Anyone inclined to doubt the competitive nature of the RBS Premiership should have been at Rubislaw on Saturday and surveyed the lung-bursting efforts of Stirling County's ubiquitous No.8, Stevie Swindall, as the visitors first dominated then clung on for dear life throughout a fraught climax to secure a potentially priceless 28-27 win against their fellow-strugglers Aberdeen Grammar.
As Swindall said yesterday, the victory was "massive, in a make-or-break situation", as he reflected on a titanic clash, one where he scored a pair of tries and County moved 28-5 in front, only for the hosts to launch a terrific recovery which would would have produced victory but for the uncharacteristic lapses of their stand-off, the Glasgow Warriors professional Scott Wight, who missed five kicks out of six.
The contest summed up the fluctuating fortunes of Scotland's leading clubs in the current campaign. It also re-emphasised the talents of Swindall, a man who shone with Glasgow Hawks and Glasgow Warriors, and earned selection to the Scotland A ranks, without being quite able to make the ascent to the full international stage.
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If that remains a source of regret, the 30-year-old forward is savouring his new responsibilities, both with County, and in a full-time development officer role in Clackmannanshire, where he is spreading the rugby gospel to 19 primary schools and three secondary establishments.
"I am still passionate about the sport and it is terrific being able to work with youngsters and try to help them develop their ability," said Swindall. "Of course, I would like to have played for Scotland but life moves on and you can't afford to dwell on what might have been. In any case, there is enough happening at the moment to focus on the future.
"The Aberdeen game, for instance, showed how much standards have improved on the club circuit. Guys are spending more time in the gym, they are working harder, volunteering for extra training sessions, and it is contributing to one of the toughest competitions you could imagine.
"We were looking at the table after Saturday's win [it brought the Bridgehaugh side level on 26 points with Aberdeen, narrowly ahead of Dundee HSFP and Boroughmuir] and things are so tight that even Heriot's could find themselves in the relegation mix if they lose a couple of matches. Our next [league] fixture is against 'Muir – that will be another huge test – but, before that, we have to tackle Bedford in the British & Irish Cup and challenges don't come much harder than that." Swindall talks from painful experience. His side managed a creditable 21 points when these teams met last autumn; the trouble was that they conceded 87 to their ambitious, high-flying professional English rivals, second only in The Championship to runaway leaders Newcastle Falcons.
There, he says, is another reason why Caledonian rugby has to learn lessons and stop wallowing in negativity. "It seems to be a Scottish trait to ignore positive developments, but we should be applauding the efforts of all our clubs in the B&I Cup this season, because we have achieved some excellent results, and so have the other [Scottish] representatives [Melrose, Gala, and Dundee HSFP]," said Swindall.
"Bedford are a class act – they have power and loads of physicality – and we will have to dig very deep next weekend. But our boys won't come up short for want for effort, pride or commitment. It is not like against like, but I know we will go out and give it everything that we have got."
Nobody who has witnessed this steely individual in the thick of battle would expect anything less. Maybe, at the start of 2013, it is time for people – including the Murrayfield mandarins – to recognise the progress at grassroots level.
Dundee HSFP have been toiling with injuries for most of the campaign, but displayed their abilities in inflicting a 35-12 defeat on Currie, which has increased their hopes of staying in the top flight. Few win at Malleny Park; fewer still manage it with a 23-point winning margin.
Craig Chalmers has asked a pertinent question about why Scotland's club coaches seem to be ignored by the SRU on a consistent basis. Expressed simply, could Edinburgh really be faring any worse with Chalmers and George Graham or Kenny Murray at the helm?