goal it is Allotment City

A brief flurry of handbags at the death.

Panorama of Bridgehaugh, Stirling County from the stand.

Panorama of Bridgehaugh, Stirling County, looking towards the stand.

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