Stirling county 23

Aberdeen GSFP 17

EVEN though Stirling County had looked the more likely

winners for most of the match, it was the vanquished who took the try-tally 3-1 and furnished the score of the afternoon.

Ian McGeechan, Scotland's coach, preaches that, in the modern game, the player who has compelled the defender to take him side-on has very often already made a half-opening - always assuming that those running off the ball are doing their stuff.

It still has the ring of heresy to those who were reared in the traditional belief that the hard, low, side-on tackle was one of the lasting glories of Rugby Union. Of course, such a tackle still has its place - for instance in a realm in which McGeechan himself excelled in Scotland's colours, cover defence.

Steve Newton's try, though, was a graphic illustration of the point McGeechan makes. Matt McGrandles - on as a substitute - hit the visitors' danger man, Rod Seib, a tremendous smack in a tackle which was near enough side-on to be germane to the argument.

Seib, nevertheless, got the ball away adroitly for Newton, picking his line perfectly, to run on to the ball and blaze away for a splendid try.

The kick failed, leaving the teams tied at 17-17. Whereupon talking out of turn - to the

disbelieving despair of their Australian coach Damien Reidy - cost 10 metres to bring an enemy penalty comfortably within range of an in-form Ian Noble's goal-kicking boot.

The home stand-off kicked another in the shadow of no-side but it was the first of those two late penalty goals which sold the pass.

Though they could not quite keep it up, Aberdeen opened in great style, some very attractive attacking play culminating in a well-taken Seib try from Keith Oddie's pass.

The young and promising Stirling lock, Alastair Kelloch, was in great fettle and not just at the throw-in. Alongside him Malcolm Norval came in for his own share of praise from Stirling coach Eddie Pollock.

After a nicely struck long-range penalty goal from Noble had cut the deficit, Stirling won another line-out handsomely and drove. As the ball came back, Kyle O'Brien fed Murray Fraser as he came steaming up from full-back to crash through the defence.

Following a second penalty from Noble, Oddie converted a try from the 21-year-old Andrew Wilson - the try being a welcome moment of encouragement for a young man who is understandably not yet back to his best after missing so much rugby through having twice had a hand badly damaged.

Two more Noble penalty goals preceded Newton's try - who incidentally is the son of Ray Newton, the stand-off whose kicking remains one of the abiding memories of the outstanding Edinburgh Uni XV of the late 1960s.

The uncontested scrums bequeathed by the encounters of the Stirling front row with sin-bin and injury were a source of much frustration to Aberdeen. In retrospect, however, they will be feeling a lot worse about some of the foolish indiscipline which enabled Noble to grab half a dozen penalty goals.

No fewer than six of Stirling's crop of talented youngsters have figured this season in either the Scotland Under-21 XV or the U-19 XV.

On Saturday, Pollock, out of deference to the demanding programme which lies hard ahead of him in the shape of age-group internationals and Stirling's own Division One fixture list, limited the teenage Allister Hogg, Scotland's U-19 captain, to a second-half run out.

Sir Alex Ferguson would have nodded approvingly.

Stirling County M Fraser; D Frame, S McAllister, C Sangster, R Lewis (M McGrandles 56 min), I Noble, K O'Brien; M Browne (C Reid 15, A Smith 70), A Moffat, G Blackburn, M Norval, A Kellock, C McPhail (A Hogg 46), B Wylie, C Eadie

Aberdeen GSFP S Newton; E Adie (S Low 60), R Seib, D Pickup, A Buchan; K Oddie, A Hose; M Done (T Gordon-Duff 61), I Stanger, B Prescott, C McCaul, M O'Brien, J McKenzie (T Dinnen 51, C Chown 61), A Thomson, A Wilson

Referee M Valentine (Stewartry)

Scoring sequence (Aberdeen first) 0-5,

3-5, 8-5, 11-5, 11-12, 14-12, 17-12, 17-17, 17-20, 17-23.

Scorers. Stirling County. Try Murray (16) Pens Noble (9, 24, 35, 58, 76, 80). Aberdeen GSFP. Tries Seib (5), Wilson (33), Newton (64) Con Oddie (33)