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Club scene: Stirling County

Life is growing tough at the bottom of the Scottish Premiership, with every weekend throwing up fresh twists and stings in the tail.

With 10 minutes to go last Saturday, for instance, it seemed as if Edinburgh Accies might beat Currie and Aberdeen GSFP prevail over Stirling County, only for the latter two to emerge with nerve-shredding 40-39 and 14-10 victories respectively. Terrific fare for supporters, perhaps, though much less fun for coaches who find themselves on the wrong end of last-gasp transformations.

Graham Young, the redoubtable County mentor from Wellington, New Zealand, has experienced too many of these situations in the last couple of months to be surprised by anything which happens on a rugby pitch. Time after time, the Bridgehaugh personnel have apparently had matches won, only to be thwarted with triumph at their fingertips. Occasionally, as he admitted, there is little teams can do about a spark of brilliance from the opposition, but more frequently - which explains why they are hovering around the relegation zone - Stirling have contributed to their own downfall at the denouement.

Hence his decision to sit his charges down last week and study the climactic moments of the All Blacks' momentous success over Ireland in Dublin.

"When you grow up, you don't get the chance to go to a Pressure Management class, but I just pointed out to the boys that New Zealand hadn't done anything especially flash, but they had worked out what they needed to do, and they did it," said Young, whose side face Nottingham, home and away, in the British & Irish Cup on the next brace of Saturdays. "It was all about not panicking, having faith in your abilities, trusting your colleagues, keeping the ball, wearing down the opposition, and making it count.

"Some of that sounds straightforward, but, too often this season, we have given away penalties at crucial periods or we have had lads sent to the [sin] bin, and I reckon it could have cost us up to nine or 10 points which would put us in an entirely different place.

"To their credit, the guys listened, studied the DVDs, and paid attention to the analysis and it worked for us against Aberdeen, where they lost a man in the last quarter, we went through 20-odd phases, and eventually made it over for the try which won us the game. Not everything has to be overly ambitious or adventurous, for the sake of it. There are plenty of cases where you gain your reward by staying in control of the basics."

Young isn't so naïve as to imagine the outcome offered Stirling any real breathing space. On the contrary, the battle at the bottom remains perilously close. "It is very tight," he acknowledged. "There are all kinds of permutations and our objective has to be to repeat last year, where we came away from 26 points from our last six fixtures. In this league anybody can defeat anybody else."

Team of the week

A few weeks ago, Currie appeared on the ropes and in danger of being left in the relegation mire on their own. Yet, they have bounced back and were involved in a pulsating tussle with Edinburgh Accies at Raeburn Place, which finished with the visitors sealing a dramatic 40-39 win. Currie are now firmly back in the mix and have control of their own destiny, whereas Aberdeen seem to be veering in the other direction.

Talking point

There was some mirth about Berwick's 148-0 thrashing of Lismore, but the latter, to their credit, did their utmost to proceed with the match, despite suffering a terrible injury list. Other clubs, however, seem less bothered about fulfilling fixtures if the recent spate of cancellations is any indication. It is a worrying trend in Scottish grassroots rugby.

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Football

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