The RBS Premiership will go all the way down to the wire, in three weeks time (Saturday 22 March), with Gala and Melrose the contenders, following an exciting day in the top-flight division.
First Gala, managed to squeeze by Stirling County at Bridgehaugh, 11-7 following a difficult day at the office. While further north, Melrose had a bonus point victory against Aberdeen Grammar, 34-22 at Rubislaw.
Gala now sit top of the table with 67 points, while Melrose are hot-on-their-heels with 65 points in second place. However, Gala will simply be required to win their final game v Ayr at Netherdale, in order to be crowned champions.
Gala stand-off, David O’Hagan (pictured), said: “It was tough today going against the wind in the first half when Stirling, who are fighting for their lives in the Premiership used the elements well.
Our scrums were good in the second half and we were able to take the points."
Gala struggled in the first half, of today’s match, and a single try was the difference between the two sides, with Stirling County’s number 8, Benji Bersanti bulldozing under the posts for the hosts. They led 7-0 at half-time.
In the second period, Gala looked a little sharper and hungry to achieve something. They were also gifted an opportunity when Stirling County lost two players to the bin, first back-row Struan Robertson, followed by scrum-half AJ McFarlane.
However, during this time, between 50 and 70 minutes, they were only able to secure two penalties from the boot of O’Hagan. These were enough to see them take the victory.
Only nine minutes into the second half and Gala number 8, Ewan Dods battered his way over the line for the visitors try.
Elsewhere in the RBS Premiership Ayr beat Edinburgh Accies at home 22-11, Glasgow Hawks upset Heriot’s at Goldenacre, 38-31 and Currie continued their revival with a 45-17 victory over Hawick at Malleny Park.
Both sides missed a penalty in the first half, first Gala’s stand-off O’Hagan on five minutes, followed by the hosts full-back, Brian Archibald half-an-hour later.
But, the real excitement of the first half came 18 minutes in when centre Fraser Lyle, set-up his back-row colleague, Benji Bersanti, who went on to bulldoze through the Gala defence and on under the posts. Archibald added the extras. 7-0
Throughout the first period Stirling County were looking good in defence, cleverly turning over a number of Gala’s attacks, including one, which saw them, come within an inch of the hosts line, moments after the Stirling try.
Stirling County prop, Jamie Bhatti was also sin-binned during the first period, but the hosts remained resilient and didn’t concede any points.
Half-time: Stirling County 7-0 Gala
Gala were the first team on the board in the second period, when Dods battered his way over the line for the visitors sole try of the match. 7-5
They then moved into the lead through the boot of O’Hagan on 54 minutes. Ten minutes later O’Hagan added another penalty to conclude the day’s scoring. 7-11
With little more than ten minutes left on the clock, Gala’s replacement centre, Graham Speirs, made his presence known with a fantastic break that saw him pick up the ball in his own half and take it all the way to the Stirling line, however a penalty was awarded to the hosts when the ruck was formed.
Full-time: Stirling County 7-11 Gala
Stirling County team: Brian Archibald; Matt Lamb, Danny Gilmour, Fraser Lyle, Ben Addison; Stuart Edwards, AJ Macfarlane; Jamie Bhatti, Alex Moffat, Garry Mountford, Matt Larsen, Craig Deacons, Struan Robertson, Will Bordill and Benji Barsanti.
Replacements: Will Dineen, John Graham, Euan Dewar Shaun McDonald and Graham Lindsay.
Gala team: Andy McLean; Grant Sommerville, Chris Auld, Alan Emond, Gerald Sibanda; David O’Hagan, George Graham (captain); Rory Sutherland, Callum Macintosh, Ewan McQuillin, Craig Borthwick, Chris Weir, Gary Graham, Stevie Cairns and Ewan Dods.
Replacements: Lewis Bertram, David Marshall, Scott Chapman, Gregor Mein and Graham Speirs.
Referee: Graeme Wells