Stirling County 5 Munster A 31
Stirling County looked to end a disappointing British & Irish Cup campaign with a strong performance against Munster A at Bridgehaugh but three tries in five minutes in the second period ensured the visitors took the spoils.
The home side were without a point in Pool 4 going into the match while their Irish opponents started the day in second, level on points with leaders Plymouth Albion.
Munster boasted a strong squad which included ex-Super 15 winger Gerhard Van Der Heever and John Ryan and CJ Stander both of whom have represented Munster in the Heineken Cup.
Meanwhile, Stirling were boosted by the additions of Perry Parker and Georgian cap Dimitri Basilia from Edinburgh to their pack.
The visitors squandered an early chance at a three point lead as Johnny Holland failed to convert a penalty from the 22 in the 3rd minute. Holland made up for this soon after with a chip-kick from the same area which full-back Ronan O’Mahony got on the end of to give the away side the lead. Holland converted to make it 0-7.
Munster continued to pressure the County defence, Gerhard Van Der Heever with a well-placed kick from deep in his own half forced a lineout at the 5 which Munster stole. County defended well and eventually won a penalty after several phases to relieve the pressure.
Not long after Johnny Holland had the chance to further Munster’s lead with a 30 metre penalty but the stand-off failed to convert again keeping the score 0-7 at the 26th minute.
Stirling came agonisingly close to putting points on the board five minutes before half-time after a series of strong drives from the pack got the home team into the Munster 22. Handling errors caused a turnover allowing CJ Stander to break away with the ball. The No 8, with a massive overlap down the left side tried a loop pass which was intercepted by Ben Addison pushing County back up to the try line but unfortunately handling errors let them down again and Munster won the knock on advantage to clear.
Munster opened the second-half scoring five minutes in when Johnny Holland ran through after good build-up play. Munster spread the ball well and pushed up the pitch before Holland broke through from the five metre line to score. Holland converted to make it 0-14.Minutes later Munster turned a lineout at the 22 into a rolling maul which was driven over the line and grounded by CJ Stander. Johnny Holland was replaced after the try so the kick was converted by Gerry Hurley before Rory Scannell could make it onto the pitch making the score 0-21 in the 50th minute.
Immediately after Darren Sweetenham picked up a long kick and broke effectively down the wing giving Munster their third try in five minutes. Scannell missed the conversion. Munster now led 0-26.
County weathered the storm for a while but it didn’t take much longer for Gerard Van Der Heever to run in a try in the right hand corner after good handling in the middle of the park by the visitors. Scannell again missed the conversion. 0-31.
Stirling managed to get on the scoreboard on the 65th minute as substitute Fraser Lyle scored a fantastic solo try. Lyle received the ball from the back of a messy ruck before turning away from his support to run down the blind side where he danced through an array of players before beating full-back Ronan O’Mahony.Brian Archibald missed the conversion (5-31).
Stirling would be reduced to 14 men for the final five minutes as Archibald was shown a yellow card for a deliberate knock-on in the 75th minute. Munster sub Brian Haugh would join him in the bin for the final minute of the match for persistent fouling.
County now need to focus on next Saturday’s crucial home game against Hawick in the RBS Premiership and can take away from this match a decent first half defensive performance against a strong Munster A side as well as a few flashes of attack in the second half most notably a wonderful try from Fraser Lyle.
Elsewhere in the B&I cup Ayr enhanced their record as the only home-based Scottish club to win a tie in this year’s competition with a 14-13 success against Jersey at Millbrae.
Ayr’ points came from tries by Peter McCallum and Grant Anderson both converted by Finn Russell.
Not such good news from Richmond, where London Scottish lost in the Exiles derby to London Welsh; nor from Wales where Gala concluded their campaign with a 9-11 loss to Aberavon and Edinburgh Accies went down 0-43 to Pontypridd.