When an All Black tells you to get yourselves into shape or he will have no more to do with you, it is time to sit up and take notice.

During the time coach John Fleming left his Aberdeen GSFP squad to ponder his words it seems that sitting up was very much on the agenda, along with burpees, press-ups, lengthy runs and all-round excellent conditioning.

''The players realise they missed an opportunity last year,'' he explained, following this BT Cellnet Cup win over Stirling County.

''When you lose four of your first five games it's a long way home, and in the end we only missed out on promotion by one game last year.

''So when I went home last summer I told them that if I was coming back they had to be ready to play.

''We couldn't just be dithering around for the first month, we had to hit the ground running.

''When I came back on August 2 they had been working hard for six weeks, so their fitness was much higher and we were able to play a much more expansive type of game.''

Since the All Black way, not least when Fleming was involved in the seventies, was that winning was paramount and style secondary, the coach seems overly touchy about any suggestion that his side is anything less than a joy to watch, hastily pointing out that they have scored 47 tries in 10 matches and just nine penalties.

On Saturday their performance was workmanlike in disposing of their second division rivals at Bridgehaugh, but impressive in it own way.

Andy Crichton, having opened proceedings after just a minute by carving an opening before putting fellow winger Buchan clear on the right for the opening try, their pack then set about imposing themselves.

Eddie Pollock, Stirling's coach, was, then, justified in reading the rest of the first half of a measure of how his highly talented young forwards have developed since being thrashed by Aberdeen early in the season.

Over-powered throughout in the set scrums, they followed the excellent lead of the one pack survivor of the championship winning season- Malcolm Norval - by responding frenetically in the loose. The result was a vigorous, if rather scrappy battle for possession.

Stirling's equalising score was an excellent one, Craig Sangster, though generally out of sorts at stand-off, producing one excellently timed pass for Murray Fraser to explode onto the ball on a superbly angled run, breaking a tackle before veering left for the touchdown.

Sangster, though, was spotted by a touch judge taking a swipe at someone at a ruck just before the interval and, while down to 14 men as he sat in the sin bin, Stirling conceded what proved the crucial score as Chris Hornabrook claimed a pushover try.

Though Stirling never let them truly settle, Aberdeen's pack always had the upper hand thereafter, and two penalties by Keith Oddie were more than sufficient to make the game safe.

Pollock believes his men can still go to Aberdeen between Christmas and New Year and pick up a win which would make them favourites to gain promotion.

More likely, though, is that their chances will come down to their January meeting with Kelso, since the current leaders look a quality side which will be difficult to beat during the remainder of the season.

That applies to all competitions. Don't back against a fourth successive year of the cup being lifted by a side from the second division which, in turn, would be a tremendous outcome for Scottish rugby in general.

As Fleming observed, Scotland needs a stronghold in the north-east to make the top division a genuine nationwide competition. Since he was also right in observing that they are well used to travelling, whereas others may well find it difficult to visit Aberdeen, there is added justification for thinking that once there his promising side could establish itself among the elite for some time to come.

Stirling County - M Fraser; S McDonald, M Fraser, D Dunsire, R Lewis (K Harper 20-22 min); C Sangster, G Young; C Reid, A Moffat, T Evans, M Norval, A Kellock, A Hogg (R Wylie, 64), C Eadie, C McPhail.

Aberdeen GSFP - S Newton (P Coward, 32); A Buchan, E Adie, D Pickup, A Crichton; K Oddie, A Hose; T Gordon-Duff, I Stanger, B Prescott, C McCaul, M Donaldson (A Thomson 64), A Wilson (A Thomson 56-60), C Hornabrook.

Referee: B Bell (Morgan FP)

Scoring sequence (Stirling first) 0-5, 5-5 (half-time); 5-12, 5-15, 5-18.

Scorers: Stirling - Try - Fraser (26). Aberdeen - Tries - Buchan (1), Hornabrook (45); conversions - Oddie (45); penalties - Oddie (60,80)