Stirling County..........11 Watsonians.........47

The lady in the crowd shouting encouragement at new Stirling County recruit Wayne Barr some four minutes into injury time got it right.

''Go, go . . . you deserve a try,'' she cried, as the New Zealander, a midweek arrival at Bridgehaugh, collected recycled ball close to the Watsonians line and battled his way through, past two defenders.

For his effort in the face of adversity, his debut coinciding with his side's worst 40 minutes of the season thus far, Barr certainly deserved his score.

That the direct running of one who has had minimal time even to learn to recognise his new team-mates, let alone begin to understand how they play, made him so clearly the outstanding home player on the pitch, spoke volumes for the inadequacies of those around him.

But having come on at half-time with the game apparently well poised at 8-6 to the visitors, he must have wondered what he has let himself in for.

Admittedly, that the game was so close at that stage was down to Watsonians' profligacy.

With Barr's fellow antipodean Jim Garraway, an Australian hooker who has been doing well in the seconds, suffering a less auspicious first XV debut, they should have been well in control.

Having replaced late withdrawal Andy Neilson, himself the subject of rave reviews on Tennent's Velvet Premiership duty those same two Saturdays, Garraway had inexplicable trouble finding lineout jumpers of the experience of Malcolm Norval and Rob Hogg.

Similarly given that neither David Jamieson nor Stuart Cameron is exactly a propping novice, they were under remarkable pressure in the scrums.

Their set-piece problems allied to a readiness to turn possession over at any suggestion of contact, Stirling were left without any sort of platform and their followers must shudder at the prospect of next weekend's trip to Melrose, scene of their most ignominious defeat two years ago, when 107 points were conceded.

''After five weeks of struggling and fighting, to go down like this was pathetic,'' said enraged coach Paul McKeany, who promised changes.

As for Watsonians, that they took so long to accept the Bridgehaugh hospitality might have been cause for concern, except that the second half represented their best effort of the season.

Captain Jamie Weston had skipped over for an early try from a five-metre scrum, but to spend the last 30 minutes of the half without scoring was poor.

Consequently, while goal-kicker Alex Guest's disappointing strike-rate might have been Watsonians' only cause for concern by the finish, it didn't look that way to coach Andrew Ker when, at the interval, he was urgently telling his side to tighten things up.

''I think they had decided they were going to win anyway so they could just go out and play Barbarians style, but it wasn't coming off,'' he explained.

As so often, the basics having been addressed, fluent rugby followed, although Stirling's continued beneficence also helped.

Watsonians almost scored with their first attack of the second half, before winger Rob Lewis, the only home player other than Barr to earn pass marks, did brilliantly to get across and barge into touch opposite number Andy

Taylor who had looked certain to score. But from the lineout that followed, County turned the ball over once more and quick ruck ball let Guest put Zimbabwean Jason Elliott - included only after Andy Garry broke down during the warm-up - between the posts for the first of his tries.

Stirling's boundless generosity saw the bonus point handed to their visitors, Guest racing unmolested from halfway for the third try, before Murray Fraser dropped the ball into Marcus Di Rollo's path to let him run in the fourth.

It was, though, in following his centre partner over a second time, that Di Rollo set the seal on the move that truly suggested the champions are regaining the

confidence to mount a serious title defence.

Phil Smith gathered a loose clearance wide on the left midway inside his own half and it was the way that massed support got behind the ball that allowed the creation of a try in the grand

Watsonian tradition.

Guy Hills, an energetic openside, was the first link in the chain and both half-backs were also involved before Di Rollo touched down in the diagonally opposite corner.

''We knew that, with Currie meeting Heriot's something had to give at the top,'' Ker observed. ''I believed that if one side could reach Christmas having suffered no more than one defeat, they would go on and win the title.

''I didn't actually expect that to happen but felt that if any side could, it would be Currie.

''But as things stand we can still get right back into contention.''

Stirling County - A Sievewright (W Barr 40min); N McBride, M Fraser, S McAllister, R Lewis; R Mailer, I Brydie; D Jamieson, J Garraway, S Cameron, M Norval, R Hogg, D McMillan, R Wyllie, C MacPhail

Watsonians - P Smith; M Mallinson, M Di Rollo, J Elliott, A Taylor; A Guest, J Weston; S Paris (S Threadgall, 56) (M Rutherford, 65), D Henderson, S Lithgow, E Reed, M McVie, C Crawford, G Hills, J Osborne

Referee - K Montgomery (Army).

Scoring sequence (Stirling first) - 0-5, 0-8, 3-8, 6-8 (half-time); 6-15, 6-22, 6-29, 6-32, 6-37, 6-42, 6-47, 11-47

Scorers: Stirling - Try: Barr (80). Penalties: Mailer (12, 27). Watsonians - Tries: Weston (7), Elliott (43, 70), Guest (46), Di Rollo (53, 73), Hills (80). Conversions: Guest (43, 46, 53). Penalties: Guest (10, 57).