IN New Zealand they call it the ``stoosh.'' A couple of decades ago, when the Borderland was the cockpit of the Scottish game, they used to call it ``rummelin' them up.'' Whatever they call it at Bridgehaugh, it almost had the desired effect and Melrose did not like it. They did not like it at all.

Stirling County, desperate to erase the memory of that 107-10 humiliation at the hands of Melrose on the opening day of the season, got stuck in about the defending champions in a manner which no side has done thus far this season and it would be gilding the lily only a little to suggest that if the Melrose backs had been playing behind County's fire-and-brimstone pack then an entirely different result might have emerged.

The game was scored low in technical merit. There were errors aplenty but there is merit to be found, too, in aggressive commitment and Stirling displayed that in spades. Still, though, class will out and it was by dint of their thoroughbred threequarters that Melrose logged a 4-1 try count and maintained their unbeaten status at the head of the championship table.

Coach Rob Moffat was critical of the scrappy and disjointed nature of the game, which rarely allowed his side to utilise their superior technical expertise to the full. He said, too, he had found the performance of referee Ray Megson ``frustrating.''

``I'm saying nothing more about that and you can interpret it as you wish,'' said Moffat who took particular exception to the refereeing of lineout and scrummage and at the outbreaks of minor bouts of fisticuffs which erupted early on.

Megson did deal harshly with Melrose at the scrummage with penalties and free-kicks accruing repeatedly in County's favour. The home side seemed to have the measure of the defending champions in this facet of the game, Kevin McKenzie averring later that he and loose-head John Manson had managed to unsettle Peter Wright by getting in underneath him.

Two strikes against the head by Stirling were testimony to that. Megson confined himself to two words when asked what the problem had been in the front row. ``Peter Wright,'' he said, as if no other explanation were needed.

County coach Peter Dods looked as pleased as any man can be who has just seen his side lose their seventh consecutive league game. He had, though, been encouraged by the extra commitment which his side had displayed and now looks to a future which is not quite so black as it had been prior to kick-off on Saturday.

``If nothing else, pride has been restored,''he declared.

Dods, and co-coach Muff Scobie, were experiencing a distinct feeling of deja vu as Melrose stormed into a 17-point lead within the first 15 minutes. ``I thought it was going to be the same old story. We were standing off and letting them dictate the game on their terms but then we got stuck in and I'm proud of what the boys achieved today,'' said Dods.

The first points were on the board with only seconds on the clock when, straight from the kick-off, County were penalised and Gary Parker steered the ball between the uprights.

In the third minute Craig Chalmers - who later suffered a serious knock to the head while lying at the bottom of a ruck but bravely returned to the fray after the restorative effects of what used to be called the cold sponge - made the most of a fielding error by Kenny Logan, at full back, to latch on to Parker's scoring pass. Parker converted and the writing was writ large on the wall for Stirling.

Next, Rowen Shepherd sparked an attack from inside the Melrose half before Hogg, Bryan Redpath, Chalmers and Nichol sent Mark Moncrieff off on a blistering run for a try which Parker converted.

Logan, who was still Stirling's most enterprising back despite a less than glorious day with the boot, put points on the board with a penalty goal after 23 minutes and the threatened Melrose landslide was brought to a halt.

In fact, County made it 17-10 at the interval when replacement David Dunsire went over for a try as Melrose were penalised for twice collapsing a scrummage on their own line. Logan converted.

Stirling were pounding at the Melrose line early in the second half but the try came

at the other end. This was

the most telling difference between the sides. Melrose took their chances while Stirling did not. Brian Ireland charged at the Melrose defence but his speculative pass was snapped up by Derek Bain, and in a flash Chalmers had set Shepherd off on a lonely run to the line from halfway. Parker converted and Melrose

were regaining a semblance of control.

A Logan penalty kept Stirling in the hunt, but two misses by the full back within a minute were to prove costly for the home side. A fourth misdirected penalty attempt further eased the pressure on Melrose, and Moncrieff's second try 13 minutes from the end put the issue beyond doubt. Melrose are still in pole position for the championship, - and deservedly so - but Stirling are in much better fettle for the fray which still lies ahead.

SCORERS: Stirling County - Dunsire 1t; Logan 1c 2p. Melrose - Shepherd 1t; Chalmers 1t; Moncrieff 2t; Parker 1p 3c.


Stirling County-Logan; McBryde, McLaren, Sangster, McPhail; Manson, McKenzie, Robertson, Norval, Brough, Wyllie, Flockhart, Ireland. Replacements - Dunsire for McPhail (48min), Faulds for Ireland (68).

Melrose-Shepherd; Parker, Nichol, Bain, Moncrieff; Chalmers, B Redpath; Browne, Brotherstone, Wright, Brown, Aitken, C Redpath, Hogg, Broughton. Replacement - Donnan for C Redpath (67).

Referee: R Megson (Edinburgh Wanderers).

Stirling County .........13 Melrose ..............29